Branding a nation entails “what is”, “what it stands for”, and “what it is going to be known for”. The director of the Latvian Institute, the country’s office for Latvia’s promotion, Ojars Kalnins, has written a short piece in which he explores how Latvia could find one of its roles on the global stage in helping the world breathe better air. This is a summarized version of this text.
It turns out that Latvia helps the world breathe more easily.
I discovered this when I was researching the reasons why Latvia was ranked as the 8th cleanest and greenest country in the world by the 2008 Environmental Performance Index. The EPI is a systematic environmental survey undertaken by Yale and Columbia in 149 countries.
If I were to summarize all the scientific data the EPI compiled in six environmentally indicative categories, I would have to say that Latvia came in 8th among 149 countries in the world because Latvia still has an abundance of two things that other countries are gasping for: clean air and clean water.
In fact, we not only have clean air. We export it. We manufacture metric tons of it in our forests, mires and peat bogs, and ship it out back into the atmosphere for global consumption. This process is called “carbon dioxide sequestration”, which means that our green forests and lush swamps are sucking up the bad carbon dioxide from the air and replacing it with good air and healthy biomass.
Latvia’s 35,000 square kilometers of sprawling forests and fields work like a giant organic filter, sucking up greenhouse gases and converting them into something green and growing. So, in addition to being a nice place to visit to pick mushrooms and berries, Latvia’s forests are performing a life-saving operation for a world that Thomas Friedman describes as increasingly “hot, flat and crowded.”