World Environment Day (WED) also known as United Nations’(UN) World Environment Day which falls on June 5 of every year is a day set aside by the international community to celebrate nature. It also provides a global platform to raise awareness on environmental issues with plans to mitigate these issues as a global community.
It is the world body’s principal vehicle for encouraging worldwide awareness and action for the protection of the environment. Since it was first held in 1974, it has become a flagship campaign for raising awareness on emerging environmental issues from marine pollution, human overpopulation, global warming, sustainable consumption and wildlife crime.
The Day has grown to become a global platform for public outreach, with participation from over 143 countries annually. Each year, the world chooses a new theme that major corporations, NGOs, communities, governments and celebrities worldwide adopt to advocate environmental causes. For 2017, the theme is ‘Connecting People to Nature’. The focus is encouraging people to get outdoors and appreciate the beauty of the planet. It is part of an effort to show people the importance of protecting it for future generations.
World Environment Day was designated by the UN General Assembly in 1972 on the first day of United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, resulting from discussions on the integration of human interactions and the environment. Two years later, in 1974, the first WED was held with the theme “Only One Earth”. Even though WED celebrations have been held annually since 1974, in 1987 the idea for rotating the centre of these activities through selecting different host countries began.
Historically, the 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’ Environmental Programme (UNEP). It is hosted every year by a different city and commemorated with an international exposition through the week of June 5.
Celebrating the day is not only for governments and their agencies. Individuals and organisations are similarly encouraged to add activities related to the environment for saving it and also motivate the initiative of others in celebrating and protecting the life forms’ ecological and biological relationships with shared ecosystem.
For the last four decades, World Environment Day has been raising awareness, supporting action, and driving change. Activities connected with the day include street rallies and parades, as well as concerts, tree planting, and clean-up campaigns. In many countries, this annual event is used to enhance political attention and action towards improving the environment. This observance also provides an opportunity to sign or ratify international environmental conventions.
In Nigeria, the governments at all levels, organisations, the civil society and individuals joined the rest of the world to commemorate the 2017 World Environment Day. They organised different activities to sensitise the people on the need to preserve the environment.
Shell Nigeria, one of the oil companies with a criminal record of destroying the environment through its mindless oil exploration activities particularly in the Niger Delta, started the day with the Vice President, Shell Nigeria and Gabon, Peter Costello, and Managing Director, Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company Limited, SNEPCo, Bayo Ojulari, planting trees at the Marina area of Lagos. Even as a symbolic gesture, we think that Ogoniland, for instance, deserves the trees and other environmental rehabilitation measures Shell is capable of putting in place.
Also, the Health of Mother Earth Foundation, HOMEF, (a non-governmental organisation) held a town hall meeting in Abuja on that date to sensitise Nigerians on issues relating to the environment. Director, HOMEF, Nnimmo Bassey, said that this year’s theme was appropriate considering that man seem to have lost the vital connections that make him conscious of being part of a community of creations on earth.
He urged the country to look at the disruption of that connection by the politics of infrastructure that is sometimes pursued without recourse to national or even natural laws. Roads are built without drainages and where they are constructed they are invariably emptied into streams and rivers without any consideration for the wellbeing of the aquatic life in them and of the people that depend on the water downstream.
However, and in our opinion, the greatest threat to the stability of the environment in the country are the desert encroachment in the North as a result of deforestation and soil erosion in the South. These are serious enough to deserve all the resources the government is willing and able to devote to them.