World Environment Day – A Look Back One Month On
05 July 2017
We are exactly one month on from World Environment Day (WED) 2017, which saw supporting activities take place across the globe. So, we thought we would mark the occasion by looking back at what happened on the day.
Adapted from the UN Environment press release titled ‘World Environment Day connects people with nature across the globe with music, muscle power and green light’:
2017 World Environmental Day Host - Canada
This year WED was hosted and launched by Canada, with an umbrella theme of ‘connecting people to nature’. Celebrations arced across the planet, from a Jack Johnson concert in Canada and beach clean-ups on six continents, to landmarks from China to Dubai turning green in solidarity with nature.
Jack Johnson and actor Adrian Grenier kicked off events on Sunday 4th June, calling on people around the world to connect with nature, appreciate how it sustains us, and make sure we do more to keep it safe.
“I encourage you all to get out there, get in nature, get in the ocean,” said Grenier, who is also a strong advocate for ocean protection, before Johnson took the stage in Toronto. He added “we can become a sea of change.”
The concert was a starting gun for thousands of WED activities rolling out across the planet, many of them linked to this year’s theme. Nearly 1,700 events were registered with UN Environment, including a conference organised by the Society for the Environment in London. The events registered were likely a fraction of the overall total.
Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, and Environment Minister, Christine McKenna, joined UN Environment Chief, Erik Solheim, to connect with nature by paddling kayaks at a safe distance from the famed Niagara Falls.
Trudeau said, “any day I get to kick off with a paddle is a great day.” He also urged people to “go outside and connect with the environment we are fighting for.”
“The future is still bright for those who have the courage to confront hard truths … Canada will not back down from our commitment to fight climate change, and we are not alone,” he added.
Solheim thanked Canada and other countries for providing leadership on environmental protection in the wake of the US decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. With technology companies and financial giants also swinging behind sustainability, Solheim said there were reasons for optimism, and urged people to adopt French premier Emmanuel Macron’s slogan and “make the planet great again.”
Environmental Activities Across the Globe
As Solheim spoke, thousands of people across six continents were joining clean-ups on beaches, riverbanks and in the mountains, including on the US/Mexico border in Tijuana, as well as in Spain, Lebanon, the Greek Islands, Australia, Norway, Canada, Tanzania and even the Arctic.
In India, Bollywood stars, politicians and hundreds of schoolchildren, along with UN Champion of the Earth Afroz Shah, helped plant 500 palm trees along Versova Beach in Mumbai, the culmination of a massive 18-month clean-up there.
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi cited the clean-up as inspiration for a massive overhaul of India’s waste management system. Starting on WED, authorities began installing colour-coded litter bins in 4,000 towns across India to encourage recycling.
Showing how WED can catalyse change, Angola marked the day by burning more than a ton of elephant ivory. The move underlined a commitment to fighting wildlife crime, which was made when it hosted the official celebrations in 2016.
Among the many grassroots events, students in Ibadan, Nigeria took a stand against pollution with a ‘March for Nature’. In the Italian city of Spoleto, experts with ultrasonic detectors were leading walkers around its medieval fortress in search of bats. Kids played ‘Environmental Detectives’ at a resort on the Thai island of Phuket; and Australians enjoyed a day of food, arts and action at the World Environment Day Festival in Sunshine Coast, Queensland, now in its 38th year.
On a global level, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) invited social media users to follow the examples of UNEP Goodwill Ambassadors Gisele Bündchen and Don Cheadle, and post photos of their favourite natural places to create the world's biggest nature photo album.
In a BioBlitz organised with iNaturalist, UN Environment encouraged people to become citizen scientists from the 1st – 12th June by mapping Earth’s amazing diversity of plants and animals. By WED, nearly 5,000 people had submitted 50,000 observations. Experts will use the data to identify species at risk.
Several countries used the day to make big announcements. Hossa – a mosaic of dark, primeval forests and fish-filled waters – will become Finland’s 40th national park; Jordan upgraded its Aqaba Marine Park on the Red Sea to the status of a “natural reserve” to protect its coral reefs; Chile is establishing two new marine parks that lift its marine protected area to 1 million square kilometres; and Bosnia and Herzegovina is doubling the size of its protected areas.
Bosnia and Herzogovina is one of 10 countries making it easier to connect with nature by giving free entrance to national parks. Canada is granting free entrance passes for the whole of 2017.
As dusk swept across the planet, dozens of landmarks and iconic buildings were illuminated in green in a show of solidarity with the environment, from the Water Cube in Beijing to the Burj Khalifa skyscraper in Dubai, as well as the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio.
Celebrated on the 5th of June each year, WED is the largest global day for positive environmental action. This year’s theme highlights the vast benefits, from food security and improved health, to water supply and climatic stability, that clean environments provide to humanity.
What About the UK?
The UK contributed to the celebration of WED, but did not make the UN Environment press release (adapted above). This highlights that we need to be more visible in what we do globally. UK events and activities were however reported online and supported by thousands of people.
For example, to help visitors understand more about the design of one of the UK’s most environmentally friendly office buildings, tours of Two Pancras Square in London and its stunning roof garden were offered. Camden Council and the Met Police promoted free cycle training and bike security tagging. And the London Cycling Campaign offered free bike checks.
Elsewhere, the Institute of Environmental Management & Assessment (IEMA) marked the occasion by releasing a guidance document titled ‘Future Megatrends: How to Identify and Integrate These into Your Environmental Systems’, the Institute of Chartered Foresters (ICF) published a series of WED blogs created by registered environmental professionals, CIWM published a WED article in the CIWM Journal (page 38), Greenpeace featured a blog ‘Every Day is World Environment Day’ on their website and the Universal Peace Federation organised a seminar (on the 6th June) in Lancaster Gate, London.
Plus, of course, the Society organised its WED conference on ‘Innovation, Partnership and the Value of Nature’ at the Institution of Mechanical Engineering’s One Birdcage Walk, London. For details of this event, please read the news item published following the event.
On top of the above, we are very pleased that the Institute of Water’s South East Area have organised its fourth annual WED event, which is to take place long after WED itself on the 20th July 2017. This is an event with a twist where the UN theme is debated and is billed as a devil’s advocate event. Sign up to attend here. In addition, event organiser, Mandhy Senewiratne CEnv, wrote a punchy WED based article for the Summer 2017 edition of the Institute of Water Magazine.
A Huge Thank You
There were many other fantastic contributions from our Licensed Bodies, Chartered Environmentalists, Registered Environmental Technicians and beyond, who the Society would like to thank for their support of the UN initiative. Some of these contributions can be found on the Society’s website here.
The Society will continue to support World Environment Day and promote what it stands for. We hope you will too.