Seven Billion Dreams. One Planet. Consume with Care.
Message by Achim Steiner
UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme
Living in an increasingly globalized world, inhabited by 7 billion people, it is easy to underestimate the power of individual action. The annual World Environment Day (WED) on Friday, June 5, 2015, reminds people across the globe that it is our personal choices that shape the world around us. Our daily decisions as consumers, multiplied by billions, have a colossal impact on the environment – some of them contribute to the further depletion of natural resources, others help to protect fragile ecosystems. Every time – the choice is ours.
The theme for this year’s celebrations, Seven Billion Dreams. One Planet. Consume with Care, emphasizes that personal responsibility each one of us bears for enabling inclusive and sustainable economic development while stabilizing and reducing the rate of resource use.
Today, unsustainable patterns of consumption and production are one of the major causes of the continued deterioration of the global environment. There is no doubt that the “great acceleration” of the last 50 years has seen a rapid transformation of the human relationship with the natural world – more so than in any other period in our history – with escalating use of natural resources leading to environmental degradation.
We must ask ourselves what the consequences of this pace of consumption and trajectory of population growth—forecasted to reach nine billion by 2050—will be. Under current trends, global extraction of resources is set to reach 140 billion ton by 2050, compared to around 7 billion ton in 1900. This will probably exceed the availability and accessibility of resources, as well as the carrying capacity of the planet to absorb the impacts of their extraction and use.
We simply cannot afford the waste, as resources are diminishing and prices are rising. But there is still time to transform the challenges of dwindling and finite resources into opportunities that will promote prosperous economies and a healthy planet for generations to come.
I would like to invite everyone to imagine what the world would be like if each of the 7 billion people made one change towards a more responsible consumption of resources. I would like you to hold on to that vision and strive to make it reality—be it refusing to buy single-use plastic bags or riding a bike to work.
WED is the opportunity for everyone to realize the responsibility to care for the Earth and to become agents of change.
Try one of these 26 possible changes you can make—that’s one every two weeks or one for every letter of the alphabet:
- Avoid increasing your daily carbon dioxide (CO2) footprint by carpooling, riding a bike, or walking.
- Bring your own eco-bag or basket when going shopping.
- Clean up by organizing a trash collection drive in your neighborhood.
- Download one or more of these posters to use in your classroom to help your students become environmentally aware: greeningtheblue.org/sustainability-tutorial
- Email your friends and colleagues about World Environment Day and encourage them to take action.
- Find out more about your carbon footprint at the Global Footprint Network. footprintnetwork.org/en/index.php/GFN/page/personal_footprint/
- Google all the ways you can “Go Green.”
- Host an event: a tree planting, an art exhibit, a walk, a bike ride.
- Invite your friends and neighbors to your event and use it as a way to help them become more aware and post a picture of your event on Instagram.
- Just buy what you need so you don’t waste food or other precious resources. Purchase with sustainability of our planet in mind: https://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/csr-rse.nsf/eng/rs00549.html
- Keep your bottle caps and use them to make Cap Kits: bit.ly/NTASm15v22
- Learn about sustainable Lifestyles at unep.org/wed
- Message your friends about WED—Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Vine, text, phone, or email.
- Nitrogen-fixing plants like clover or alfalfa should be planted in your garden for the winter to hold the soil and replenish the nutrients and then tilled under in the spring to add more nutrients.
- Optimize the use of your washing machine by using cold wash options.
- Plant a fruit tree or a garden and share the bounty with your neighbors.
- Quit talking about what others should do and implement a plan for yourself. climatecare.org/climate/low-carbon-living
- Reuse. Recycle. You’ve heard it before, but it’s true and bears teaching explicitly in our classrooms and implicitly by our actions and example. The less waste we throw into landfills, the less harmful greenhouse gases are released into the planet’s atmosphere.
- Switch your lightbulbs to fluorescents or LED. Save energy and money.
- Take public Transportation whenever and wherever you can.
- Unplug from social media and your computer for a whole evening or a whole day and really focus on your family or friends to improve your quality of life and theirs.
- Vanish energy Vampires—appliances that suck energy even when turned off—unplug them when you aren’t using them or use power strips with them.
- Watch your Water use! Check for leaky faucets and toilets, turn off the water while brushing your teeth, and take shorter showers.
- EXplore more ways to take action for WED and the planet: http://www.unep.org/wed/take-action/find-out-how.asp
- You can make a difference and You can influence Young people to make a difference. ecoliteracy.org/teach
- Zero waste is your goal, so use natural resources wisely. grrn.org/page/what-zero-waste
Please add your ideas in the comments!