World Environment Day (WED) is celebrated on 5th of June every year to encourage people to think and act for environmental conservation and to create global awareness for the need to conduct sustainable activities in all spheres of life. Since 1972, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has been using the WED as a global platform for public outreach - giving people the world over a "day" to do something worthwhile for the environment. The theme adopted by the UNEP for WED this year is "Connecting People to Nature" and the slogan is "I'm with Nature".
This theme is an attempt to implore people to go outdoors and engage with Nature - appreciate its beauty and understand its importance vis-a-vis our wellbeing - and take positive action towards protecting our planet ! The theme is an encouragement to all citizens to reflect on how we are part of Nature and realize how desperately our very existence depend on it ! Our challenge is to find amusing and thrilling ways to experience and cherish the intimate relationship between Nature and us !
This year's host country for WED celebrations is Canada.
Why "Connect with Nature" "In the end we will conserve only what we love. We will love only what we understand. We will understand only what we are taught." This timeless statement is derived from a 1968 speech made in New Delhi, India by the renowned Senegalese environmentalist Baba Dioum. Put simply, if conservation efforts are to be effective, we need to experience, understand and appreciate - and thereby - "love" Nature ! Besides, conservation calls for collective efforts - we are not going to achieve anything meaningful through sporadic individual initiatives. Since time immemorial, we humans have been using the gifts of Nature for our health and wellbeing. But over time, scientific advancements have made us somewhat "detached" from Nature ! Modern lifestyle has confined us to move about in man-made architecture and technology - and to using factory-made gadgets and homewares. We are forgetting how vital the natural resources are for our survival. We are taking Nature's gifts for granted - and their overuse or misuse is spoiling the natural environment ! It's high time we "reconnect" with Nature - to understand the role it plays in sustaining life on this planet.
Erik Solheim, the Head of UN Environment says: "World Environment Day is the day the planet celebrates our collective love of and reliance on nature. It helps encourage action to protect our environment and fosters a deeper appreciation of our connection to the natural world."
Canada : Host for WED 2017
Canada is the host nation for the official ceremonies of this year's World Environment Day. Incidentally, 2017 also happens to be the 150th anniversary of the creation of the Canadian Confederation. Canada's bountiful and picturesque natural heritage is the nation's identity and pride ! This is definitely Canada's opportunity to demonstrate to the world the richness of its natural environment and the country's commitment to address environmental issues. Canada has always been on the forefront of environmental action - making significant strides in combating climate change, protecting biodiversity and developing clean energy. However, it needs to take strong steps in reducing GreenHouse Gas (GHG) emissions - which totalled 722 megatonnes in 2015 ! It also needs to protect its Boreal forests from the impact of industrial activities like logging, mining, hydro-electric productions and the "controversial" tar sand operations ! Being a country that's second largest in size - and having the longest coastline in the world - Canada has abundant natural resources. Its vast territory - comprising of mountains, glaciers, rivers, lakes, forests and meadows - is home to a wide range of flora and fauna. Further, it has over 2 million lakes and 9% of the world's freshwater ! This year, in order to encourage people to "Connect with Nature", Canada is offering free access to all of the country's 46 National Parks !
Catherine McKenna, Canada's Minister of Environment and Climate Change, has this simple advice for everyone to follow on the World Environment Day :
"Get out into nature. Enjoy the singing birds in the park or the rustling of leaves near your home. Discover the mystery of nature to better understand our urgent need protect it.
The point is: Amid the hum of your daily life, find a moment in nature."
Inspire Children to Love Nature
Children nowadays tend to spend a lot of time with electronic gadgets like TV, computers, video games, music players and cell phones. Obsession with digital technology is making many of them grow averse to the natural world and lose interest in the life around them. But, Physicians recommend reducing children's "screen-time", as over-exposure to screen can lead to what's known as "Electronic Screen Syndrome" - a disorder characterized by behavioral problems, violent tendencies, irregular sleep, poor academic performance and diminished creativity. Studies show that children who spend considerable time playing outdoors - especially in the "natural world" outside - are stronger, calmer, more imaginative, more sociable and more quick-witted than ones who stay indoors absorbed in the digital entertainment media. So for proper physical and intellectual development of children, they should be introduced to the natural world in their early years. They should be taught about the flora and fauna in their immediate environment. Studies have shown that regular contact with the natural world improves academic performance and reduces attention deficit disorder in children ! Exploring Nature builds confidence and promotes creativity in children. It also enhances their cognitive ability and makes them more inquisitive about Earth - its various life forms and natural phenomena. The realization that a certain life form may die in absence of proper care helps build a sense of responsibilty in children. And learning to be responsible is important - after all, children are the future custodians of our environment ! But surely, we cannot expect children to care for Nature unless they have hands-on experience of it. So to ensure a comprehensive development of children - and to secure our planet's future - it is essential to connect children with Nature !
Educational institutions need to provide "outdoor learning experiences" - with "natural" elements - to children. This can include exploring the garden within the institute's own premises or occasional visits to parks, woods, botanical or zoological gardens nearby. Classroom activities may involve introducing children to new fruits, vegetables and flowers each day - of course these should be "real", not just photos ! Besides, children should be taught to grow - and care for - plants in containers. Encouraging children to draw, write abot and take photographs of flowers, birds and animals they see around them may help create interest in - and better understanding of - the local flora nad fauna. If circumstances permit, parents may even allow their kids to keep pets.
Do Something - Every Action Counts !!!
This day (and the rest of the year) presents an opportunity to think, discuss and act on ways to connect with nature !
It's time to think upon how we can replace the items of daily use with ones that are "eco-friendly" !
It's time to ponder over how to make our activities "sustainable"!
WED can be celebrated through art exhibitions, documentary film shows, competitions, sporting events, demonstrations, road shows, flash mobs, online and social media activities - and in many other ways.
Here's what the UNEP has to say in this regard : "Whether it is to organize clean-up campaigns, walk-to-work days, plastic purges, art exhibits, tree-planting drives, concerts, dance recitals, switching off the lights, recycling drives, social media campaigns and different contests - every action counts. When multiplied by a global chorus, our individual voices and actions become exponential in their impact." The environment affects everyone - no individual can afford to say that it's not his or her business - and WED gives us all the opportunity to become agents of change. So, find time to Connect with Nature - in whatever little way possible - and inspire everyone else to do so !
How do you "Connect with Nature" ? Here are some tips ...
Let Nature in - open your windows, let air and Sunlight in
Start - or take care of - your own Garden
Go for a Walk in the nearest Park
Visit a Water Body - pond / lake / river / stream / waterfalls
Visit a Zoo - if possible
Eat Fresh Fruits and Raw Salad
Watch the Birds, Trees and Flowers
"Stargaze" at night from a place with low Light Pollution
"Arise, Awake and Act" ! Remember, Every Action Counts !!!