With many of the earth’s ecosystems nearing “critical tipping points,” the United Nations invited each of the seven billion people on the planet to mark this year’s World Environment Day by making one change towards a more responsible consumption of resources – “be it refusing to buy single-use plastic bags or riding a bike to work.”
“Humanity continues to consume far more natural resources than the planet can sustainably provide,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in this year’s message for the Day, observed annually on 5 June. “It is time for us to change.”
“The goal of sustainable development is to increase the quality of life for all people without increasing environmental degradation and without compromising the resource needs of future generations,” he noted. “We can do this by shifting our consumption patterns towards goods that use less energy, water and other resources and by wasting less food.”
The theme of this year’s Day – “Seven Billion Dreams. One Planet. Consume with Care,” – emphasizes the personal responsibility each person bears for enabling inclusive and sustainable economic development while stabilizing and reducing the rate of resource use.
Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), invited “everyone to imagine what the world would be like if each of the seven billion people made one change towards a more responsible consumption of resources.”
“I would like you to hold on to that vision and strive to make it reality – be it refusing to buy single-use plastic bags or riding a bike to work,” Mr. Steiner said in his message.
Noting “it is easy to underestimate the power of individual action,” Mr. Steiner said “our daily decisions as consumers, multiplied by billions, have a colossal impact on the environment – some of them contribute to the further depletion of natural resources, others help to protect fragile ecosystems.”
“We must ask ourselves what the consequences of this pace of consumption and trajectory of population growth – forecasted to reach nine billion by 2050 – will be,” he said.
“Under current trends, global extraction of resources is set to reach 140 billion tonnes by 2050, compared to around 7 billion tonnes in 1900,” said Mr. Steiner. “This will probably exceed the availability and accessibility of resources, as well as the carrying capacity of the planet to absorb the impacts of their extraction and use.”
World Environment Day “is the opportunity for everyone to realize the responsibility to care for the Earth and to become agents of change,” Mr. Steiner said.
Italy was the host of this year’s celebrations of the Day which are taking place at Expo Milano 2015, which runs from 1 May to 31 October and is expected to include over 140 countries plus a significant number of international organizations.