Written by Katie Elizabeth Robinson
It was only a month ago that we were harping on about World Earth Day and now it’s World Environment Day so which came first, the earth or the environment? Well, we wouldn’t be here without either so let’s not chicken and egg this situation. The first World Earth Day was in 1970 just beating the UN’s World Environment Day to the punch which was launched in 1972, with the first global celebration taking place in 1974. It was a good decade for environmentalism but why do we celebrate these types of international days in the first place?
They’re ‘occasions to educate the general public on issues of concern, to mobilize political will and resources to address global problems, and to celebrate and reinforce achievements of humanity.’
The UN can also measure public awareness and engagement with big issues such as environmental and social justice which will be championed on World Environment Day via its dedicated website. There’s a whole calendar of International Days and Weeks that’s worth checking out too!
What’s it all about?
Since 1974, June 5th has been reminding us that we have but one earth, a sentiment that has surged in recent years. The slogan There is No Planet B is often seen on placards at Extinction Rebellion and Fridays for Future protests around the world and yet we continue to consume more than our planet can produce. It’s estimated that by 2050, the year global leaders have set to start giving a damn about the environment, we’ll need the resources of two planets to sustain our habits...but that second planet doesn’t exist (ignoring everything Elon Musk is spouting about us becoming multiplanetary).
It’s also worth noting that whilst our politicians look to 2050, the global scientific community has already told us that 2030 is our last chance to prevent catastrophic climate change and the World Meteorological Organization even recently announced that they expect us to breach our 1.5℃ global warming limit in the next 5 years.
World Environment Day not only explains why we can’t continue down this path but engages with governments and big business to show us an alternative and rallies global citizens to spur change. If the past year has shown us anything, we are adaptable and resilient. We just need to imagine and begin to articulate a different path that restores the ecosystems we’ve been destroying for generations.
Where is it?
On earth obviously, but every year a different country plays global host to the celebrations. In Australia we celebrated The Environment Millenium - Time to Act and in Lebanon the focus was on Water - Two Billion People are Dying for It. Norway raised awareness in 2007 on Melting Ice? - A Hot Topic and Angola mobilised action around international wildlife crime through #WildforLife when digital campaigning was really kicking up a gear.
On 5 June 2021 the festivities will take place in Pakistan but it will once again be hosted online with Prime Minister Imran Khan presiding over the events. He will be joined by Secretary-General of the United Nations António Guterres, Pope Francis, and the German Chancellor Angela Merkel - talk about an A-list line-up!
Focus for 2021
Setting a theme each year helps to steer the action and this year Pakistan is focusing on Ecosystem Restoration in a global effort to reverse the damaging effects of deforestation, the destruction of over half of the world’s wetlands, coral reef loss and rising temperatures.
‘Ecosystem restoration means preventing, halting and reversing this damage - to go from exploiting nature to healing it.’
Pakistan will be launching world-leading initiatives to help their unique ecosystems thrive, such as the 10 Billion Tree Tsunami project which aims to plant, you guessed it, 10 billion trees, to restore over a million hectares of forest and foster greener urban centres. This is also part of a nature performance bond which will not only provide green jobs but help Pakistan offset some of the debt that, like most countries, it accrued during the pandemic. Supported by the Ecosystem Restoration Fund they will invest in nature-based solutions to build back better after COVID-19.
The UN will seek to unify Pakistan’s ambitious actions with other global efforts with the introduction of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021-2030. This will be a global rallying cry to accelerate our restoration efforts.
‘Only with healthy ecosystems can we enhance people’s livelihoods, counteract climate change, and stop the collapse of biodiversity.’
This is our chance to imagine a different future to the one we’re heading for by adopting Ecosystem Thinking. We will begin to see that everything is inextricably linked and the climate crisis isn’t something that’s happening over there. It’s not the wildfires destroying homes and lives in California, or the bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Whilst these events may be site-specific they have an impact on our one shared earth.
Take deforestation for example. We all know it hinders nature’s innate and unparalleled ability to absorb the carbon we’re pumping into the atmosphere but when we burn swathes of our ancient woodlands and rainforests to make room for animal agriculture, we also release the carbon they’ve captured which is a triple whammy middle finger to the environment.
Trees aren’t our sole heroes either. Oceans actually account for at least half, if not 80% of the oxygen we breathe. Peatlands account for just a small percentage of the earth’s surface but store nearly 30% of all soil carbon. Mountains are home to most of our biodiversity hotspots and freshwater ecosystems...well, if you need a recap of the value of freshwater, check out our previous blog all about it!
What can we do?
Ecosystems can feel like abstract notions that are again over there, in the Amazon, or under the sea but remember, when we start thinking of everything as an interconnected whole, where every action has an impact, we can choose to have a positive one.
They’ve made it super easy for us to get involved with World Environment Day this year too with a quick game of ‘choose an ecosystem you care about’. This doesn’t mean you don’t care about the others and you can choose different actions across ecosystems but remember it’s not on you alone to restore them all. As the great Susi Moser says in All We Can Save:
‘Burned out people aren’t equipped to serve a burning planet.’
If, like One Wear Freedom, you’re an urban-dweller, you might start by advocating for green spaces. If you’re lucky enough to have a green space to call your own, you could plant a tree or wildflower patch and we can help! Did you know, the security tags on all our garments when you rent with us are made from biodegradable eco-paper that is embedded with wildflower seeds! Check out our easy to follow guide to help them grow. We’ve got you covered if you don’t have easy access to a green space at the moment too as we’ve partnered with One Tree Planted to do just that with every order.
Restoration isn’t just about adding back to nature, it’s also about reducing, or halting entirely, the pressures we put on ecosystems in the first place. One of the biggest impacts we can contribute to our woodlands, rainforests and farmlands is through our diets. If we prioritise seasonal and regional ingredients when we’re shopping we can significantly reduce the carbon emissions involved in the transportation of our food. The logic behind switching to a plant-based diet, or at least a less meat-heavy one, is blindingly obvious. The ultimate vegans, cows, terrifyingly consume 10 times the amount of food as is needed for the human race so you can have an incredible impact on the environment by cutting down, if not entirely giving up, beef.Check out some of the other actions you can do and pick what works for you as solving the climate crisis isn’t a one-size-fits-all slogan-T and will take all of us working together in a gloriously diverse range of ways. Be part of #GenerationRestoration and drop us a tag @OneWearFreedom to share your actions with us on June 5th!