World Environment Day [WED] was designated by the UN General Assembly in 1972 on the first day of United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, resulting from discussions on the integration of human interactions and the environment. Two years later, in 1974 the first WED was held with the theme “Only One Earth”. Even though WED celebrations have been held annually since 1974, in 1987 the idea for rotating the center of these activities through selecting different host countries began.
The theme for 2017 is ‘Connecting People to Nature – in the city and on the land, from the poles to the equator’. The host nation is Canada. Now we can aggressively plant many trees to mitigate our species’ harms to the shared earth.
What is World Environment Day all about?
Around the world people will be planting trees, cleaning up their neighborhoods and taking action against wildlife crimes.
The day itself is all about raising awareness about nature and the importance of protecting it so anything that has people embracing the outdoors is a small step towards helping.
The value of nature
In recent decades, scientific advances as well as growing environmental problems such as global warming are helping us to understand the countless ways in which natural systems support our own prosperity and well-being.
For example, the world’s oceans, forests and soils act as vast stores for greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane; farmers and fisher-folk harness nature on land and under water to provide us with food; scientists develop medicines using genetic material drawn from the millions of species that make up Earth’s astounding biological diversity.
Billions of rural people around the world spend every working day ‘connected to nature’ and appreciate full well their dependence on natural water supplies and how nature provides their livelihoods in the form of fertile soil. They are among the first to suffer when ecosystems are threatened, whether by pollution, climate change or over-exploitation.
Nature’s gifts are often hard to value in monetary terms. Like clean air, they are often taken for granted, at least until they become scarce. However, economists are developing ways to measure the multi-trillion-dollar worth of many so-called ‘ecosystem services’, from insects pollinating fruit trees in the orchards of California to the leisure, health and spiritual benefits of a hike up a Himalayan valley.
Nature up close
Connecting to nature can involve all the physical senses: why not take off your shoes and get your feet (and hands) dirty; don’t just look at the beautiful lake, jump in! Take a hike at night and rely on your ears and nose to experience nature.
You can also connect with nature in the city, where major parks can be a green lung and a hub of biodiversity. Why not do your bit to green the urban environment, by greening your street or a derelict site, or planting a window box? You could put a spade in the soil or lift a paving slab and see what creatures live beneath.
Wherever you are, you could vow to pick up 10 (or 100) pieces of trash, or take inspiration from the citizens of Mumbai, India, and organize a mass beach clean-up.
Your activity doesn’t have to take place on 5 June itself. UN Environment, for instance, will soon begin testing your knowledge and raising your appreciation of a healthy environment with competitions and online quizzes and provide a whole menu of ideas to help you celebrate the day.
In the age of asphalt and smartphones and among the distractions of modern life, connections with nature can be fleeting. But with your help, World Environment Day can make clearer than ever that we need harmony between humanity and nature so that both are able to thrive.