World Environment Day (WED) is celebrated on 5 June every year, and is the United Nations' principal vehicle for encouraging awareness and action for the protection of our environment.
As the world observes this year’s World Environment Day, today, different international agencies have come out with different products, ideas, events and statements that capture the theme of this year’s event, “Celebrate Biodiversity”.
From the official Twitter handle of the United Nations Environment Programme, UNEP, the agency emphasized the importance of greenery to human life and the environment: “Caring for nature means caring for ourselves. People need greenery: research shows that green spaces in and around cities have mental health benefits. Branco National Park, in the heart of Abidjan, is one of such respite.
Another agency, The Energy and Resources Institute, TERI, which is a research institute in New Delhi that specializes in the fields of energy, environment and sustainable development, twitted: “Today at the launch of the World Sustainable Development Summit 2021, Hon. Minister, Prakash Javdekar, said “India is among a few countries walking the talk on climate commitment.”
For the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, South Africa, COVID-19, young people and the environment are the issues: “As we face unprecedented challenges caused by COVID-19, World Environment Day reminds us that young people are also taking action in the face of on-going climate and environmental challenges. What climate actions are you taking?”
Similarly, on the official website of the United Nations, the topic is Time for nature: “The foods we eat, the air we breathe, the water we drink and the climate that makes our planet habitable all come from nature. For instance, each year, marine plants produce more than a half of our atmosphere’s oxygen, and a mature tree cleans our air, absorbing 22 kilos of carbon dioxide, releasing oxygen in exchange.
Despite all the benefits that our nature gives us, we still mistreat it. That is why we need to work on that. That is why we need this Observance.”
The 2020 World Environment Day is hosted by Colombia. As usual, it’s an occasion used to engage governments, businesses, celebrities and citizens to focus their efforts on a pressing environmental issue.
According to the United Nations, “This year, the theme is biodiversity – a concern that is both urgent and existential. Recent events, from bushfires in Brazil, the United States, and Australia to locust infestations across East Africa – and now, a global disease pandemic – demonstrate the interdependence of humans and the webs of life, in which they exist.”
The world body also dwelled on biodiversity and its connection to humans: “Biodiversity is the foundation that supports all life on land and below water. It affects every aspect of human health, providing clean air and water, nutritious foods, scientific understanding and medicine sources, natural disease resistance, and climate change mitigation. Changing, or removing one element of this web affects the entire life system and can produce negative consequences.”
Tracing the negative agent that depletes biodiversity, the UN says “human actions, including deforestation, encroachment on wildlife habitats, intensified agriculture, and acceleration of climate change, have pushed nature beyond its limit. It would take 1.6 Earths to meet the demands that humans make of nature each year. If we continue on this path, biodiversity loss will have severe implications for humanity, including the collapse of food and health systems.”
The emergence of COVID-19, the agency says, “has underscored the fact that, when we destroy biodiversity, we destroy the system that supports human life. Today, it is estimated that, globally, about one billion cases of illness and millions of deaths occur every year from diseases caused by coronaviruses; and about 75 per cent of all emerging infectious diseases in humans are zoonotic, meaning that they are transmitted to people by animals. Nature, it says, is sending us a message.