World Environment Day (WED) was established in 1972 but first held in 1974, which shows that concern about the environment goes back several decades at least. More than 140 countries take part in World Environment Day, and the day focuses on environmental concerns ranging from pollution to global warming and sustainable food production to protection of wildlife.
The World Environment Day 2020, hosted by Colombia, is the most renowned day for environmental action. Since its inception it has been celebrated every year on 5 June by engaging governments, businesses, celebrities, and citizens to focus their efforts on a pressing environmental issue. This year, the theme is “Biodiversity”, a concern that is both urgent and existential. Biodiversity describes the variety of life on Earth. It encompasses the 8 million species on the planet, from plants and animals to fungi and bacteria, the ecosystems that house them, and the genetic diversity among them.
Biodiversity is the foundation that supports all life on land and below water. It affects every aspect of human health, providing clean air and water, nutritious foods, scientific understanding and medicine sources, natural disease resistance, and climate change mitigation. Changing, or removing one element of this web affects the entire life system and can produce negative consequences.
Recent events, from bushfires in Brazil, the United States, and Australia to locust infestations across East Africa, and now, a global disease pandemic, demonstrate the interdependence of humans and the webs of life, in which they exist. Human actions, including deforestation, encroachment on wildlife habitats, intensified agriculture, and acceleration of climate change, have pushed nature beyond its limit.
It would take 1.6 Earths to meet the demands that humans make of nature each year. If we continue on this path, biodiversity loss will have severe implications for humanity, including the collapse of food and health systems.
The emergence of COVID-19 has underscored the fact that, when we destroy biodiversity, we destroy the system that supports human life. Today, it is estimated that, globally, about one billion cases of illness and millions of deaths occur every year from diseases caused by coronaviruses, and about 75 percent of all emerging infectious diseases in humans are zoonotic, meaning that they are transmitted to people by animals.
We, at the World Assembly of Youth (WAY), aim to listen to young people's voices from all around the world, to capture their thoughts, their aspirations for the future as well as reactions on environmental issues. Furthermore, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development states our resolve “to ensure the lasting protection of the planet and its natural resources”. We are intimately interconnected with nature. If we do not take care of nature, we cannot take care of ourselves.
The biodiversity has a direct effect on young people’s wellbeing, it must be maintained for the present and next generations. The friendly use of natural resources and environmentally sustainable development will help to improve young people’s life. Maintaining the environmental integrity is the responsibility of every individual within the society, youth inclusive.
We urge young people and youth organisations to build momentum and unite the global community in actions for positive change. Living in harmony with nature can be achieved!