What do others think? Environmental issues from the view of international students

16:38 12. aprill 2017
Author: Eliisa Saksing

As a follow-up to international EGM seminar that was held on March 16th on the subject of environmental disobedience, we decided to collect bits of multicultural information on environmental issues from the international students living in Tartu. In order to do so, we put together a questionnaire with 3 questions:


  1. What is the biggest environmental problem in your country?
  2. Now from your personal view, what is the biggest and the closest to your heart environmental problem right now?
  3. What do you think or know about Estonian environmental situation?







Eutrophication. We use all of the natural resources way too much. And if there's one thing to say, then it would be that we eat too much meat.

Global warming. Eating meat and milk products.

Pretty much the same as in Finland, just on a smaller scale because Estonia is a smaller country.


Air pollution, global warming that is due to deforestation, greenhouse gases from various appliances.

Global warming

I like the recycling mindset in Estonia - people are educated to separate waste and unrecyclable items from a young age. It would be great to have it implemented in Malaysia too.


Waste disposal, nuclear waste

Global warming, Non-renewable energy

Pretty good in general for what I’ve heard. The ecology is great.


Destruction of natural habitats

Destruction of natural habitats

It’s the same situation as almost everywhere else.


No idea


Estonia is known as the “clean-air country”.


Forest and sea pollution. Biodiversity loss.

Food waste - so many people dying because of it. Atmospheric pollution, climate change.

Estonia looks like a really eco-country. Estonia still relies on fossil fuels that are bad for the global environment. But in Estonia, nature and wildlife are rather protected, or so I like to believe. Portugal has hydropower and wind (and sun)! In Portugal burning fossil fuel to produce electricity is heading towards its end. Cars are an issue everywhere, so I hope in both countries and everywhere, electric cars will become a reality rather soon.


Air pollution

Global warming

Compared to Pakistan Estonia has a better environment to live and breathe in. Ma armastan Eestit!


Cars and waste treatment

Waste treatment

Estonia is cleaner than France, more materials are being recycled.



Loss of biodiversity, climate change.

Estonia has lots of protected areas, but less grass root movements than in Germany.


Old cars, plastic, people do not sort waste.

Packaging, fast fashion and unrecyclable clothing

I think it is better; people have chance to divide garbage and recycle bottles


Air and water pollution

Global warming

(*Answer below)



*Netherlands answer to the question no 3.

“The air is great here,” I’ve heard several international students say: Brazilians, Japanese. Instinctively, that feels the same to me - maybe because there isn't that much traffic in Estonia, trees and nature are everywhere. The nights dark and quiet.

While the Netherlands is relatively crowded (31st on the global ranking of population density per country, surrounded by mini-states and islands), Estonia finds itself at the bottom of the list. The Netherlands has 406 inhabitants per square kilometers, Estonia not even 28: on a European scale, we are speaking about one of the most densely populated versus one of the most sparsely populated nation states.

Human actions have naturally - besides natural causes as volcanic eruptions and forest fires - a big impact on the level of pollution. The more inhabitants, the more industrial activity and the more traffic. In other words, more fossil fuels, emissions and chemicals.

However the situation in Western Europe is not that bad when you compare us with countries in the Middle East (such as Pakistan, Qatar, Bangladesh), we envy the Northern European region, where there is significantly less pollution (figure: Air Pollution Ranking WHO 2014, http://aqicn.org/faq/2015-05-16/world-health-organization-2014-air-pollution-ranking/ ).

The emission of greenhouse gases decreases slowly in the Netherlands since 1996. Nowadays, we still emit about 200 million CO2 equivalents on a yearly basis. Also, we are lagging behind fighting against pollution and global warming. The Netherlands depends on a high degree of gas, oil and coal (respectively for 40, 37 and 15 percent). Finally, 3% is nuclear and only 5% is renewable.

That is problematic.

We are not apart from nature, we are a part of it. To save nature is to save us. Foto: Webneel Design Inspiration


One of the environmental objects of the European Union is to provide at least 20% of our energy out of renewable resources. The Netherlands has committed to the EU to provide 14% of its energy out of these sources (14% instead of 20% since we don't have many options to gain energy out of, for example, water).

So, from 5% to 14%. With only three years left and an intended increase of 9 percent to go, we have a long road ahead of us. Besides, the outcome of our recent parliamentary elections offers little hope. The biggest party, the Libertarians, care much more about the economy, entrepreneurship and self-determination for the Dutch inhabitants than about the environment.

It seems that the transition from fossil to clean energy won't be a priority on the political agenda for the next four years.

Let's compare our situation now with Estonia.

For Estonia, the EU object was set on 25 percent, eleven percent higher than the goal for the Netherlands. Even more surprising: that goal was already reached in 2014, when Estonia provides around 28 percent of its energy out of renewable sources. Still far behind frontrunners Sweden, Latvia and Finland, but the prospects look good.

I looked around on the Internet for a while, and I found out that this is mainly due to a clear governmental policy concerning the energy transition, leading to (or in combination with) the opening of wind parks and the increase of biomass production.

I am sure that there is plenty of room for improvement in Estonia also. As far as I know, the Narva power plants are still up and running. Another example: I noticed that a lot of (young) Estonians own cars and drive them extensively. It seems reasonable when you live in the countryside and work or study in town - but some of them drive from one district in the same city to the other every day. Here, Estonia could learn a lot from the Dutch bicycle culture.

Still, when we talk about (the fight against) pollution and the total amount of energy provided out of renewable sources, we envy you.

In short, the Netherlands is densely populated and space is scarce. Even if we would build windmills on our whole coastline, I'm not sure if we'd reach the European objects and - more importantly - turn the tide onto a less polluting world.

At this point, Estonia is far ahead of us. In here, the air even smells clean.



Thank you all, who filled out our questionnaire! Now we are again a bit more aware and informed about other nationalities’ point of views, situations and opinions. Special thanks to the person from Netherlands for a very thorough answer!

PS! Next event IN ENGLISH will be held on 10th of May – follow our facebook page (Rohelise Tee Õhtu) to keep yourself on track with the upcoming event!