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Earth Issues


A day that should reflect environmental realities

 Every June 5, I get slightly depressed.  I shouldn’t be, given that it is a day that is dedicated to the environment and its multiple and growing concerns.

It is also supposed to be the single day on which focus is drawn to national and international issues concerning our global environment. At least it is supposed to.

This day, dedicated to the task of creating global awareness on environmental concerns is, for all intents and purposes, a political circus in Sri Lanka. My claim might resonate with other countries and other nations that perhaps have similar or worse stories. But for Sri Lanka, it has always been a day for unrepentant but symbolic political speech making and a day to plant trees. A year later, more trees are planted in the same place and the conclusion is that it’s part of this nation’s obsession with politics that do not serve the polity.

Political rhetoric

The political rhetoric and the false starts given to various conservation projects form part of our environmental history. We have grown up witnessing so many such events. It may be asking for too much given that there is post war euphoria that drowns all other concerns yet one must insist on real commitment.

That’s also why, instead of lip service, this year’s World Environment Day celebrations should be as to how Sri Lanka can give true meaning to the special day.

Why was June 5 recognised as World Environment Day in the first place? This recognition was accorded by the UN General Assembly some three decades ago – way back in 1972 — and continues to be one of the primary methods that the United Nations uses to raise awareness about environmental issues.

Each year, the World Environment Day follows a theme to draw attention to a crucial issue. This year’s theme is “Your Planet Needs You — UNite To Combat Climate Change.” Naturally, given the world’s multiple concerns triggered off by climate change, there are many efforts to keep focus on the issue.

Each year a theme

Looking back, the year 2004 had a theme. It was — “Wanted! Seas And Oceans — Dead Or Alive?” In 2005, it was “Green Cities — Plan For The Planet!” In the year 2006, it was  “Don’t Desert Dry Lands!”

Climate change came to the fore in the year 2007 when the UN theme was “Melting Ice — A Hot Topic?” Just last year, 2008, it again focused on an issue that triggers off terrific climate change impacts — the issue of carbon emissions. The topic was “CO2, Kick The Habit! Towards A Low Carbon Economy.”

As for the UN, commemorating World Environment Day (WED) on June 5 is one of the principle vehicles through which the UN stimulates worldwide awareness of the environment and enhances political attention and action.

A human face

It is a day that is supposed to genuinely give a human face to the world’s many environmental issues, empower people to become active agents of sustainable and equitable development, a day to promote an understanding that communities are pivotal to changing attitudes towards environmental issues and to advocate partnership which will ensure all nations and people may enjoy a safer and prosperous future.

If the global body has more global and common issues to focus on, why is it that Sri Lanka has failed to at least symbolise its environmental concerns all these years? Each year we have tamashas, conferences, workshops, planting of trees etc. and that appears to be our sum total of commitment to saving Planet Earth.

 To combat climate change

As the UN states, June 5 is a day for reflecting upon the urgency for nations to agree and work on a formula to combat climate change.  About sustainable development and management of natural resources.

This year, Mexico (despite the swine flu) will take the lead as UNEP’s partner in  a ‘Billion Tree Campaign.’ The Mexican President Felipe Calderon together with the people have undertaken a task like no other— to spearhead the planting of some 25% of the country’s trees under the campaign. Accounting for around 1.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions, Mexico is demonstrating its commitment to climate change.

The Sri Lankan environmental authorities unequivocally agree that  climate change is indeed a concern for Sri Lanka, with coral bleaching, coastal erosion, rising sea levels and increased natural disasters including floods and earth slips.









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