Today, June 5 around the world, is observed as World Environment Day. It is one of the principal vehicles through which the United Nations Organisation (UNO) stimulates worldwide awareness of the environment and enhances political attention and action. The event also calls to mind issues relating to climate change and atmospheric pollution that imperil the earth as we know it.
The United Nations set the day aside to seek ways of promoting and improving the Earth’s environment, such as conserving forests. World Environment Day is celebrated in many ways in most countries through activities that include street rallies and parades, as well as concerts, tree planting, and clean-up campaigns. In many countries, this annual event is used to attrack political attention and action towards improving the environment. This observance also provides an opportunity to sign or ratify international environmental conventions.
World Environment Day was established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1972 to mark the opening of the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment. Another resolution, adopted by the General Assembly the same day, led to the creation of United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). It is hosted every year by a different city and commemorated with an international exposition through the week of June 5.
The main colours featured in many promotions for this event are natural colours depicting nature, the earth and its natural resources. These colours are often softer shades of green, brown and blue. Images of natural earth’s features, such as snowy mountains, clean beaches, unpolluted rivers, and photos of natural flora and fauna, including fern leaves, are used to promote campaigns supporting the day.
The day, in the opinion of this newspaper, ought to be of interest to the government and people of Nigeria in particular especially when the negative impact of oil exploration in the Niger Delta region is put in context. In those areas, gas flaring and oil spillage have contributed in no small measure to not only degrading the environment but also rendering the region difficult to inhabit even as it causes a dislocation in the way the people lives their lives.
We need not recall that the effect of gas flaring is responsible for acid rains that are known to pose a source of health challenge. Climate change with its effects of torrential rains and erosion wash off the soil. This, in many regions, has affected communal life, abridging in the process the lifestyle the inhabitants of affected areas are used to.
We note that in some cases, the challenges of environmental degradation are brought about by the acts of commission and omission of the people who through their acts of nonchalance create problems that exacerbate the already worsening situation. In Nigeria, there is the excessive use of certain materials that are not bio degradable, such as like plastic. This synthetic material, because it is easily available, cheap and light, is beginning to constitute a public menace because plastic pollutes the environment from the time they are manufactured till their final disposal. Even worse is the use and disposal of the material. There is no doubt that improper disposal also poses a problem because it is common to see the canals and water channels blocked by polythene bags. The production of plastics usually involve emission of obnoxious gases, which pose serious health problems to the workers and the neighbourhood. They can actually be toxic and harmful to human health. Many of these plastics also end up in rivers and oceans, thus endangering aquatic life.
It will be inappropriate to blame the production, use and disposal of plastics alone, dangerous as they are, for the challenges of atmospheric dislocation. There are other activities that threaten the levels of biodiversity and bring about an unintended disruption of the ecosystem. Some of these activities, such as unbridled attack on wildlife, indiscriminate cutting of trees without conscious effort to reforest the place, reorder, in a negative way, the balance of the earth and point it on a downward spiral.
In bringing to the attention of politicians and the business class the challenges of environmental despoliation, we note that it also demands action in more ways than one if the earth must be saved. These take the form of policies and actual actions that are intended to restore the earth and help it heal itself. The real danger that must be addressed is the lip service by officialdom to the matters relating to environment. It is from this perspective that we urge a change of attitude on the part of all concerned if the environment will survive to continue to shield mankind from the inclemency of the elements.
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