M. V. S. Prasad*
Celebrated annually on 5 June, World Environment Day
aims at creating worldwide awareness and encourages
political attention and action on environmental
issues. World Environment Day thematic celebrations
have in the past included caring for the earth and
water, ozone layer, climate change, desertification
and sustainable development, etc.
World Environment Day was founded by the UN in 1972
to mark the opening of the Stockholm Conference on
the Human Environment. 2012 marks the 40th
anniversary of the United Nations Environment
Programme and also of World Environment Day (WED),
and 20 years since the first UN Conference on
Sustainable Development (Earth Summit) in Brazil.
Why Celebrate World Environment Day?
When we see or experience the negative effects of
climate change and environmental degradation, it is
easy to blame others - for not prioritizing
environmental policy; corporate organizations for
raising issues like greenhouse gas emissions; NGOs
for not lobbying strongly enough for the
environment; and individuals for not taking action.
World Environment Day however is a day we put aside
our differences and instead celebrate the
achievements we've made towards protecting the
By celebrating World Environment Day, we remind
ourselves and others of the importance of caring for
our environment. World Environment Day is celebrated
around the world in many ways, including street
rallies, bicycle parades, green concerts, essay and
poster competitions in schools, tree planting,
recycling efforts, clean-up campaigns and much more.
The 2012 theme for World Environment Day is Green
Economy: Does it include you?
In its simplest expression, a green economy can be
thought of as one which is low carbon, resource
efficient and socially inclusive. Practically
speaking, a Green Economy is one whose growth in
income and employment is driven by public and
private investments that reduce carbon emissions and
pollution, enhance energy and resource efficiency,
and prevent the loss of biodiversity and ecosystems.
If the Green Economy is about social equity and
inclusiveness, then, technically it is all about us.
The Green Economy touches almost every aspect of our
lives and concerns our development. It is about
sustainable energy, green jobs, low carbon
economies, green policies, green buildings,
agriculture, fisheries, forestry, industry, energy
efficiency, sustainable tourism, sustainable
transport, waste management, water efficiency and
all other resource efficiency. These are all
elements involved in the successful implementation
of a green economy.
The world today is facing a mounting crisis and in
recent years we have experienced a combination of a
global financial crisis, a food crisis, volatile oil
prices, degradation of ecosystem and an
unprecedented climate changes. These inter-related
crises challenge the ability of human population to
live peacefully and sustainably on this planet, and
demand urgent attention of governments and citizens
around the world. More importantly, as countries
across the globe emerge from deep economic
recession, it emphasizes the need for a Green
Economy that addresses social equity.
What can be done?
Construction and buildings take a large toll on
resources and climate. Energy audit can reduce your
building's climate footprint and lead to significant
savings in energy costs.
Overfishing in many parts of the world threatens to
deplete future fish stocks. We can avoid this by
working to promote sustainable fishing practices.
Choose sustainably harvested seafood.
Deforestation accounts for close to 20% of the
world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Sustainably
managed forests can continue to support communities
and ecosystems without damaging environment and
climate. Use electronic files to reduce your demand
for paper products. When you support certified
sustainable forest products, you support a healthy
environment and sustainable livelihoods.
Riding alone in your car isn't just environmentally
and economically inefficient, it's lonely!
Car-pooling or taking public transport reduces
environmental impacts and economic costs while
strengthening community. Walking or riding a bike
for short trips is good for your health - and the
environment's, too! When you choose alternative
transportation methods, you support a Green Economy
in the transport sector.
Billions of people worldwide lack access to clean
drinking water or improved sanitation services - and
population growth will worsen the problem. Taking
small steps towards wise water use can help conserve
this precious resource. Turn off the tap when you're
not using it, wait until you have a full load to run
your washing machine, limit shower time, and don't
water your lawn right after a rain. Resource
efficiency is key to a Green Economy and water is
one of our most important resources.
The world’s population stands at 7 billion and may
rise to more than 9 billion by 2050. This means
greater pressure on already crowded cities – where
more than half of all people now live – and on
natural resources, as demand for food, water and
energy rises. It's time to support sustainable
agriculture to ensure our ability to feed everyone.
Grow your own vegetables, and shop at local farmers'
markets. When you buy local, organic, and
sustainable food products, you send a message to
producers that you support a Green Economy for
The current mainstream energy sources - oil, coal,
gas, etc. - are not only harmful to health and
environment, they're not sustainable in a world of
growing energy needs. You can support the
development of clean, renewable energy by choosing
businesses and products that invest in them - or by
investing in them yourself. While we work towards a
transition to renewable energy, consider ways to
improve your personal energy efficiency. Turn off
lights and unplug appliances when you are not using
Recycling appropriate materials and composting food
waste reduces the demand on our natural resources.
In this significant year for the environment and
sustainable development, the world leaders will once
again meet at the United Nations Conference on
Sustainable Development twenty years after the
historic Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, 1992.
Sustainability entails providing opportunity for all
by balancing the social, economic and environmental
dimensions of development. We have to rebut the myth
that there is conflict between economic health and
environment. With right policies and the right
investments, we can protect our environment, grow
our economy, generate employment and accelerate
Moving towards a green economy has the potential to
achieve sustainable development and eradicate
poverty on an unprecedented scale, with speed and
effectiveness. It requires world leaders, civil
society and industry to collaboratively work towards
this transition. It will also need a sustained
effort on the part of policy makers and citizens to
rethink and redefine traditional measures of wealth,
prosperity and well-being. (PIB Features.)
5th June, 2012 is World Environment Day.
*Joint Director, PIB, Chennai.