Monday, April 22, 2024

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Only one earth. Remember and do better

There is a quote that says ‘leaders need to be optimists. Their vision is beyond the present’ (Rudy Giulani).

The stakeholders who sat at the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment (1972) must have been acting on this words unawares because they spearheaded an event that would encompass one of the biggest challenges the world faces in the 21st Century. To accentuate this, threats against the environment are one of the top 20 topics that worry individuals according to a 2021 Ipsos survey done in 28 countries (Meyers, 2021). Thanks to the foresighted individuals back then, several policies, innovations and international binding agreements aimed at making the earth cleaner, healthier and safer have stemmed from that meeting first held on Swedish soil.

One could say the pioneers of the World Environment Day (WED) were envisioning what the world should look like, or ought to look like.Furthermore, to spur creativity, sustainability and even continuity of the human race, there needed to be a ‘hook’ or an event that would bring international consensus in furthering their dream. In June 1972, the World Environment Day was born.

Fifty years down the line, the vision and mission is ever stronger, the calls louder and the urgency greater.

Though 1972 heralds the year in which this day was established, it was not until 1974—two years later—that the first ‘official’ Environment Day was celebrated. Rather than celebration, the observance of this day has always been, and ironically is, more of introspection, reflection and prioritization of actions to (un)do in order to conserve the environment. The awareness of many environmentally friendly practices we perhaps take for granted, such as energy conservation, reducing food wastage, tree planting and many others can be attributed to the various themes attached to the 40+ Environmental days held ever since 1974. It is from these WEDs that they were mainstreamed to public life through education campaigns and policy enforcements.

The theme for this year’s World Environment Day is ‘Only One Earth’. It sounds so simple, yet so profound. All the themes and initiatives that have been sparked by this one global UN holiday can have their roots grounded on this theme. Its only one earth, so why not take better care of it? Save water, avoid indiscriminate dumping, protect forests, conserve nature, care for oceans. Aren’t all this available in this one and only earth? So, does it make sense to live as though there is an alternative? Surely no. As a matter of fact, the 2022 ‘Only one earth’ theme is taking us back to where it all started, to the city of its genesis, and to the vision the creators had at the very beginning.

As global leaders attend the event and ponder new ways for a sustainable future, for the rest of us who are away there is one question: “How far have we gone in making the vision a reality?” There have been a number of successes. Single-use plastics have been banned in some countries. Production and purchase of electric and hybrid vehicles is rising. Development of smart cities is gaining traction. The major obstacle to a universal sustainable future—poverty. Millions of people in developing economies are at the very low end of the totem pole when it comes to living in squalid conditions. It is at these places that poor sanitation, extreme weather events, Urban Heat Island (UHI) effects, poor air quality and inadequate water and food are all part of the same package. It has sometimes been termed as the geography of poverty. For example, 60% of Africa’s urban population live in informal settlements (Godwin & Lochner, 2021), yet these are the areas most prone to flooding, inadequate water and sanitation, and land pollution.

Here at Climate and Energy (C&E) Advisory, we contribute to the betterment of the environment through our consultative services. This does not mean environmental awareness and conservation has been limited to our profit spectrum only. By adopting a hybrid work model, teleconferencing, use of energy saving equipment, and creating public awareness—such as through this article you are reading, C&E is contributing to reducing its carbon footprint and thus promoting environmental conservation.

Nevertheless, we at C&E believe that living in a clean environment is as much a right as it is a duty to everyone. And although not everyone has the capability to pull the strings needed to attract financial muscle and corporate bigwigs like in the recent Glasgow event, each one of us has the opportunity to influence the three feet around their feet. You can do this by ensuring cleanness, avoiding wastage, practicing the 5Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle, regift, rethink) and greening both private and public spaces, where possible. As they say, charity begins at home.

For this year, World Environment Day event is back home to Stockholm, where it all began.

References

Godwin, A., & Lochner, M. (2021). Global South Urbanisms and Urban Sustainability—Challenges and the Way Forward. Frontiers in Sustainable Cities, 3. Retrieved from 10.3389/frsc.2021.692799

Meyers, J. (2021, September 15). What's worrying the world? . Retrieved from World Economic Forum: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2021/09/what-worries-the-world-ipsos/

Prashant, K. (2021). Climate Change and Cities: Challenges Ahead. Frontiers in Sustainable Cities. doi:10.3389/frsc.2021.645613