DOI link for Introduction
In the shabby room of an abandoned kindergarten in the town of Novozybkov, near the Russian border with Belarus, a group of twelve schoolchildren gather for the weekly meeting of their Ecology Club. The children squirm and laugh as do children everywhere, but one aspect of their lives differs from their peers elsewhere-they live within Russia’s Chernobyl zone of radioactive contamination. Their club of nature lovers is led by Ksenia Klimova, a young teacher and librarian. By teaching the children an appreciation of the natural environment and basic scientific knowledge, Klimova hopes to raise environmental awareness and prevent future disasters and to give the next generation a sense of optimism about the future in a town that has had both its public health and community spirit badly damaged by the 1986 nuclear accident. She represents one of thousands of Russians who are engaged in voluntary community activities to improve the well-being of their fellow citizens or to take advantage of new formally democratic rules and institutions to persuade the government to change its policies.