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World Environment Day is celebrated every year on June 5, and is the United Nations’ largest annual event to encourage awareness and action to protect our planet. This year, the theme of the event is biodiversity, with a “Time for Nature” campaign leading the call to action across the world to combat the fast accelerating loss of species and the natural world. The ongoing coronavirus pandemic will mean that the event will take place online, and organisers say the crisis further underlines the connection between human and planetary health.
Since the first World Environment Day was celebrated in 1974, the annual event has evolved into a global platform to raise awareness about environmental issues in over 100 countries. Colombia will host the digital event this year, live-streaming celebrations from Botogá, with the central theme being biodiversity.
Called the “Time for Nature” campaign, this year’s World Environment Day will be focused on demanding action to fight the accelerating loss of species and degradation of nature. In just the past 50 years, the global human population has doubled – and with that comes our rapid unsustainable consumption of the Earth’s resources.
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) says that this year, as the world continues to reel from the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, the focus on biodiversity is especially relevant. Scientists have continually pointed out that humanity’s destruction of wildlife and nature are one of the leading drivers of deadly emerging diseases.
“The emergence of Covid-19 has underscored the fact that, when we destroy biodiversity, we destroy the very system that supports human life,” explained the organisers in a statement.
“By upsetting the delicate balance of nature, we have created ideal conditions for pathogens–including coronaviruses–to spread.”
Protecting human life itself and preventing future outbreaks therefore requires the world to focus on restoring biodiversity.
“We have the opportunity to prevent future pandemics and work for a healthier, more sustainable planet that works for everyone, everywhere,” they added.
Similar calls have been made by world leaders and major corporate heads in recent weeks to recognise the pandemic as a wake-up call and a window of opportunity to drastically change our relationship with nature.
In late April, the secretary general of the United Nations Antonio Guterres called on the need for all governments to “build back better” in the post-pandemic recovery to create sustainable and inclusive societies.
This was followed by a joint statement by the CEOs of over 150 multinationals – among them H&M, Unilever and Adobe – urging world governments to align their coronavirus recovery efforts with climate science. Similar sentiments were echoed by major cities including Hong Kong, New York and London in a “statement of principles” pledging to prioritise equality and climate change in post-coronavirus rebuilding strategies.
To educate and inspire action on World Environment Day, Colombia will kick off the UNEP’s live-streamed conversation at 7.30am (GMT -5). Viewers tuning into the programme will be able to learn insights from world leaders including the executive director of UNEP Inger Andersen, the founder and chairman of the World Economic Forum (WEF) Klaus Schwab, the former executive secretary of the UNFCCC Christiana Figueres and many others.
Online panel sessions will also take place on the day, with the various themes including Amazon conservation, green businesses, air quality, the climate crisis and promoting a circular economy.
More activities will be aired throughout the day to feature speakers all over the world, expert panels, virtual tours and film screenings.
Find out more about how to join and celebrate World Environment Day digitally here.
This post is published as a part of Green Queen’s partnership with the SDG Media Compact to raise awareness about the Sustainable Development Goals and share information from the World Health Organisation and the United Nations during the pandemic.
Lead image courtesy of Cheryl-Samantha Owen / Nature Picture Library / Getty Images.