You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘ECHO’ category.

WED 2010 Logo

The WED theme for 2010- ‘Many Species. One Planet. One Future’- celebrated the incredible diversity of life on Earth as part of the 2010 International Year of Biodiversity. The global host for the event was Rwanda- a country of exceptional biodiversity that has made huge strides on environmental protection.

Diversity

There are anywhere in between an estimated 5 million to 100 million species on this planet though only 2 million have been identified. It means that there is a huge amount we still don’t know about on our planet or whom we share it with. Humans are among a handful of species whose populations are growing, while most animals and plants are becoming rarer and fewer. A total of 17,291 species are known to be threatened with extinction – from little-known plants and insects to charismatic birds and mammals; and many species disappear before they are even discovered.

For this reason, the United Nations has declared 2010 the International Year of Biodiversity; making it an opportunity to stress the importance of biodiversity for human well-being, reflect on our achievements to safeguard it and encourage a redoubling of our efforts to reduce the rate of biodiversity loss. Millions of people and millions of species all share the same planet, and only together can we enjoy a safer and more prosperous future.

WED 2009 Logo

The theme for WED 2009 was ‘Your Planet Needs You- UNite to Combat Climate Change’. It reflected the urgency for nations to agree on a new deal at the crucial climate convention meeting in Copenhagen some 180 days later in the year, and the links with overcoming poverty and improved management of forests. The host was Mexico, which is a leading partner in the UNEP’s Billion Tree Campaign. The country, with the support of its President and people, has spearheaded the pledging and planting of 25 per cent of the trees under the campaign.

Mexico organized a series of events in Quintana Roo, with highlights including a conference on the Green Economy with California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mexico’s Environment Secretary Juan Elvira Quesada, and Achim Steiner, the Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). There were also photo exhibits, an art competition, a Maya ‘Healing the Earth’ ceremony, and a Symphonic Visual Concert entitled ‘The Shield of Nature’ by the Philharmonic Choir and World Heritage Orchestra.

The global premiere of the film ‘HOME’, by world-renowned photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand, was one of the major worldwide events for the Day, with more than 100 locations around the world. This included free of charge screenings – including star-studded premieres at the Eiffel Tower and in New York City’s Central Park.

Using the stunning aerial footage, the film – shot in more than 50 countries – makes an urgent appeal for our planet in peril and all its treasures, arguing that we have barely ten years left to reverse its destruction.

climate changes- the effects

The main international celebrations of World Environment Day 2008 was held in New Zealand (one of five countries that have pledged to become “climate neutral”) in the city of Wellington. The slogan was ‘Kick the Habit! Towards a Low Carbon Economy’. Recognizing that climate change is becoming the defining issue of our era, UNEP wanted countries, companies and communities to focus on greenhouse gas emissions and to reduce them. The theme highlighted use of  resources and initiatives that promote low carbon economies and life-styles, such as improved energy efficiency, alternative energy sources, forest conservation and eco-friendly consumption.

Our dependence on carbon-based energy has caused a significant build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. We don’t just burn carbon in the form of fossil fuels. Throughout the tropics, valuable forests are being felled for timber and making paper, for pasture and arable land, and, increasingly, for plantations to supply a growing demand for biofuels. This further manifestation of our carbon habit not only releases vast amounts of CO2, it also destroys a valuable resource for absorbing atmospheric carbon, further contributing to climate change.

Mitigating climate change, eradicating poverty and promoting economic and political stability all demand the same solution: we must kick the carbon habit. Just under half of personal emissions come from things under individuals’ control, such as how much we drive and fly and heat and power our homes.

Of the remaining 50 per cent, about half comes indirectly from powering the places where we work, 10 per cent more from maintaining infrastructure and government and about 20 per cent during the production of goods that people buy including food.

Some quite simple measures can more than halve the daily emissions of an individual, with even bigger cuts possible if sectors like power suppliers and automobile makers as well as aviation and appliance manufacturers contributed more to the greening of global lifestyles.

The message of world environment day 2008 was that we are all part of the solution. Whether you are an individual, an organization, a business or a government, there are many steps you can take to reduce your carbon footprint.

In 2007, the International Polar Year, WED focused on the effects that climate change is having on polar ecosystems and communities, on other ice- and snow-covered areas of the world, and the resulting global impacts. The topic for the year was “Melting Ice – a Hot Topic?”

The logo underlines the global theme by asking a polar bear, an African farmer, a Pacific islander, an insurer and businessman, two indigenous children and ultimately ‘Yourself’ the rhetorical question whether indeed this is the topic of our time.

The main international celebrations of WED 2007 were held in the city of Tromsø, Norway, a city north of the Arctic Circle self-styled as “The Gateway to the Arctic”.

The Polar Regions are among the world’s last wilderness areas. In comparison with most other places in the world their environment is clean and large areas are relatively unspoiled. Polar environments are among the most extreme on the planet, with limited sunlight, extreme temperatures, short growing seasons, sea ice, snow cover, glaciers, tundra, and permafrost. They are rich in living and non living resources that are important to the rest of the world such as fisheries, oil and gas. The Polar Regions are also a kind of protective shield, reflecting heat back into space that would otherwise be absorbed on Earth.

Melting iceberg

Unfortunately the most dramatic evidence of climate change is also found in Polar Regions. The Arctic is warming twice as fast as the global average. The extent and thickness of permanent Arctic sea ice is diminishing; areas of permafrost, frozen for centuries, are thawing; and ice caps in Greenland and Antarctic are melting faster than anyone anticipated.

The Arctic and Antarctica may be the Earth’s climate warning system- feeling the heat first- but it does not end there. Ocean circulation, the key driver of regional and global weather systems, is inextricably linked with melting and freezing processes in and around the poles. There is also growing concern over so-called ‘positive feedbacks’ including the potential release of massive amounts of the powerful greenhouse gas methane, which is stored in the Arctic permafrost.

However, this is not just a polar issue. It impacts climate in all regions. As sea levels rise, inhabitants of low-lying islands and coastal cities throughout the world face inundation. There are extreme weather events, anxiety about future water supplies because of the retreating glaciers, exacerbation of desertification, drought and food insecurity for those living in drylands. Society’s dependence on fossil fuels is jeopardizing social and economic progress and our future security. There are many policy and technological options to avert the impending crisis, but an increased political will is needed to use them.

Desertification is defined by UN Convention to Combat Desertification as ‘land degradation in arid, semi-arid, and dry sub-humid areas resulting from various factors, including climatic variations and human activities’. Land degradation in drylands is defined as the reduction or loss of the biological or economic productivity of drylands.

Across the planet, poverty, unsustainable land management and climate change are turning drylands into deserts, and desertification in turn exacerbates and leads to poverty.

The slogan for WED 2006- ‘Don’t desert drylands’ emphasizes the importance of protecting drylands, which cover more than 40% of the planet’s land area. This ecosystem is home to one-third of the world’s people who are more vulnerable members of society.

Desertification is hard to reverse, but it can be prevented. Protecting and restoring drylands will not only relieve the growing burden on the world’s urban areas, it will contribute to a more peaceful and secure world. It will also help to preserve landscapes and cultures that date back to the dawn of civilization and are an essential part of our cultural heritage.

The degradation of drylands is perhaps most acute in Africa, the least developed region of the world, and most vulnerable to environmental change. With its geography, history and culture inextricably bound with the world’s greatest and best-known desert, the Sahara, Algeria- the country where WED 2006 was held was ideally suited to highlight every facet of this complex issue.

WED 2005 Logo

WED 2005 theme ‘Green cities- Plan for the planet’ was meant to highlight the effects of one of the most prominent trends of today- the continuing growth of cities and its population. Urban growth has a profound effect on the environment as cities are prolific users of natural resources and generators of waste. Emission of greenhouse gases, air pollution, water pollution, land consumption and several other issues go hand in hand with the development of the cities. Since all these will question our existence itself in the long run, our aim should be to create environment-friendly cities. Even though that is a challenge, with affordable measures that are already available such as clean transport, energy-efficient buildings, safe sanitation and economical water use, and new options that will be available with growth in technology, it is not the least impossible.

There are initiatives such as Sustainable Cities Programme and UN Habitat which help cities to plan and manage their environment and share the lessons with local and national governments worldwide. Managed well, urban settlements can support growing concentrations of people, limiting their impact on the environment and improving their health and living standards. National and local laws and subsidies can discourage waste, encourage conservation and promote sustainable solutions.

WED 2005 was celebrated in San Francisco with this theme, whose relevance grows with each passing year.

WED 2004 Logo

For a really long period in the past, we considered oceans as our favorite dumping place for all kinds of waste ranging from pesticides and industrial waste to radioactive waste. Dumping of the most toxic materials was banned in 1972 and later several more in 1996. But what was already dumped and what is not yet banned and is still being dumped, are enough to pose serious threat to oceans and environment as a whole.

Oceans cover 70.8% of Earth's surface

It is estimated that around 80% of the pollution happening in seas is caused due to man’s activities on land. Maybe the overabundance of seas on the surface of earth tempted us to think that however we treat the oceans, the effect will always be negligible. But sadly these actions are capable of triggering severe reactions from the nature, and these include but are not limited to global warming, health problems and climate changes. In addition to environmental problems, death and disease caused by polluted coastal waters costs global economy $12.8 billion a year (estimated year 2004).

With these grave issues and many more highlighted, WED 2004 was held with the theme ‘Wanted! Seas and Oceans- Dead or Alive?’ at Barcelona in Spain. The theme asks us to make a choice on how we want to treat the earth’s seas and oceans. The theme conveys the message that the world’s water resources are in urgent need of protection. Life started in the oceans, and will end with them too, if we don’t take immediate measures for conservation.

  

Water- the elixir of life, covers 75 percent of the Earth’s surface. You might know that out of this 97.5 per cent is salt water, and only 2.5 per cent makes fresh water. We have been facing severe water shortage for quite some time now. To be precise, as early as 2002, it was estimated that 2.4 billion people lack adequate sanitation and 1.1 billion people had no access to improved water supply, 3990 children die daily from water-borne diseases. The next year- 2003, was named the ‘International Year of Freshwater’. In tandem with it, the theme for WED 2003 was declared as- ‘Water- Two billion people are dying for it!’  

WED 2003 logo

WED 2003 was held in the ancient Egyptian seaport city of Beirut, Lebanon, which is also a very famous tourist attraction; WED was being held for the first time in the Arab world. With 40 per cent of the world’s population facing serious water shortage, and the conditions worst in West Asia and Africa, pledge was taken to improve sanitation conditions, protect wetlands, and in general to try to provide freshwater access to all. Goals were set to ‘reduce by half the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water by 2015′- which means giving access to clean water to an additional 274,000 people each day, and ‘reduce by half the proportion of people without access to sanitation by 2015’- which means giving access to proper toilets to an additional 342,000 people each day.  

To suit the occasion, the logo of international year of freshwater was incorporated in world environment day logo. WED 2003 tried to convey the theme effectively by capturing images from all around the world, some of which are given below.

  

  

Several interesting facts and information about WED 2003 are available at http://www.unep.org/wed/2003/about.htm.  

Help safeguard the source of life on planet, save water!

Conserve Water

Water is precious, don't waste it!

2002 WED was held in Shenzhen, China and like Kofi Annan said, the motto ‘Give earth a chance’ conveyed a message of urgency- about the state of earth and the broader quest for sustainable development. This slogan was first popularized back in 1969, when the Environmental Action for Survival Committee at the University of Michigan began to sell buttons with a slogan resembling the “Give Peace a Chance” slogan commonly used in the protest rallies against Vietnam War. Instead of the original it was written “Give Earth a Chance” and by 1970 when the first Earth day was celebrated, this slogan had become quite a hit. On the first Earth Day, thousands joined folk singers Pete Seeger and Phil Ochs when they sang “All we are saying… is give earth a chance”.

Replica of the '69-'70 'Give Earth a Chance' button

The significance of WED 2002 was also that it was the tenth anniversary of the first Earth Summit held in Rio. This year was also declared ‘International year of Ecotourism’. With the motto ‘Give earth a chance’, organizers tried to present a human face to environmental issues. That the ecology is in dire straits was easily palpable, and the event urged people to help in healing an ailing planet. There is so much to do in the way of helping- right from little acts of conservation to cleaning our lakes and mountains to paying attention to equitability and sustainability. Ultimately, it is that if we don’t give earth that much needed ‘chance’ now, we may not even survive to ask for a second chance.

WED 2001 was co-hosted by two cities- Havana, Cuba and Torino, Italy- first of its kind in the history of WED. In the words of UNEP Executive Director Klaus Töpfer, the idea was that ‘the two main hosts will bridge the needs and environmental aspirations of the developing and developed world’. The theme that year was ‘Connect with the world wide web of life’ and at a time when seamless communication and advent of PCs were relatively new, the theme was really novel. General Assembly President Harri Kolkeri beautifully defined the theme thus- ‘Life is a finely designed web in which each species and ecosystem support one another and at the same time depend on each other’. This definition makes it much more easier to understand why it is absolutely imperative that we connect well with the eco. Let us sum up by repeating what Mr. Kofi Annan said on the occasion- ‘Let us be good stewards of the earth we inherited’ and fulfill our responsibility towards earth.

world-environment-day-2001-logo