World Environment Day June 5th: What do we have to celebrate?


World Environment Day. What are we celebrating?

World Environment Day (WED) celebrations are happening around the country and around the world to acknowledge our progress and to encourage further action to protect our blue planet. There are lots of dinners and other celebrations but… what are we trying to achieve? Saving the rainforest, saving the whales, fighting palm oil plantation owners, reducing the hole in the ozone layer…. Is it all too big? Too hard to get a clear indication of what we want to see happen?

Goals like the Millennium Development Goals around Environmental Sustainability do help us. The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are a set of eight goals set by United Nations member countries with the goal of halving world poverty by 2015. Goal number 7 is about Ensuring Environmental Sustainability Under these they have specific targets:

• Target 9: Integrate the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programmes; reverse loss of environmental resources.

• Target 10: Reduce by half the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water.

• Target 11: Achieve significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers by 2020.

Oxfam and other international aid organizations are working hard to help achieve the Millennium goals. And they do a better job of spelling out what is needed. Read here on Oxfam’s  website: ‘What are the Millennium Goals?’

According to the World Health Organisation, we have made some progress. In 2010, “the world met the United Nations Millennium Development Goals target on access to safe drinking-water, as measured by the proxy indicator of access to improved drinking-water sources, but more needs to be done to achieve the sanitation target.” I think this means we’re doing something right but still have a way to go.  So this is something to celebrate this World Environment Day.

And what are we doing in Australia? With one of the highest extinction rates on the planet and the most cryptic, unique and enigmatic of species under our protection, we also have plenty of work to do if we want to hold up our end of workload that is protecting our planet.  The appointment of an Australian Threatened Species Commissioner in July 2014 was a good step. After almost a year in the job, it will be interesting to see what he has and can achieve.

In the Commissioner’s report after his first 6 months he states: “Australia’s extinction history is unacceptable. Australia has lost 29 mammals since European settlement. According to the Action Plan for Australian Mammals, another 56 land-based mammals are at risk of extinction, and 11 of these are critically endangered. The total list of threatened species has grown to over 1750 plants and animals. The Threatened Species Commissioner model brings a new national focus and effort to secure our threatened flora and fauna.”

He has invested in feral control and some specific projects for some of Victoria’s critically endangered species but the jury is still out.

More information about the Threatened Species Commissioner’s role is available on the department’s website and on the Commissioner’s Facebook and Twitter feeds.

The investigation in to non-profit conservation organisations and a threat to remove their tax-deductible status is NOT a good step. According to a report on the ABC’s website by Conor Duffy, a parliamentary inquiry into the Register of Environmental organisations has asked for submissions, with some Government MPs agitating for a reduction in of the register of more than 600 environmental orgs. There is a suggestion the list should only include those orgs which do ‘practical’ environmental work. Putting more pressure on to orgs. with limited resources will not assist the cause of environmental protection in Australia.

So. The various dinners, events, festivals and awards will acknowledge the great work being done by our green community around Australia and around the world. It will highlight the work still to be done and the need, now more than ever, to Act Local and Think Global.

World Environment Day Festival on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, which has some fantastic workshops and activities. . The United Nations with its “Think Global; Act Local” slogan has WED Awards for the best performers (perhaps they should consider some ‘must do better’ awards too?)  The Wilderness Society is launching a new campaign on WED with an event at the Provincial Hotel in Fitzroy.

May we have even more to celebrate next year.

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