Category Archives: Environment and Public Health

Environmentalism in Latvia: From Independence to Globalization

Ivar Pavasars (University of Latvia)

Concerns about environmental problems within Latvia were central to that Former Soviet Republic’s late 1980s drive to restore its independence. In fact, the environmental “hot spots” that were caused by large-scale Soviet industrialization helped to support Latvians’ political demands and independence aspirations. Environmental NGOs were among the first elements of Latvia’s democratically based civil society that emerged during this period.

Following the collapse of many of the inefficient Soviet industries during the early 1990s, Latvia successively introduced EU environmental policies and norms into its legislation, and this legislation largely reflects the experiences and policies of the West’s democratically governed industrialized societies. Today global NGOs, such as the WWF, are active in Latvia with global environmental issues on their agenda. A broader type of western global environmentalism has replaced the environmentalism that was practiced years earlier by Latvia’s grassroots based independence movement.

However, case studies of different environmental planning procedures as well as interviews in the countryside indicate that the environmental aspects prioritized by official environmental policies (or global environmentalism) are not those of concern to local Latvian public. This parallels the overall environmental situation as being considerably more natural with less negative impacts as compared to industrially developed countries.

In such circumstances environmental planning procedures in Latvia do not reach the aims originally intended by these procedures. Interestingly, similar to the independence movement years, environmental arguments today are often used to achieve goals other than explicitly environmental ones. As such, a more critical and adaptive approach is required towards EU and global environmental policies, especially when introducing such policies locally.

Energy Consumption and the Built Environment: Estonia into the 2020s

Marie-Alice L’Heureux (University of Kansas)

In 1993 as part of the Energy and Environment division at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory in California, I analyzed the energy data for the housing sector of Estonia.  Almost half the housing units were in complexes with greater than 10 units; the energy was centrally provided; and individual units were not metered. Much of the housing built since then has been single family or duplex units. Most Estonians also now own the housing they live in regardless of tenure. Many of these are among the mass housing units constructed during Soviet times.

Housing size has increased since the Soviet period from 54 square meter average to over 90 square meters. The pre-independence housing stock was also fairly old. Only 11% of the housing had been built in the twenty years before independence in 1991.

This paper uses energy consumption data from the transition era (1990-1997) and compares it to current energy consumption data and suggests probable directions in the next twenty years with a focus on the social and cultural aspects of energy use.