World Environment Day falls on the 5th of June every year. It was founded by the United Nations in 1974 and is a day that focuses on bringing attention to various issues relating to the environment. Each year has a specific theme that encourages attention towards a key issue deemed particularly important that year. Last year, as large cities become ever more polluted, the theme was Air Pollution with a call to the public to demand clean air from their governments. I was teaching in Thailand at the time, a country with the 19th largest city in the world. Masks to prevent breathing polluted air were worn like accessories and schools were closed across the capital as pollution levels reached almost double the amount considered ‘unhealthy’ (1).
This year the theme is biodiversity and just like with last year, the evidence of the importance of this theme is undeniable. In the past year, we have seen a baby whale suffocate from plastic in our oceans, watched as Australia lost 1 billion animals and burned for over 2 months, and witnessed the fragility of the largest rainforest in the world as the Amazon had 3 times as many fires as the previous year.
Columbia, home to part of the rainforest, is hosting the day this year. Columbia boasts 10% of the world’s biodiversity, including many endemic species, and ranks first in bird and orchid species diversity. Therefore, it only makes sense that a country leading in biodiversity champions the day as we face the possibility of 1 million plant and animal species going extinct. It is predicted in the trajectory we are currently on we could reverse the progress of the majority of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals set in 2015 (2). Goals that take a holistic approach to ensure a better and more secure future for generations to come.
The theme of biodiversity is important for bringing attention to the fragile environment we have and should protect, but it is also the key to solving other climate issues. As highlighted in the viral ‘Nature Now’ video featuring Greta Thunberg and climate writer George Monbiot, celebrating and championing biodiversity in the way of afforestation is key to the battle against increasing greenhouse gases in our atmosphere (3). Exploring the almost magical way in which encouraging nature leads to damaging levels of CO2 being sucked out of the air, they rightly identify nature as a ‘tool to repair our broken climate’.
So, there is no arguing that World Environment Day is an important day to mark, but how can we celebrate? There are many ways to mark this day and bring attention to the importance of protecting the diversity of our nature.
First of all, the homepage of World Environment Day offers many resources to explore more specific stories within this theme. The UN and its supporters are also carrying out many virtual events to mark the day, with programs ranging from talks by experts to film screenings and music sessions. These can be found on the WED website (4).
To show your support online you can share posts across all social media with the hashtag #ForNature. This is also a great way to see how people all around the world are supporting and celebrating the cause (5). Moreover, if you submit your picture to the website Cities4Forests, they will plant 1 tree for every post (6). Another great way to find out what’s going on across the globe is to look at the registered events by each country. It’s interesting to see both how different places are bringing attention to the cause and also which countries are holding the most events (7).
In terms of local ways to celebrate, you can easily get creative with thinking of your own way to mark the day. Show extra love to your plants if, like me, you’re starting a small botanical garden. Plant a tree if you have space. Donate to organizations that champion nature and sign petitions which aim to protect it. Research on how to become a more conscious consumer and ensure the brands you buy from have the same priorities as you.
Finally, take note from WED’s manifesto:
“Nature is sending us a message:to care for ourselves we must care for nature.”