TODAY we are celebrating World Environment Day (WED). The United Nations General Assembly established this yearly international celebration in 1972 to mark the opening of the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment. Another significant move by the General Assembly on this date is the creation of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) through a resolution. UNEP is the principal body of the United Nations in the field of environment.
According to UNEP, the WED is the United Nations' principal vehicle for encouraging worldwide awareness and action for the environment. Over the years, it has grown to be a broad, global platform for public outreach that is widely celebrated by stakeholders in over 100 countries. It also serves as the "people's day" for doing something positive for the environment, galvanizing individual actions into a collective power that generates an exponential positive impact on the planet.
The WED celebration has a yearly theme. For 2015, the theme is "Seven Billion Dreams. One Planet. Consume with Care." Seven billion refers to the world’s population. According to the United Nations, world population reached 7 Billion on October 31, 2011. Countries may differ in race, culture and religion but we share one planet with finite resources. The WED theme highlights that the well-being of humanity, the environment, and the functioning of the economy, ultimately depend upon the responsible management of the planet’s natural resources.
UNEP said that many of the Earth’s ecosystems are nearing critical tipping points of depletion or irreversible change, pushed by high population growth and economic development. By 2050, if current consumption and production patterns remain the same and with a rising population expected to reach 9.6 billion, we will need three planets to sustain our ways of living and consumption.
In the Philippines, we commemorate WED not just for a day but for a month. The whole month of June is observed as environment month. This yearly observance started in 1988 when President Corazon C. Aquino signed proclamation No. 237 declaring the month of June as Philippine Environment Month. Coincidentally, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) celebrates its anniversary every June 10.
The Philippines has a population of 100 million today. With this number, we are already feeling the effect on the environment. We are suffering from pollution, solid and hazardous waste problems, water scarcity, diminishing agricultural land, over fishing, deforestation, flooding and a host of other environmental concerns.
I am not saying that we should control population growth. I don’t think that's the answer. What we should do is to properly manage our natural resources. We should not also stop progress and development in the name of environment but instead pursue sustainable growth. Progress and the environment can go hand in hand.