World Environment Day was established in 1972 by the United Nations General Assembly to commemorate the creation of UN Environment, an agency responsible for coordinating the organization’s environmental activities. It was first celebrated two years later on June 5, 1974, and has since then been celebrated every year with increasing popularity as environmental issues have risen in importance on the global agenda. As climate change and its impacts have become a more common topic of discussion within public discourse, World Environment Day has drawn the support of well known public figures and celebrities who host and participate in activities designed to raise support. In 2012 supermodel Gisele Buendchen planted the first of 50,000 trees in Rio de Janeiro’s Grumari Municipal Park, which was just one of over 4,000 activities hosted that same year. In recent history, World Environment Day has focused on embracing smaller, less-developed nations while continuing to tackle bigger topics, such as sustainable consumption and illegal wildlife trading.
This year’s theme, “Connecting People to Nature,” calls on people to go outdoors and appreciate the beauty and importance of nature and to take forward the call to protect the earth. The theme is especially important because it invites everyone to face the reality about the degree to which they rely on nature. There are countless ways in which nature supports our own well-being. It is nearly impossible to assign a monetary value to nature, meaning certain aspects such as clean air and drinking water are often underappreciated. When disruptions occur to natural ecosystems, it is often millions of rural people whose livelihood is affected first, making it easy for others—especially those in positions of power—to often ignore or overlook environmental problems. This disconnect is what the theme of “Connecting People to Nature” is trying to address.
At Grieboski Global Strategies, we are dedicated to improving the lives of all global citizens, rendering the support of environmentally friendly policies absolutely paramount. Climate change affects every single person on earth, and it is a problem that requires a global solution. In recent years, the majority of the world has placed aside their differences to begin taking steps towards preventing catastrophic climate change. The Paris Climate Agreement, ratified in 2016, may not be able to prevent the overall warming of the earth’s climate, but it was an important first step towards implementing lasting changes in global energy consumption. In the United States, there has been some concern that the Paris Agreement is bad for American business interests. Coal is an example of an American industry that is often threatened when environmental regulations are implemented. When President Trump was campaigning for President, he promised to bring jobs back to American coal miners, a highly popular statement that led him to victory in nine out of the ten highest coal producing states. To his base, President Trump’s official withdrawal of the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement on June 1st, 2017, was viewed as a fulfillment of these promises.
At the same time, this move—a reinforcement of Trump’s hardline America First Policy—caused a global uproar, jeopardizing America’s seat at the table and creating a vacuum of leadership in a major multi-lateral conversation. Already China has begun to assert itself as a global leader in slowing global warming and promoting energy efficient technology, even though the country is currently the world’s largest producer of greenhouse gasses. As America continues to isolate itself, more countries are beginning to look towards China as a powerful, unifying force. Despite the decision to remove the U.S. from the agreement, states, private companies, and individuals like Michael Bloomberg have accepted their own responsibility to fulfill the accord’s initiative, pledging support through the implementation of “green” policies and financial contributions. These groups recognize that in order for the U.S. to remain the most powerful country in the world, it must continue to be a leader in technological and political innovation.
On an individual level, this power transfer is just as salient as it inspires an urgency and a charge to promote and adopt environmentally-friendly changes in our own lives. There are a number of events being planned around the world, from helping clean up the azalea garden at Bryan Park in Richmond, Virginia, to participating in a lake clean up in Coimbatore, India. Even if you don’t live near an official event, be sure to spend time outdoors and explore the world around you. You can also share pictures and videos with the global album by using the hashtags #WorldEnvironmentDay or #WithNature. The best tagged photos will be chosen to appear in an exhibition at the United Nations headquarters.
With the shifting U.S. involvement in the Paris Climate Agreement, it is now incredibly important that people take action to show their support for environmentally-friendly policies and make “green” changes in their own lives. World Environment Day this year offers an easy first step for people to get involved. Harkening back to the theme of “Connecting People to Nature,” it is important to remember that every single person is affected by global climate change, and we all have the opportunity and the obligation to begin making changes in our own lives.