Greeting by President Alar Karis at the opening of the World Cleanup Conference
Dear friends of a clean planet!
It is my great pleasure to welcome you all here in Estonia.
It has been really wonderful to see how Let’s Do it World has grown to be a truly global network. This conference is attended by delegates from more than a hundred countries, and we know that in the last five years, this movement has been able to engage almost all of the countries in the world. Altogether, more than 70 million people have been involved in clean-up activities.
This is a great achievement and a great opportunity. It is a great achievement because the past few years have not been favourable to civic engagement, to put it mildly.
Russian aggression in Ukraine and the resulting food and energy crisis have forced many people to fight for survival and focus on fulfilling their basic needs. In some countries, conflicts and government suppression have made grassroots activism outright dangerous.
Also, extreme weather and devastating climate change disasters have hit many places on the Earth, disrupting all normal life, including your campaigns.
The fact that so many countries have participated in World Cleanup Day and that many of them have been able to set new national records in number of participants despite all possible hardships, demonstrates the ability and dedication of you all. Also, it demonstrates how much people care for their community, their environment and our planet.
Herein lies the great opportunity. We can and must use the commitment of people to drive the global change that is badly needed. Any global change starts with small steps.
We have seen that with the growth of World Cleanup Day. From its start in 2008 in Estonia, a really small country in global context, it has expanded to involve tens of millions of people in all corners of the globe.
Probably many of you have experienced the same dynamics in your own country: first, only a handful of people get involved before more people become aware of the campaign and the waste problem. But building the network is itself a small step in achieving global change.
Recently, I attended the COP27 climate conference in Egypt and participated in a panel on climate education. With several fellow presidents we discussed the role of education in adapting with climate change and mitigating its impacts.
We all agreed that education is a key part in all of this and we need a wider program of sustainability that will guide people to an understanding of the causes and impacts of various environmental problems, their possible solutions and ways of adaptation.
Understandably, when we talk about education, the focus is on young people. However, I emphasized that we cannot forget adults. Many of them were not able to gain knowledge about environmental problems during their studies, only because our knowledge of the nature and urgency of these issues is quite recent.
Therefore, we need find new platforms how to raise environmental awareness and induce climate-friendly behaviour. Platforms that will not just provide them with facts but also give them experiences that make the human impact on environment visible.
Let’s Do It World can be one such platform. What you do is in essence an educational activity.
Of course we must be aware that cleaning up trash will not solve all our planetary problems. Nevertheless, it is a good start for recognizing the human impact to the environment and thinking about what measures are effective.
Participating in your activities can be the small step that helps a person to start noticing their environment and thinking about their behaviour. In the end, this can guide them to make greater changes in their lives and demand more environmental efforts from their governments. This is why your work is important.
I am supporting the campaign to make World Cleanup Day an official United Nations designated day. This would be an important step towards global awareness and a platform on which to build further initiatives. For example, digital clean-up.
To give further impact to your activities, I encourage you all to build collaborations – with enterprises, with local and national governments, with schools and kindergartens, with other NGOs.
Environmental problems are too big to be solved by just one organisation. We all need to work together to make sure that all those small steps will take us further on the road towards sustainable and liveable future.
There is great power in the Let’s Do It World network and I hope that this conference, all the talks and discussions that you will have, will give you even more strength and ideas to how to make our world a better place.
I wish you a wonderful stay in Estonia!