On the eve of the World Environment Day, the Prize of Valdas Adamkus Presidential Library-Museum and Dana Gedvila Fund (5,000 euros) was solemnly awarded at the Vytautas Magnus University (VMU) Botanical Garden to Giedrius Bučas, a promoter of sustainable lifestyle.
VMU Rector Prof. Juozas Augutis congratulated everyone and sincerely wished that the example of Bučas would inspire everyone, from children to seniors, to take better care of the environment we live in. "I hope that the noble deeds that have been recognized and appreciated will spark thoughts about what each of us can do to live more sustainably. I congratulate Bučas and wish him meaningful future projects that inspire change," said Augutis.
When presenting the Prize, V. Adamkus noted that environmental culture is part of the general human culture. "Life shows that happier people live where more attention is paid to environmental protection. It probably can't be otherwise, because environmental work tends to bring benevolent people together into a circle of like-minded people, give them new experiences, and increase the sense of fulfilment in life. This is also evidenced by the personality and works of today's Prize winner Bučas. Thanks to this man, the search for and development of sustainability in relation to the environment turns into development of sustainability in human communication. Therefore, every work, lesson, artwork and hike you do is more than just caring for the ecology. It also contributes to the development of a sustainable society," the President maintained. Adamkus was particularly pleased that many children and young people are involved in these initiatives, stating that "This is how the future of Lithuania and the world is created – a future that is benevolent, and that is based on responsibility, respect for the environment, and respect for the human being."
While accepting the Prize, Bučas asked the guests to think about what kind of planet we are leaving for future generations. According to him, we live in a constant war. "Not in the war as we imagine, or the one currently taking place in our neighbouring country. This war is called ecocide. We don't feel or see it to the same extent, and it doesn't cause us instant damage, but the consequences are getting worse with each new generation," says the founder of the social initiative "Creative Corner 360°", change leader, social activist, social entrepreneur, and initiator of the sustainable hike around the country "For a Clean Lithuania!" in 2020.
According to him, eco-education of society and especially children must be a priority. "We spend money on various campaigns, posters, slogans and similar educational measures, while at the same time there aren't even basic sorting bins in schools, there aren't enough of them even in urban public spaces; moreover, litter bins are still open, with their contents scattered around by strong winds or birds. Stormwater runoff with all the pollutants flows into rivers and roadside ditches and urban treatment plants are unable to clean microplastic particles and various chemical elements. A father walking his child to school bypasses all the rubbish on their way. How will that child behave when he grows up? If we don't teach children to deal with small problems, they will certainly not be able to solve big ones when they grow up. Pipes in the Curonian Lagoon will continue to be hidden and tyre warehouses will be plagued by fires. We are still dealing with the consequences rather than solving the causes of the issues," says the Prize winner.
Bučas assures that he does not undertake his activities and work for prizes, but every positive evaluation is still pleasant. "I believe that when you give a part of yourself, you get much more in return. This evaluation only confirms it. I would be lying if I said it didn’t matter. Of course, this is a very important evaluation, especially coming from Valdas Adamkus, a man who is one of my inspirers and role models.
This year, the organisers of the Prize received 21 nominations covering all four categories of the Prize – scientific achievements, environmental innovation in business, social activities, and environmental policy and management. "A total of 19 people were nominated, two of whom were nominated by different organisations. Nominations were submitted by public organisations concerned with environmental protection, individual social activists, business associations, educational institutions, civil servants, and politicians," says the Head of the Presidential Library-Museum A. Antanaitis.
The winner of the Prize was chosen by a committee made up of professionals from different fields: Prof. Birutė Galdikas (distinguished Lithuanian Canadian, anthropologist and ecologist, VMU Honorary Doctor) Dr. Nerijus Jurkonis (Director of VMU Botanical Garden, teacher at VMU Department of Environmental Sciences), Dr. Visvaldas Varžinskas (Director of KTU Centre for Packaging Innovations and Research), Donatas Puslys (journalist and Head of Media and Democracy Programme at Vilnius Institute for Policy Analysis), member of the European Commission Virginijus Sinkevičius (European Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries), and Arūnas Antanaitis (Head of the Valdas Adamkus Presidential Library-Museum).
Nominal President's Prize – to give meaning to and encourage environmental solutions
Gabrielius Gedvila, who lives in the USA, a long-time friend of Valdas Adamkus and head of his election headquarters when Adamkus ran for the Board Of Trustees Of The Sanitary District Of Chicago in 1968, is convinced that environmental protection was, is and will remain a global problem that requires special attention; therefore, in order to give meaning and attention to achievements in environmental protection in Lithuania as well as to honour the memory of his late wife, he set up a 100,000 dollar fund, which will be allocated for the President Valdas Adamkus – his friend, a well-known environmentalist and the President of the country – Prize.
The Prize of the Presidential Library and Dana Gedvila Fund has been awarded since 2021 for laudable and noteworthy achievements and efforts to protect and restore the natural environment in Lithuania and its neighbouring countries, and to ensure the sustainability of resources. The Prize will continue to welcome submissions of research and inventions, civic activities, individuals, and organisations that draw attention to nature protection and encourage action, as well as political decisions and business initiatives that encourage a more sustainable development and a cleaner future by inventing or adopting the most advanced solutions.
In 2021, Mindaugas Survila, the director of the documentary film Sengirė, was the first winner of the renewed President Valdas Adamkus Prize.