Danish-Polish Environmental Co-operation 1991-2000

Chapter 13
Raising the environmental awareness

Bialowieza Forest - Sustainable Management of Nature and Forestry

In the years of the Soviet regime Poland was in a state of environmental disaster where all attempts to improve the environment were left to the central administration. The turn of the 1980s and 1990s gave rise to democratisation of public life. Throughout the last 10 years there has been an increase in the number of citizens feeling personally responsible for the state of the local environment.

It is evident that Poland has gone through fundamental political, social and economic changes during the last decades, and that these among other things have led to a higher environmental awareness among the nation's citizens. Formal education and the informal education conducted by NGOs and the media, together with the growing public awareness for the importance of environmental issues as well as individuals' experiences have all helped change people's perception of the state of environment and the consequences of their own actions.

At present, there are more than 600 organisations declaring environmental activities in their statutes. More than 60 organisations take part not only in solving local problems, but also in the work of Parliament's commissions and in actions to support activities of state authorities in the implementation of different tasks of environmental policy, often initiating them on their own.

The public support

It is now an accepted official attitude, that the implementation of objectives related to the improvement of the condition of the environment in Poland requires approval by the public. Today, the wish for public involvement is the purpose of environmental education conducted in schools and universities as well as by independent non-governmental and church organisations and the mass media.

The independent environmental press and various publishers support the public activity and with the new legislation providing for general access to environmental information, the state of affairs has indeed improved substantially.

Also, from central level the importance of environmental education is stressed, as for example expressed by the official paper entitled "The National Education Strategy. Through Education to Sustainable Development" adopted by both the Minister of the Environment and the Minister of National Education.

Bialowieza Forest - Sustainable Management of Nature and Forestry

An example of a project involving environmental awareness raising is "Bialowieza Forest - Sustainable Management of Nature and Forestry" described in chapter 11.