World Environment Day & Why The Environment Should Matter To You
With 5th June marking World Environment Day, 8th June dedicated to World Oceans Day, and the whole week of the 4th-11th June named Global Sharing Week, there's a push this month to raise awareness about the environment we breathe, inhabit, and extract resources from - and, importantly, how we need to take measures to look after it!
The protection and improvement of the human environment is a major issue affecting people and economic development throughout the world. In response, the UN encourages the celebration of World Environment Day in order to galvanize social change on a large scale by enlightening opinions around these problems and inducing responsible conduct by individuals, enterprises and communities.
Since it began in 1974, World Environment Day has grown to become a global platform for public outreach. This year's theme is 'Connecting People to Nature', in a move to inspire us all to get outdoors, to cherish the beauty of nature and to think about how closely we rely on it for our livelihoods. With a different global host country each year, the official celebrations in 2017 are taking place in Canada - a country renowned for its rich, spectacular and abundant natural resources that support the well-being of its inhabitants, as well as its economic prosperity through tourism and sustainable use.
Read on to find out just some of the ways that individuals, organizations, and businesses are attempting to bring about the necessary change to look after our environment!
World Environment Day draws attention to pressing concerns that affect all of us
Sustainable Development Goals
Laid out in 2015, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development states the UN's resolve “to ensure the lasting protection of the planet and its natural resources”. In particular, Goal 14 focusses on conserving and sustainably using the oceans, seas and marine resources, and Goal 15 aims to 'sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, halt and reverse land degradation, halt biodiversity loss'.
Melissa Sterry, a systems theorist and futurist focussed on the science, technology and thinking that could help build a better world, explains why acknowledging such goals on World Environment Day is so important:
"Never has the imperative to think, thereon to act, ecologically been greater. But to our great advantage, humanity is now endowed with such scientific insights; technological means; willing, able, and ready talent, both at the individual, and the organisational scale, as can potentially meet that imperative. Peoples far and peoples wide, peoples of all manner of capabilities are, and in ever-growing numbers, coming together to 'make the planet great again'."
She continues, "In our hands rests the collective responsibility to not merely undo environmental damage done, but to utilise our potential, and to its fullest, to ensure the continued integrity of Earth’s systems: atmosphere, hydrosphere, cryosphere, geosphere, biosphere, and pedosphere. Whereupon we harness our intellect, and the imagination born thereof, we turn immense challenges into exponential opportunities. For all the many possible worlds in our Universe, we stand upon the foremost significant unto our future - and to that of every living creature on the planet, therein all known life. May we rise to the occasion, today, World Environment Day, and every day”.
Christiana Figueres, who played a key role in solidifying the Paris Agreement in December 2015, is widely credited with reviving the UNFCC as its Executive Secretary and has helped to forge a new brand of collaborative diplomacy.
In a statement about the new Mission 2020 campaign goals established in 2017, she has said: "Everyone has a right to prosper, and if emissions do not begin their rapid decline by 2020, the world's most vulnerable people will suffer even more from the devastating impacts of climate change... What has been missing since Paris is a near-term focal point for action, which is why we have brought together some of the best minds on the subject to collectively demonstrate that the arc of transformation to a fossil-free energy system is possible.
"We have a collective responsibility to raise ambition, scale-up our actions and move forward faster together to safeguard the sustainable development goals and protect the inalienable right to life of our and future generations. Let's not be late."
Our environment includes the oceans driving global systems that make the Earth habitable
The Sharing Economy
In their everyday practices, both individuals and businesses large and small can make a real difference to the state of the environment: simply by sharing their consumption of resources.
Social entrepreneur and keynote speaker, Benita Matofska is an advocate of the Sharing Economy as the Founder of The People Who Share - a global sharing campaign which aims to build a future of people exchanging their goods and services.
Speaking about the environment, Benita comments: "By 2050, it's estimated that we will need to accommodate an additional 2.3 billion people. If we continue to consume resources at the current rate, we'll need at least an additional 2 planets. It's a simple fact that if we destroy the home in which we live, we won't have anywhere to live. The evidence that we are participating in a seismic planetary destruction is everywhere. The need to share and care about our planetary resources is obvious. The question is not why should we care about the environment, but why don't we? World Environment Day is an opportunity for us all to understand the consequences of our choices and take action to ensure that future generations have a planet to live on."
You can also check out Benita's blog post on the Sharing Economy here.
Surfers Against Sewage co-founder Chris Hines uses the medium of surfing to change how we perceive our relationship with our environment. In conversation with Huck, he commented: 'The work I did through the ’90s with SAS quite clearly used surfing as a tool to help drive a massive cleanup of the coastal waters of the UK... what we did was to use surfing in the way it’s used to sell everything from McDonald's to cars and even bottled water. In the same way, we used surfing to sell the message that clean seas are good'.
Another environmental advocate empowering social change is Lewis Pugh, the UN Patron of Oceans. Described as "Speedo diplomacy", Lewis took on the challenge of swimming 5 swims in freezing Antarctic waters, wearing just speedos and a swim hat, to help negotiate the creation of the biggest protected area in the world in the Ross Sea off Antarctica - something which required consensus among 25 countries!
Such inspirational acts prove the power of an individual to bring about change on a global scale. They inspire us all to make the efforts needed to maintain the natural beauty of our world; to ensure that the air we breathe is of a high quality; and to keep the ecosystems, so vital for our survival and resources, alive and thriving.