World Environment Day
World Environment Day (WED) is the United Nations’ principal vehicle for encouraging worldwide awareness and action for the environment. Over the years it has grown to be a broad, global platform for public outreach that is widely celebrated by stakeholders in over 100 countries. It also serves as the ‘people’s day’ for doing something positive for the environment, galvanizing individual actions into a collective power that generates an exponential positive impact on the planet.
Significance of WED
Many of the Earth’s ecosystems are nearing critical tipping points of depletion or irreversible change, pushed by high population growth and economic development. By 2050, if current consumption and production patterns remain the same, and with a rising population expected to reach 9.6 billion, we will need three planets to sustain our ways of living and consumption.
Consuming with care is to live within planetary boundaries to ensure a healthy future where our dreams can be realized. Human prosperity need not cost the earth. Living sustainably is about doing more and better with less. It is also about knowing that rising rates of natural resource use and the environmental impacts that occur is not a necessary by-product of economic growth.
According to the UN, WED is the opportunity for everyone to realize the responsibility to care for the Earth and to become agents of change.
History of WED
The UN General Assembly had established World Environment Day (WED) in 1972 after discussions on the integration of human interactions and the environment during the first day of the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment. And it was after two years that the first WED was held with the theme ‘Only One Earth’. Celebrations were held annually from 1974 to mark the day, and then in 1987, it was decided the center for the activities should be rotated so that different countries can host it. After the celebration of environment day started with a theme, every year the world celebrates the day with a different theme to save nature earth.
Theme of World Environment Day 2020
For 2020, the theme for World Environment Day is ‘Celebrate Biodiversity’, which, as per the United Nations, a concern that is both urgent and existential. Citing the recent events taking place in Brazil, the US, Australia, Africa, and the global COVID-19 pandemic, it said it all demonstrates the interdependence of humans and the webs of life, in which they exist.
As has been happening every year, Colombia has this year been chosen as the country to host the World Environment Day 2020 event in collaboration with Germany. Last year it had been hosted by China, and the theme had been ‘Beat Air pollution’.
WED during COVID-19
COVID-19 provides us an opportunity to both revisit our relationship with nature and rebuild a more environmentally responsible world. The coronavirus pandemic is an urgent call to appreciate all the ways that we are dependent on nature and to combat species loss and environmental degradation. We are called to remember that we are polluting the planet and destroying habitats upon which we all depend. Although public health protocols mean that this year’s WED activities will take place online, we can still remain socially connected despite the physical distance.
Addressing zoonotic disease emergence requires addressing its root cause–primarily, the impact of human activities. As the global population approaches 10 billion, we need to better understand the web of life in which we live and appreciate that it functions as a whole system. It is time to reimagine our relationship with nature and put nature at the heart of our decision-making.
The emergence of COVID-19 has underscored the fact that when we destroy biodiversity, we destroy the system that supports human life.