World Environment Day 2013: Act to reduce disaster risk

Salome Phelamei

Every day we hear of how our planet is changing and how it is heading towards a disastrous edge, mostly due to human’s activities. But we remained to be too busy or lazy to do our part that could bring some changes for better and help protect our environment or planet as a whole.

World Environment Day (WED), which is celebrated each year globally under the banner of United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), is to spread awareness of the need to preserve and protect our biodiversity as well as to recognise the problems related to the environment and surroundings for positive actions.

It was on this day, the 5th of June, in the year 1972 that the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment was formed. World Environment Day was first observed in 1973, to deal with environmental challenges that also include global warming and climate change, disasters and conflicts, environmental governance, ecosystem management and resource efficiency.

India was chosen the global host of World Environment Day 2011 by the UNEP with the slogan ‘Forest: Nature at your service’. Last year, the event was held in Brazil with ‘Green Economy: Does it include you?’ as the theme.

Mongolia is hosting this year’s WED where leaders from across the nations will come together and discuss on various current environmental issues and find possible measures and solutions to tackle the problems.

The theme: ‘Think.Eat.Save’

World Environment Day, which kicks off on June 5, is observed for a week with a different theme in a different country every year. The theme for this year is Think.Eat.Save, which is an anti-food waste and food loss campaign that persuades mankind to reduce their foodprint.

According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), 1.3 billion tonnes of food, about one third of the global food production is either wasted or lost annually, which is equivalent to the same amount produced in the whole of sub-Saharan Africa. Simultaneously, 1 in every 7 people in the world go to bed without food and over 20,000 children under the age of 5 die daily from starvation and.

Noting the huge imbalance lifestyles around the world, the theme- Think.Eat.Save, encourages people across the globe to not waste food, which is also a massive drain on natural resources and a huge contributor to harmful environmental impacts.

If food is preserved and not wasted, it will not just help us to be more efficient in foodstuff, but will also save money, energy and most importantly, minimise the environmental impact caused by food production.

The UNEP states that the global food production occupies 25% of all habitable land and is responsible for 80% of deforestation. It is also responsible for 70% of fresh water consumption and 30% of greenhouse gas emissions. But, if food is wasted then all of these valuable resource inputs are also lost.

Environmental problems

There are numerous environmental issues that now affect the whole world. Some of the major problems include- air pollution, global warming, ozone depletion, smog, water pollution, rain forest destruction, overpopulation, waste hazardous, etc.

Across India, concern is mounting due to an ever growing list of environmental problems, a country that is home to over one billion people where most of which lives in dreadful poverty.India’s rapidly growing water scarcity crisis is one of the greatest threats to the environment.

Other environmental issues that the country faces today are- air pollution, poor management of waste, falling groundwater tables, preservation and quality of forests, biodiversity loss, and land/soil degradation.

Some think India’s economic development is escalating weight to environmental issues, but others believe that it is answer to improving environmental management and preventing pollution in the country. Perhaps, India’s fast growing population is adding more burden to environmental issues and its resources.

While India has a long way to go to attain environmental quality akin to those enjoyed in developed economies, the country has made one of the fastest progress in the world in addressing its ecological issues and improving its environmental quality between 1995 through 2010 as per the data collection and environment assessment studies of World Bank experts.

Saving our environment

On this day of WED, the UNEP is urging each one of us to think before we eat and help save our environment. There are various ways we can make more informed decisions in our food choices like:

-Selecting foods that have less of an environmental impact

-Choosing organic foods that do not use chemicals in the production process-Eating less meat

-Growing food at our own homes

-Proper planning of meals before buying to avoid food wastage

-Reusing leftovers

Even as our planet is struggling to provide us with sufficient resources to sustain the 7 billion people, it is expected to reach 9 billion by 2050 where everybody needs to eat. However a new report from the UNEP observes that growing and producing food make agriculture and food consumption among the most key drivers of environmental pressures, including climate change and habitat loss.

As the saying goes ‘better late than never ‘- it is time that mankind desperately need to start performing their task to reduce the disaster risk and save the environment , otherwise, the outcome would be fatal.