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

June 1
US Announced Withdrawal from Paris Climate Agreement (2017)
June 2
Edwin Way Teale, Nature Writer, Born (1899)
June 2
Rodne Galicha, Philippine Environmentalist, Born (1979)
June 3
The World’s First Wilderness Area Established (1924)
June 4
Gaylord Nelson, Politician and Conservationist, Born (1916)
June 5
World Environment Day
June 6
Novarupta Volcano Erupted in Alaska (1912)
June 7
Thomas Malthus Published His Famous Essay (1798)
June 8
Bryce Canyon National Park Created (1923)
June 9
Coral Triangle Day
June 10
E. O. Wilson, Father of Biodiversity, Born (1929)
June 11
Jacques Cousteau, Ocean Explorer, Born (1910)
June 12
Frank Chapman, Creator of the Christmas Bird Count, Born (1864)
June 13
Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary-General, Born (1944)
June 14
Bramble Cay Melomys Went Extinct (2016)
June 15
Global Wind Day
June 16
Gray Whale Delisted (1994)
June 17
World Day to Combat Desertification
June 18
Alexander Wetmore, Ornithologist and Smithsonian Leader, Born (1866)
June 19
Feast of the Forest, Palawan, Philippines
June 20
Great Barrier Reef Protected (1975)
June 21
World Hydrography Day
June 22
Cuyahoga River Burst into Flames (1969)
June 23
Antarctic Treaty Implemented (1961)
June 24
David McTaggart, Greenpeace Leader, Born (1932)
June 25
David Douglas, Pioneering Botanist, Born (1799)
June 26
United Nations Chartered (1945)
June 27
Tajik National Park Added to World Heritage List (2013)
June 28
Mark Shand, Asian Elephant Conservationist, Born (1951)
June 29
Mesa Verde National Park Created (1906)
June 30
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Created (1940)
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