April 22nd is Earth Day, observed since 1970 in more than 140 countries world-wide. In the Czech Republic Earth Day was first observed in 1990, a few months after the fall of the communist regime. And with every passing year, more Czechs are accepting their share of responsibility for the state of our Planet and their immediate environment. We asked environment activist Vojtech Kotecky of the environmental-group Duha or Rainbow how environmental groups in the Czech Republic mark the anniversary.
"On this occasion Czech environmental groups work mainly on local level. Earth day presents a good opportunity to address people in cities, towns and villages . They organize special events in schools and city squares, everything conceivable ranging from exhibitions to guided hikes. What about clean up days ? I have heard that a lot of people are cleaning up today and have done over the weekend. Well, that's not necessarily related to Earth Day. People do clean up in the spring. But yes, it is certainly a good way of observing Earth day and environmental groups encourage it."
What do you think are the Czech Republic's most serious environmental problems today?
"Traffic is still a serious problem because the number of cars on our roads has increased dramatically in recent years. Agriculture and forestry are heavily industrially oriented and do not reflect environmental needs as much as they ought to . And another problem is that the Czech industry is still structurally dependent on heavy energy use. We have decreased air pollution over the past ten years but we still have a very high energy consumption. The Czech industry consumes about two times more energy per GDP unit than the EU countries do."
Well, do you think there is a sufficient awareness of these problems among the Czech population?
"The Czech population is of course aware of environmental issues, though it could be a bit more aware. We have not had so much time to educate the public as environment activists in the Western world. In the West environmental education and awareness of issues such as recycling and sensitive energy use have taken place ever since the late sixties while in the Czech Republic we have had just over a decade to work with the public. So the situation is obviously worse but I think that it is improving and the demand for energy saving products or organic foods is increasing."
Now if you could have just one wish for something to change -in our environment- this year what would it be?
"Well, since this is election year I think that the Czech political parties should pay more attention to environmental issues and should come forward with some real environmental promises and real environmental programmes in their manifestos before the elections. So far their ability to come forward with real environmental proposals and programmes has been rather marginal."
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