World Environment Day

The United Nations now has many days devoted to the environment—days for water, biodiversity, forests, wildlife, fisheries, and more (many are described in this calendar).  But the granddaddy of them all was established on June 5 – World Environment Day.

            The United Nations began to take environmental matters seriously in the late 1960s and early 1970s.  Their concern culminated in the first major conference sponsored by the UN that addressed the condition of the environment.  The “Conference on the Human Environment” was held in Stockholm, Sweden, during June 5-16, 1972.  Now generally referred to as the “Stockholm Conference,” the gathering included representatives from 113 nations, featured 86 national reports, made 109 recommendations for global action, and unanimously passed the Declaration on the Human Environment.  Among the 26 principles in the declaration, the second sums up the essence of the need:  “The natural resources of the earth, including the air, water, land, flora and fauna and especially representative samples of natural ecosystems, must be safeguarded for the benefit of present and future generations through careful planning or management, as appropriate.”

Celebrating World Environment Day in Bhopal, India (photo by Suyash Dwivedi)

            Later in 1972, the UN chose June 5, the starting date of the Stockholm Conference, as the permanent date for World Environment Day.  The day is designed for the world’s nations to “undertake … activities reaffirming their determination expressed at the Conference.”  Even more importantly, the results of the Stockholm Conference led to the establishment of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the major UN body focused on a sustainable global environment.

            The first World Environment Day was celebrated on June 5, 1972, as part of Expo ’74, a world’s fair held in Spokane, Washington.  World fairs were popular in the years after World War II, as people looked forward to the benefits of modern technology—electronics, chemicals, air travel, nuclear energy, and many others.  So, world fairs generally worshipped a rosy human-dominated civilization, with little concern for the natural environment.  Expo ’74 took a different approach, however, recognizing the emerging environmental movement.  This world fair emphasized caring for the environment—the theme was “Celebrating Tomorrow’s Fresh New Environment.”

Tree planting in Ethiopia for World Environment Day (photo by TreesForTheFuture)

            World Environment Day has been celebrated annually since then, with the 47th iteration scheduled for June 5, 2020.  The core site is Colombia, in partnership with Germany.  The theme for 2020 focuses on biodiversity, making biodiversity-rich Colombia an ideal site for the topic.  Nearly 150 countries participate annually in World Environment Day; in 2019, more than 200 events occurred across the globe as part of the focused on air pollution.

            So, on this day, why not spend a little time thinking about the environment, both near and far—and most importantly, why not do something that reduces our environmental footprint—both near and far?

References: 

Center for the Study of the Pacific Northwest.  Lesson Twenty-six:  Spokane’s Expo ’74; A World’s Fair for the Environment.  Available at:  http://www.washington.edu/uwired/outreach/cspn/Website/Classroom%20Materials/Pacific%20Northwest%20History/Lessons/Lesson%2026/26.html.  Accessed February 18, 2020.

Library of Congress.  Declaration of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment.  Available at:  http://webarchive.loc.gov/all/20150314024203/http%3A//www.unep.org/Documents.Multilingual/Default.asp?documentid%3D97%26articleid%3D1503. Accessed February 18, 2020.

UNEP.  World Environment Day:  driving five decades of environmental action.  Available at:  https://www.worldenvironmentday.global/about/world-environment-day-driving-five-decades-environmental-action. Accessed February 18, 2020.

United Nations.  World Environment Day, June 5.  Available at:  https://www.un.org/en/events/environmentday/background.shtml. Accessed February 18, 2020.

This Month in Conservation

July 1
Duck Stamp Born (1934)
July 2
Morrill Act Created Land-Grant Universities (1862)
July 3
Great Auk Went Extinct (1844)
July 4
Stephen Mather, Founding Director of the National Park Service, Born (1867)
July 5
Yoshimaro Yamashina and Ernst Mayr, Ornithologists, Born (1900, 1904)
July 6
Maria Martin, Naturalist and Artist, Born (1796)
July 7
Alaska Admitted as a State (1958)
July 8
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July 9
Starbucks Abandoned Plastic Straws (2018)
July 10
Rainbow Warrior Bombed and sunk (1985)
July 11
World Population Day
July 12
Herbert Zim, Creator of “Golden Guides,” Born (1909)
July 13
Source of the Mississippi River Discovered (1832)
July 14
George Washington Carver National Monument Established (1943)
July 15
Emmeline Pankhurst, British Suffragette Leader, Born (1858)
July 16
UNESCO Added Giant Panda and Shark Sanctuaries to World Heritage List (2006)
July 17
Handel’s “Water Music” Premiered (1717)
July 18
Gilbert White, the “First Ecologist,” Born (1720)
July 19
Sagarmatha National Park, Nepal, Created (1976)
July 20
Gregor Mendel, Pioneering Geneticist, Born (1822)
July 21
Aswan High Dam Opened (1970)
July 22
Ratcatcher’s Day
July 23
Commercial Whaling Banned (1982)
July 24
Machu Picchu Discovered (1911)
July 25
Jim Corbett, Tiger Conservationist, Born (1875)
July 26
James Lovelock, Originator of the Gaia Theory, Born (1919)
July 27
Przewalski’s horse gave birth by artificial insemination (2013)
July 28
Beatrix Potter, Author and Conservationist, Born (1866)
July 29
International Tiger Day
July 30
Golden Spike National Historical Park Created (1965)
July 31
Curt Gowdy, Sportscaster and Conservationist, Born (1919)
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