ADDRESS BY PRESIDENT EGILS LEVITS AT THE ANNUAL ONLINE MEETING OF BIG CLEANUP COORDINATORS
Dear Head of the Big Cleanup!
Minister for the Environment and Regional Development!
Representative of JSC Latvijas valsts meži!
Big Cleanup coordinators and opinion allies!
This year the motto of the Big Cleanup is especially interesting and significant: “Each separately, but all together!” It reflects today’s realities, but also emphasises that we cannot keep ahead of sustainability issues because of the pandemic. We need to do this in parallel. On the contrary, the pandemic has highlighted the weaknesses of our society, and one of them is that our sustainability policy and our sustainable thinking in society are not as developed as they should be if we think about the great future of Latvia.
Last year, we met at the World Cleanup, each in our own part of Latvia. I was in Valdemārpils at that time and helped to establish the world’s first Happiness Tree Park. Today, I would like to congratulate you on the fact that at the beginning of the year we all received great news – the Big Cleanup received the world award for the world’s highest helpers’ activity in 2020 (in the World Cleanup)! Congratulations!
This time also highlights the fact that without health it is not possible to live life to the fullest for every individual, but also for humanity as a whole. There are eight billion people on the globe, and this pandemic affects virtually everyone in one way or another. At the same time, this time allows us to appreciate humane, direct contact much better. No matter how well electronic communications work, it is not the same as direct communication. I think all of us will be very happy to communicate with each other offline again.
Let’s talk about what are the unifying factors of society. Our society is based on the nation, on the Latvian nation, which is the maintainer, creator of this country. A nation is a conscious community of people that determines its own life and forms its own state. This is the modern approach to the nation, and we are such a nation, and we have our own country, which our nation also forms. The nation needs a sense of community. There is no nation without a sense of community. In turn, the nation’s sense of community is formed by its history, common, collective ordeal, its traditions, its culture and language.
The consciousness of the nation is also shaped by what we do today, what our agenda is today to shape our future. Everything we do as a nation to improve our country, to improve our society, is also a contribution to the nation’s sense of community. Thus, we strengthen our nation, our country.
The fact that we care about our traditions, our culture and our language, including our environment – and this is very important – also helps us to maintain and strengthen the sense of community of the nation. Here we are getting very close to the Satversme and the state, because the state is based on the nation. The stronger the nation, the better, fuller, higher quality state is. In turn, this civic movement – the Big Cleanup – is a very important and significant contribution to the sense of community of our nation. Thank you for that!
We can also look at another example – the concept of the closing concert of the 2023 Song Festival has a very symbolic name “Perpetual motion”. The Song Festival movement, which will be 150 years old in 2023, is really like the perpetual motion of our nation.
As important as this cultural movement is the Big Cleanup movement, which takes care of the environment in which we live and in which we are really physically staying. Of course, we think in big categories about the whole country of Latvia, Europe, the world, but physically we are always in a certain place. We also need to make sure that this environment is good, beautiful, clean, human-friendly. This is also one of the purposes of the Big Cleanup. The Big Cleanup – a movement that has existed for some time – has brought up a whole generation of young people who have learned to take care of their environment from an early age, from adolescence. As a human being, walking around the world, you see where something is wrong, and it is this view that is formed by this BIg Cleanup movement. We go around Latvia, look and see that Latvia is basically tidy, clean compared to many other countries. Many of your movement participants have been in other countries, and it is there that we Latvians immediately notice what we do not really like in the environment.
Coordinators from all over Latvia, you often seem to be in the background, but you have an extremely important task to keep it all on your shoulders, so thank you very much for what you are doing to make this civic movement really move! It is up to you.
The new Administrative-Territorial Reform is probably an additional concern now. If you have any specific questions about this, then here is the Minister to whom you can ask them. I would just like to point out one thing: in the context of this reform, I have consistently advocated that the smallest communities – parishes, small towns – also have their own elected representations, as this promotes the closeness of democracy to the citizen. Citizen live in their physical environment, and they need to take care of it, to be responsible for it. Therefore, these representations would also be important, as they would do so on behalf of all citizens and in cooperation with the citizens. Everyone in the community knows each other and this is the best way to involve people in improving their environment.
I hope that the Saeima will take this proposal of mine into account and that democratically elected representations of local communities will be envisaged, which will be below the level of the new large districts.
The Big Cleanup takes care of the absolutely necessary preconditions of life that we use every day, but we do not pay special attention to them, if of course we do not lack them. And they are: clean air, clean water, clean and strong forests. If all this exists, we don’t think much about it, but it is our physical existence. It is the Big Cleanup that draws attention to this physical human environment. We cannot live on the Internet alone. It’s not healthy. In essence, humans live in direct communication with people around them, with their environment in which they are embedded.
I think that the Big Cleanup and the whole civic movement that cares about the environment not only make sure that people do not act in a way that is harmful to the environment – do not pollute it in every possible way, but encourage preventive thinking. Our way of life is one that is in harmony with the environment and nature. This already requires a bigger and deeper change in people’s behaviour, because our daily lives and actions are not environmentally friendly enough.
I have also spoken to farmers about the benefits of organic farming and its sustainability. This good example, which is shown to us by those farmers who are engaged in organic farming, is also useful for other farmers who are slowly taking it over.
If we are talking about greenery, then the European Union (EU) has set a Green Course, and Latvia is the first to support it, because we have this environmental and greenery gene, so to speak. We support it both at the EU level and at the Latvian level. We must not only support, but also analyse more carefully what this may mean in individual cases. You, the coordinators of the Big Cleanup, can also take part in this great discussion about what the green Latvia should be like, what it means to every parish and city. This green sustainability factor needs to gain much more weight than before.
Thank you very much! Best of luck to you!