World Environmental Day is annually celebrated on the 5th of June and is the most commemorated of all the environmental awareness days in over 100 countries. In 1972 the UN General Assembly chose June 5 as World Environment Day (WED), marking the first day of the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment. It is a platform for public outreach to stimulate and deepen global awareness of the need to care for, preserve, and enhance Mother Nature. It is a day to acknowledge and personalise environmental issues and to evoke positive environmental action amongst all people. It inspires individual and collective action to do something positive for the environment, to realise that each of us has a responsibility to protect to it from further destruction, and to take care of it indefinitely.
People must become environmental agents of change. Notably, it is also a day to learn more about ways that people can help to ensure the future of our planet is safe and a cleaner and greener outlook for not only themselves, but, more prominently, for future generations to make greener lifestyle choices and support sustainable and equitable development. It is also known as the ‘people’s day’ for doing something to take care of the Earth. It puts a spotlight on all the achievements and effective actions that have been implemented to protect life-nurturing Mother Nature.
Each year a different global country is assigned as the host of WED where official celebrations occur and this year’s host is Angola. A greater emphasis is placed on the environmental challenges that this specific country is faced with and support is provided in an effort to address them.
Importance of WED
As a result of decades celebrating this momentous day, millions of people from all over the world have participated in imperative environmental action. Furthermore, it is celebrated to look at all the achievements that have been made towards protecting the environment. It reminds individuals and countries of the importance of caring for our environment. It encourages societies to actively participate in becoming an agent in curbing negative environmental impacts.
Being a part of the celebrations, it provides an opportunity for people to share ideas and activities to make the world a better, environmentally-friendly place. As the official WED 2016 website reminds as, “Remember that every action counts, so join us: every year, everywhere, everyone!”
Each year a specific theme for WED is chosen by the United Nations to promote awareness on a specific and pressing environmental issue. WED 2016’s theme is: The illegal trade in wildlife under the slogan ‘Go Wild for Life’.
Wildlife not only faces man-made and natural threats such as climate change, habitat loss, and collisions with vehicles, but also one incredibly yet totally avoidable danger: the lucrative illegal wildlife trade. Huge profits can be made from ivory and rhino and is a very attractive commodity. This year focuses specifically on highlighting the dangers illegal wildlife trade has on our wellbeing. This illegal yet booming trade is fast eroding Mother Nature’s precious biodiversity but it is depriving us of our wonderful natural heritage. If this trade isn’t curbed swiftly, extinction is imminent. Furthermore, the killing and smuggling undermine economies and ecosystems. Through this senselessly shocking practice, elephants, rhinos, tigers, gorillas, and sea turtles are threatened. Other lesser-known species that are also negatively impacted include helmeted hornbills, pangolins, wild orchids and timbers like Rosewood. Notably, efforts to counter this illegal trade, including stronger policies, awareness campaigns and investments in community conservation and law enforcement, have occurred. But a lot can still be done.
It is important to convey a zero-tolerance for this illegal trade. This year all people are encouraged to celebrate those species that are under sever threat in order to take action to help safeguard them for not only current, but also future generations to come.
The rationale behind this year’s theme is that the illegal trade in wildlife will ultimately lead to extinction (both at a local and global scale) of many animal and plant species. The extinction of elephant, tiger and sea turtle species will be detrimental for conservation efforts. Wildlife crime is a rising threat to economies and communities, especially in developing countries. The loss of a species is a destruction of the biodiversity that supports the natural systems and on which we depend for food security, medicines, fresh air, water, shelter and a clean environment. By reducing human-wildlife conflict and, simultaneously, engaging communities in conservation efforts, there will be an increase support for wildlife protection and provide incentive to reduce poaching.
Facts on illegal trade on wildlife
· 100,000 African elephants were killed in 2010-2012, out of a population estimated at less than
· Illegal trade in wildlife is worth $15-20 billion annually, and is one of the largest illegal trades in the world.
· Poachers in Africa killed at least 1,338 rhinos in 2015, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
· Rhino poaching in South Africa increased by almost 9,000% or 90-fold between 2007 and 2015 from 13 rhinos killed in 2007 to 1,175 rhinos killed in 2015.
· An estimated 170 tonnes of ivory was illegally exported out of Africa between 2009 and 2014.
· Between 2002 and 2011 there was a 2/3 plummet in Forest Elephant population due to poaching.
· Since 2009 there has been a 60% decline African Savannah Elephants in the United Republic of Tanzania and a 50% decline in African Savannah Elephants in Mozambique.
· Chimpanzees are now extinct in Gambia, Burkina Faso, Benin and Togo.
· 3,000 Great Apes are lost from the wild every year and have disappeared from Gambia, Burkina Faso, Benin and Togo; over 70% of all great ape seizures are orangutans.
· Illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing is estimated at 11-26 million tonnes of fish each year, worth between $10 and $23 billion, causing depletion of fish stocks, price increase and loss of livelihoods for fishermen.
· Pangolins are the most illegally trafficked mammal in the world with over one million animals taken from the wild in the past decade.
· 40% of all intrastate conflicts in the last 60 years were linked to natural resources and over 80% of major armed conflicts in the last 50 years occurred in biodiversity hotspots.
· In 2011, a subspecies of Javan rhino went extinct in Vietnam, while the last western black rhinos vanished from Cameroon the same year.
(Source: Official World Environment Day 2016 website).
Partaking in WED Activities
WED is celebrated in various ways such as bicycle parades, concerts, poster competitions, tree planting, recycling efforts, and clean-up campaigns.
In terms of this year’s theme, the following can be done:
· People need to understand the damage that illegal trade has on, not only the environment, but
also their livelihoods, communities, and security.
· People must change their behaviour and habits so that demand for illegal wildlife products
· More awareness and action will enable governments and international bodies to introduce and
enforce tougher laws.
In terms of using social media as a platform to show your support, the following can be done:
· Share all the information related to this important environmental event.
· Encourage as many people as possible to ‘like’, ‘tweet’ or comment on WED.
· Use hashtags #worldenvironmentday #wed2016 #wildforlife and make use of the following three
· More information can be obtained from: www.uneporg/wed.
· Make use of the official logo on social media platforms:
· Make use of the following official WED posters:
In general environmental-friendly terms, the following can be done:
· Adopt an eco-friendly, sustainable lifestyle, and set green goals.
· The smallest thing, such as recycling can make a huge difference.
· Eat organic food.
· Make meals only from locally grown products.
· Leave your car and drive a bicycle or take public transport.
· Wear green clothes to show that you care for Mother Nature.
· Set up a recycling programme at home or the office.
· Use reusable shopping bags.
· Plant a tree or indigenous plants.
· Take a nature walk and enjoy being outdoors.
· Create your own vegetable and herb garden.
Important Environmental-related Quotes
· "Take care of the earth and she will take care of you." - Author Unknown
· "We never know the worth of water till the well is dry." - Thomas Fuller
· "We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children." - Native American Proverb
· "When we heal the earth, we heal ourselves." - David Orr
· "The world is a fine place and worth fighting for." - Ernest Hemingway
· “The environment is everything that isn’t me”. – Albert Einstein
· “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has”. – Margaret Mead
· “It is horrifying that we have to fight our own government to save the environment”. – Ansel Adams
· “I think the environment should be put in the category of our national security. Defense of our resources is just as important as defense abroad. Otherwise what is there to defend”? – Robert Redford
· “Take a course in good water and air; and in the eternal youth of Nature you may renew your own. Go quietly, alone; no harm will befall you”. – John Muir
· “Birds are indicators of the environment. If they are in trouble, we know we’ll soon be in trouble”. – Roger Tory Peterson
· “If we do not permit the earth to produce beauty and joy, it will in the end not produce food, either”. – Joseph Wood Krutch
· “Conservation is a state of harmony between men and land”. – Aldo Leopold
· “People blame their environment. There is only one person to blame – and only one – themselves”. – Robert Collier
· “The only way forward, if we are going to improve the quality of the environment, is to get everybody involved”. – Richard Rogers
· “Journey with me to a true commitment to our environment. Journey with me to the serenity of leaving to our children a planet in equilibrium”. – Paul Tsongas
· “Earth Day 1970 was irrefutable evidence that the American people understood the environmental threat and wanted action to resolve it”. – Barry Commoner
· “The most important environmental issue is one that is rarely mentioned, and that is the lack of a conservation ethic”. – Gaylord Nelson
Please keep your world clean and green. Earth is the only liveable planet, help save it for future generations, and abide by environmental laws. The need for change is pressing because if something isn’t seriously done to protect species, extinction will be imminent. The responsibility lies with all of us to take immediate action. So, make a difference - the time to act is now! Take a step in the green direction. Remember, Every Day should be World Environment Day!