Sunday, June 5, 2011

World Environment Day 2011

World Environment Day (WED) is an annual event for positive environmental action. WED activities take place all year round but climax on 5 June every year, involving everyone from everywhere. This year’s commemorations are expected to be the largest and most widely celebrated globally.

WED celebration began in 1972 and has grown to become the one of the main vehicles through which the UN stimulates worldwide awareness of the environment and encourages political attention and action.

Through WED, the UN Environment Programme is able to personalize environmental issues and enable everyone to realize not only their responsibility, but also their power to become agents for change in support of sustainable and equitable development.

WED is also a day for people from all walks of life to come together to ensure a cleaner, greener and brighter outlook for themselves and future generations.

People are organizing neighborhood clean-ups, planting trees and starting a recycling drive. See suggestions here. People are asked to report their activities here and they are being posted on the Wide World of WED map.

Host Country

This year the Republic of India will be the host for World Environment. India is the second most populous nation in the world with around 1.2 billion people. It has the seventh largest land mass on the planet, 3.28 million square kilometers. The country faces serious environmental challenges related to population increase and uncontrolled urbanization, industrialization, and the massive intensification of agriculture. The problems include deforestation, pollution, loss of water resources and wildlife trade. As the economy continues to grow, however, India is seeking solutions to tackle these issues.

Releasing a major report on the assessment of the impact of climate change last year, the Minister for Environment and Forests, Mr. Jairam Ramesh, noted that, “There is no country in the world that is as vulnerable, on so many dimensions, to climate change as India is. This makes it imperative for us to have sound evidence-based assessments on the impact of climate change… We must continue this focus on rigorous climate change science.”

The Royal Bengal Tiger is a well known rare species under threat in India but the less well known Golden Langur monkey is the most endangered primate in the country. The Golden Langur monkey has declined by 30 percent in the last 30 years. A major threat to these monkeys is the loss of habitat due to the destruction of forests.

Theme for 2011

This year’s World Environment Day theme – Forests: Nature at Your Service – underscores the need for both conservation and sustainable use of forests. India’s Ministry of Environment and Forests is supportive of this initiative and to date has 39 protected areas for tigers and earmarked 5 more for the near future.

World Environment Day this year will help to raise awareness on the serious impacts of deforestation and forest degradation. Through engaging governments in action and your spreading the word on the importance of forests, this collective effort will preserve ecosystems and encourage sustainable use of forests.

Forests cover one third of the earth’s land mass, performing vital functions and services around the world which make our planet alive with possibilities. In fact, 1.6 billion people depend on forests for their livelihoods. They play a key role in our battle against climate change, releasing oxygen into the atmosphere while storing carbon dioxide.

Forests feed our rivers and are essential to supplying the water for nearly 50% of our largest cities. They create and maintain soil fertility; they help to regulate the often devastating impact of storms, floods and fires.

Splendid and inspiring, forests are the most biologically diverse ecosystems on land, and are home to more than half of the terrestrial species of animals, plants and insects.

Forests also provide shelter, jobs, security and cultural relevance for forest-dependent populations. They are the green lungs of the earth, vital to the survival of people everywhere -- all seven billion of us.

Global deforestation continues at an alarming rate -- every year, 13 million hectares of forest are destroyed. That’s equal to the size of Portugal.

As a result of the growing global pollution levels forests have often come to be referred to as the ‘lungs of the earth’. This is particularly because deforestation and forest degradation account for nearly 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions, which forests would absorb if carefully managed.

Broadly, there are three main sources of forest degradation: commercial logging, fires, and gathering wood for fuel. Insects and pests also cause considerable forest degradation.

Benefits of Forests

Forests help sustain the quality and availability of freshwater supplies. More than three quarters of the world’s accessible freshwater comes from forested catchments. Water quality declines with decreases in forest condition and cover, and natural hazards such as floods, landslides, and soil erosion have larger impacts.

It’s well known that forests play a key role in our battle against climate change; storing carbon and sucking in carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and locking it into their biomass. But what’s less well known is that the products and services they provide are essential to every aspect of life.

By regulating water for many of the world’s rivers, they help secure water quality, and supply nearly half of the world’s largest cities from Caracas to New York. They also help decrease the impacts of storms and floods, whilst helping control erosion. As the most biologically diverse ecosystems on land, forests are home to more than half of terrestrial species, from the great apes to the smallest of creatures.

In many developing countries more than 80% of total energy consumed by people and industry derives from forests. Such as fuel wood and charcoal. Trade in timber and other forest products, is estimated at almost 330 billion US Dollars /year. Its value multiplies as its processed into a myriad of products used globally every day. Use of the genetic diversity within forests enables the development of new medicines; progress in healthcare and science.

Forests cover 31% of total land area while at the same time supporting 80% of terrestrial biodiversity that live in them. Many of the world’s most threatened and endangered animals live in these forests, making them crucial to sustaining ecosystems. Not only animals live in the forests, as they also World Environment Day and forests

Rather shockingly, 36 million acres of natural forest are lost each year. World Environment Day (WED) chose this year’s theme, ‘Forests: Nature at Your Service’, to encourage forest conservation and sustainable consumption for green growth, and in support of the UN International Year of Forests initiative. Preserving forests throughout the world has to be in our collective consciousness so as to change our lifestyles.

UN Action to Preserve Forests

In September 2008, United Nations launched a collaborative initiative on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD) in developing countries. The UN-REDD Programme assists developing countries prepare and implement national REDD+ strategies, and builds on the convening power and expertise of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

The Programme currently has 29 partner countries spanning Africa, Asia-Pacific and Latin America. REDD+ is seen as one of the most cost-effective ways of stabilizing the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to avoid a temperature rise of two degrees Celsius.

© 2011, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.

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