As this year’s World Environment Day approaches, people from around the world are finalizing their preparations for this annual event. The United Nations initiated the first ever World Environment Day (WED) in 1972 to be a day to celebrate and promote respect and unity between people and the environment.
The theme for WED 2011 is “Forests: Nature at Your Service” and will emphasize the importance of the world’s forests and trees and what they do for us, such as providing the clean air we breathe, providing a home to a diversity of species, and managing our water supply.
WED 2011 will be held on June 5th and hosted in India, for the first time in the event’s history. This country was specially chosen to be the host because of the dangers India’s forests and land are facing. Consisting of many densely populated areas, India’s farmers grow too many crops in a limited area of land which exhausts nutrients in the soil and renders the soil barren and dead. This prevents the land from supporting any future agriculture.
For the WED celebration in New Delhi, India, the following activities are planned:
– a Biodiversity film festival. There are different sessions: one for the general public, one for disadvantaged children, one for prisoners, one for people serving in the Indian Air Force and their families, and one for officials and Jawans of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP).
– a UNEP hosted workshop: “Reporting Green: UNEP Media Workshop on Journalism and the Environment”
– the public dedication of a tree plantation
– a luncheon with the business community, featuring their input and discussions on the Green Economy
– an organic food cook-out featuring celebrities
– the launch of a nature camp for speech and hearing impaired children
– a green walk-a-thon
The activities for WED, however, are not limited to the host country, India. One of the highlights of this year’s WED is the WED Challenge. In this competition, celebrities from different countries try to encourage people worldwide to take up a green activity, via the official WED website, personal blog or website, social media, and videos. These people, whether an individual or even an entire community, can share the details of their activity online at the official WED website, http://www.unep.org/wed/. Additionally, the activity can be pledged to one of the competing celebrities. People are able to share and pledge their activities until June 5.
Some activities include trash pickup events, walking or biking to work or school, planting a tree, or using reusable bags instead of plastic bags when shopping.
This year’s WED Challenge features supermodel Gisele Bündchen, actor Don Cheadle, Bollywood’s Priyanka Chopra and Rahul Bose, Chinese actress Li Bingbing, and entrepreneur Wang Shi.
In their pitches, Bündchen, Priyanka Chopra, and Li Bingbing each have promised to plant one tree for each activity pledged to them.
However, Cheadle, Rahul Bose, and Wang Shi each have pledged to plant two trees for each pledged activity.
Initially, the only two celebrities participating in the WED challenge were Bündchen and Cheadle. With only a few days remaining until WED, Bündchen has 56% of the total votes and Cheadle trails with 44% of the votes.
Individual countries have also planned their own activities in celebration of WED. With the regional celebration hosted in Toronto, Canada has planned and registered over 50 WED events which include workshops, book readings, and consultation from environmental leaders on the Green Economy. Costa Rica has planned training course on sustainable forest management. And in Nepal, the United Nations is hosting a clean up around Mt. Everest. The 60 volunteer climbers recruited will kick off a long term clean up expedition that will aim to remove an estimated 9 tons of trash on and around Mt. Everest. Also, sustainable waste management and recycling facilities are planned to be developed in the area.
The preparation and excitement leading up to WED has influenced some additional celebrities and companies. Nick Offerman, who starred in “Parks and Recreation”, and Budweiser launched their campaign, Grow One, Save a Million. Offerman encourages men to quit shaving their beards until WED arrives because it will conserve water. Says Offerman, “The only thing manlier than growing a big, burly beard is ripping a big, burly beard off of a charging grizzly with your bare hands. That, and saving the planet.”
World Environment Day may be held only once a year, but it aims to be an impact and inspiration every day of the year. It calls for positive environmental actions; everyone everywhere should not only be more environmentally responsible in their daily lives, but also to be active in promoting and initiating a cleaner and greener future.
Photo credit: flickr.com/photos/ssandars/161624646/