pirmdiena, 2012. gada 30. janvāris

Second greenest country in the world..

Yep, some happy news on green carpet- in 2012 Latvia has scored as second greenest country in the world according to the Environmental Performance Index (EPI) of Yale University. What can be better than being second strongest performer? Well, according to the same studies, Latvia is also the strongest improver- at the very top- No 1- in Pilot Trend EPI Rank that is based on performance over the last decade. Hooray!! But is it really?

Source: http://epi.yale.edu 

I couldn't resist to look a little more "around". I always check not only Latvia, but also neighbors- Lithuania and Estonia. Well, I thought their results were better. Lithuania is 17th in EPI Rank as a strong performer, but it's one of 'declining performers' - No 104 in Pilot Trend EPI Rank. Estonia has gone even more down than that- it's only No 54 in EPI Rank as a modest performer and down to No 128 as one of the worst decliners in Pilot Trend EPI Rank. Sad. But I cross my fingers they will increase their ranks for the next study in two years! I always check also the countries that have been my home for a while- Norway and UK. No surprise they both were in top ten in EPI Rank (No 3 Norway and No 9 UK), but I was very surprised that comparing to UK's rank as No 20 (Modest improver) in Trend Rank, Norway scored only No 84 as for 'little and no change'. This doesn't send a good message does it? You can't rest on your victories, you have to keep improving, working on all areas, even if you were No 1!

So what does EPI say about Latvia?
Even though I have some doubts about this study, I just had to peek inside the country profile of Latvia to see what's our ups and downs. Being ranked so high would be a reason to celebrate. However, that doesn't mean we are all perfect and we can rest now, even according to the EPI details. Not at all. I looked at stats (you can find them here and choosing detailed view) and found that while we are doing good in some areas, we have loads to do in others.
There are two parts of the study- Environmental Health and Ecosystem Vitality, and each has several criteria.

 Latvia has received:
      high scores in the following areas:

  • PM 2.5 under Environmental Health area 'Air (effects on human health)'. 
  • Child Mortality under Environmental Health area 'Environmental Burden of Disease', however, I believe that we could do so much better if doctors, hospitals and society would return to more natural pregnancy, child birth, nurturing and treating children. This is a whole enormous topic that could be discussed so I won't go in detail here. We need to rethink the whole concept of having and raising a baby.
  • Drinking Water under Environmental Health area 'Water (effects on human health)'. Yet again- we could do better by filtering our drinking water right in the tap, and drinking more water from springs, when possible. 
  • Pesticide Regulation  under Ecosystem Vitality area 'Agriculture'. Good, however, I'd wish we could score higher than just No 40. It 's out chance to improve it buy choosing local organic produce over chain stores and by talking to the farmers nearby our homes about health hazards of pesticides. 
  • SO2 per Capita and SO2 per GDP under  under Ecosystem Vitality area 'Air (Ecosystem Effects)'.
  • We have no results in Critical Habitat Protection, and I'm not entirely sure whether it means we don't have such habitats or that means nobody could find any information on this?
  • Marine Protected Areas under Ecosystem Vitality area 'Biodiversity and Habitat'. 
  • Biome Protection under Ecosystem Vitality area 'Biodiversity and Habitat'. Biodiversity has always been our strength and I'm happy to see us receiving highest score there.
  • CO2 per Capita and per GDP under Ecosystem Vitality area 'Climate Change'. However, we should aim to score higher, the score results are bordering on 'low' here. And comparing to other countries our ranks should be on 'low' side, so we should be more aware on our options to reduce CO2.
  • Renewable Electricity under Ecosystem Vitality area 'Climate Change'. I'm genuinely surprised about the result since Latvia is very far behind other countries in using such renewable energy as sun or wind. Besides, we've been declining performers in this area, which is a very bad trend for this era.
  • Forest Cover under Ecosystem Vitality area 'Forests'. We're No1! And this is such a lie! The problem roots back here in Latvia, where Latvijas Valsts Meži (Latvian State Forests) say that Latvia is covered with forests. But they have "lost" somewhere the definition of Forest that says that Forest is grown-up trees, not just planted trees, nor felling areas. It's completely insane. And by this definition we're the top country in forest cover. Or is it that all the other countries are in so much worse condition???
  • Growing Stock under Ecosystem Vitality area 'Forests'. No1 again. Here I could agree since we're working on renewing the forests, my family is one of many owning such business. But growing forest is a very long process and just planted fir trees are not yet a forest. 
  • Water Use under Ecosystem Vitality area 'Water Resources (Ecosystem Effects)'. We still could do much better since not many people have heard or let alone use even simple water saving devices or techniques. Let's spread the word on quick showers, buckets in wc trunks, closing taps when brushing teeth, reusable water and water savers in taps and showers! 

      low scores in the following areas:

  • Indoor air pollution under Environmental Health area 'Air (effects on human health)'. The worst part- this has been one of largest declines if we look at trend rankings. That's something we can change easily if each one of us would grow some plants in our apartments and if each one would bring a plant to the workplace. And quit those terrible conditioners that makes you cold-sick during the summer! Sometimes wearing lighter clothes, opening windows for ventilation and closing the blinds to direct sunlight is better. 
  • Sanitation- under  Environmental Health area 'Water (effects on human health)'.  I am surprised that it was one of them since we are supposed to be a developed country! Apparently it's time to look in our own backyard before defending the rights to proper sanitation of people in poor South..
  • Agricultural Subsidies under Ecosystem Vitality area 'Agriculture'. It's time to help our local farmers, support local and organic farming. It is difficult without state supporting it's people in this area. But as for ourselves as individuals- again, we can always vote with our wallets and buycott to make politicians see what we care for. 
  • CO2 per KWH under Ecosystem Vitality area 'Climate Change'. Even though comparing us to other countries we are No24 in ranking, the score is very, very low. That just means, we are there only because other countries are doing worse. But that doesn't mean we're good yet. 
  • Trawling Intensity under Ecosystem Vitality area 'Fisheries'. Again- even though we have quite high rank No 21, the score is very low. Being better than others doesn't mean we're good yet!
  • Fish Stocks Overexploited under Ecosystem Vitality area 'Fisheries'. Low both on rank and score table. Again there's a government policy needed I guess, since organic buyers will always vote with their wallets for wild fish rather than farmed ones that are fed antibiotics. 
  • Forest Loss under Ecosystem Vitality area 'Forests'. Well, that's about right finally on forests. It's been couple of years now that experts are talking about too great loss of forests here, but since it's big money, they don't have a say. The worst part is private owners who file their forests for quick money and many times don't care for renewing it. Only educating them will help. 

Associate Professor of Statistics at Yale and Principal Investigator of the 2012 EPI, John W.Emerson has said himself: "Our findings are only as solid as the underlying data, and we have a long way to go in some areas". He continues admitting that "Particularly distressing is the lack of global, accurate, and comparative data on waste management, toxic exposures, agricultural sustainability, and water resources." approving my doubts on complete genuineness of this study. But, of course, I am happy that it exists and tries to improve constantly by filling these gaps.

These results do sound both wonderful and quite unbelievable to be second greenest in the world and first in trend.. Society involvement in even such basic things as recycling, choosing organic, environmentally friendly ways of living. If that would be greater, if awareness and inspiration would increase, then we would first consider these data more reliable, and second- consciously make an effort to be the No1!
But we all have to do our share. Today I asked our maintenance guys to stop idling their car in our courtyard. And rinsed the nappies in cold wash. And did many other little things. Most importantly- read ideas that inspire, read this EPI study that made me want to do more. And tell more people to do more!

I also believe the same as Kim Samuel-Johnson, Chair of the Yale Center for Environmental Law & Policy Board of Directors and co-creator of the project that what is great is the impact of the EPI across the world, "many countries are realizing the value of using these indicators to benchmark performance over time". And I truly hope that by latest results Latvia will finally have a 'kick' to turn truly green. We live in very rich and exclusive conditions in this small country, we should stop tossing around various policy directions and use the wonderful resources we have and become a place, where people come to enjoy pure nature, import natural goods and products. 
Let's really earn the No1 rank for our country!

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