Millions of people across the globe – even showbiz luminaries – will unite towards the common goal of a better planet by marking World Environment Day on June 5. United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Goodwill Ambassadors Gisele Bündchen and Don Cheadle are squaring up in a celebrity challenge to mark the occasion.
Whether it’s a litter clean-up, switching from plastic shopping bags to natural-fibre ones, or tree-planting, green-minded folk all over the world will aim to mark the occasion in a meaningful way.
Bündchen and Cheadle will compete to see who can have the most activities registered in their names and who can plant the most trees – or a whole forest – in the name of World Environment Day.
The day is celebrated around the world in many ways: street rallies, bicycle parades, green concerts, essay and poster competitions in schools, tree planting, recycling efforts, clean-up campaigns and much more. This year’s theme is Forests: nature at your service, in support of the UN's International Year of Forests. The aim is to highlight the crucial environmental, economic and social roles played by the world's forests.
It was back in 1972 that the UN designated June 5th as World Environment Day, to deepen public awareness of the need to preserve and enhance the environment. This date was chosen because it was the opening day of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment (Stockholm, 1972), which resulted in the establishment of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP).
South Africa’s involvement includes the UNEP campaign as part of the theme chosen by the National Department of Environment Affairs and Tourism.
As WED host nation for 2011, India will be the focus of worldwide celebrations. Events are planned in New Delhi and Bangalore, with an expected 25 000 runners expected to take part in the World 10K Race on 5th June in Bangalore. A World 10 km Forest, will be inaugurated, with more trees being added at future races.
UNEP will also release the Forests in a green economy report in New Delhi on 5th June. In the face of continuing deforestation (currently estimated at 5,2 million hectares worldwide every year), the report outlines how increased public and private investment in forest management and forest resources can boost employment, drastically reduce deforestation and help tackle climate change.
Beyond India, WED celebrations are already taking shape in cities, towns, villages and communities across the world, including:
NEPAL. UNEP is supporting a clean-up expedition to remove an estimated 9 tons of litter in and around Mount Everest. Enlisting some 60 climber volunteers, the long-term aim of the initiative is to develop more sustainable waste management facilities and recycling plants in the region
CONGO-BRAZZAVILLE. A major international summit on tropical forest basins will be held from 31 May to 6 June. The event will focus on the sustainable management of forest ecosystems in the Amazon, Congo and Mekong Borneo basins
BRAZIL. The MudaRock Project – a free music download service – will be launched on June 3rd. For every song or video downloaded by users, a tree sapling will be planted in a reforestation area in Brazil. The project aims to plant a million native trees within a year.
COSTA RICA. A major success story in reforestation (having increased its forest cover from 22 per cent in 1995 to 51 per cent by 2010), Costa Rica will host participants from 15 neighbouring countries for a training course on sustainable forest management
CANADA. Toronto is the regional host city for World Environment Day celebrations in North America. To date, over 50 WED events have been registered in Canada including environmental workshops for students, a high-level consultation on the Green Economy with 40 environmental leaders and a series of book readings for children.
BELGIUM. WED celebrations in Brussels will kick off with an outdoor picnic and music concert in Brussels on 5th June, featuring UN Youth Ambassador and Disney star Monique Coleman
BAHRAIN. UNEP's Regional Office for West Asia will help co-ordinate a beach-cleaning and tree-planting campaign
Before WED officially kicks off, individuals, groups, families and schools – entire communities – can post details of their planned green events online at www.wedchallenge.org
When registering a WED activity on the website, you'll be asked to pledge your activity to either Bündchen or Cheadle. Bündchen has pledged to plant a tree for every activity registered in her name; Cheadle has pledged to plant two.
When the votes are counted on 5 June, the result will be a new forest inaugurated by the winner, leaving a lasting green legacy from the global WED community.
Bollywood stars Priyanka Chopra and Rahul Bose are also facing off for World Environment Day in the Challenge India. There's also a useful list of Environment Day ideas.
* Source: The Newsmarket, UNEP