Rio de Janeiro in Brazil is hosting the World Environment Day (WED) 2012. The United Nations Environment Programme has been celebrating WED on Jun 5 every year since 1973 to raise awareness about the need for all of us to save the environment.
The date was chosen because the UN Conference on the Human Environment began in Stockholm on Jun 5, 1972. Representatives of 113 countries, 19 inter-governmental agencies and more than 400 inter-governmental and non-governmental organisations congregated in Sweden's capital for this purpose. A declaration containing 26 principles about the environment and development was passed at the meeting and an action plan with 109 recommendations was also drawn up.
Thanks to the Stockholm conference, global awareness of environmental problems increased manifold. It also greatly influenced the policies of many countries. In 1973, the European Union formulated the first environmental action programme. Since that year, the World Environment Day has been hosted by cities across the world. Each time, the theme is different and the host city organises a week-long international exposition on it.
This year's World Environment Day theme
For 2012, the theme is 'Green Economy: Does it include you?' It puts the onus on everyone to find out more about the Green Economy and assess whether, in their country, they are being included in it. According to the UN Environment Programme, a green economy is 'one that results in improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities'.
A Green Economy can be thought of as one which is low carbon, resource efficient and socially inclusive. In such an economy, people's income grows exponentially and employment is driven by public and private investments that reduce carbon emissions and pollution. Energy and resource efficiency is enhanced. Simultaneously the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services is prevented. These objectives are achieved through targeted public expenditure, policy reforms and regulation changes.
The importance of World Environment Day
It is high time we realised that environmental degradation puts our future in peril. Besides, we are supposed to hand over our common heritage to future generations. The task will become well nigh impossible if we don't preserve the existing things. Numerous species have already become extinct and many more are currently on the endangered list. We must not go down the same path.
The felling of trees due to our ever growing needs has been on an unprecedented scale and has caused an alarming depletion in green cover. The overall rainfall has been decreasing over the years in inverse proportion to the greenhouse effect, leading to disastrous climate change.
Residents of areas which received abundant rain in the past are facing water scarcity at present. Cherrapunji in the state of Meghalaya was till the 1980s the wettest place in India, it hasn't recorded sufficient rain for years now. Vast tracts of land which were once lush green have turned into deserts.
Several important glaciers have significantly shrunk in size. Polar ice is also melting fast. Large icebergs have been seen floating near Antarctica. If this trend continues, sea levels will rise and entire islands could be submerged. In order to avoid ending up in a watery grave, millions living on the coast or near the sea would be forced to relocate.
Further increase in global temperature will also lead to loss of vital flora and fauna. As each species has a vital role to play in the food chain, any imbalance means destruction of the ecosystem itself. It is incumbent on everyone concerned to avoid this possibility. Time is running out. Will we join hands and take the required steps before it is too late?