World Environment Day (WED) is the main weapon of the United Nations to make people aware of the worldwide environmental degradation, and to attract their attention and action to its recovery. This year over 100 nations around the globe celebrated the event the other day (June 5). Every year, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) coins a theme and its central program has been arranged in a specific place. This year's theme is “Green Economy: Does it include you?” and the venue is the Federative Republic of Brazil.
The UNEP defines green economy as one that results in improved human well-being and social equity, significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities. In its simplest expression, a green economy can be thought of as one which is low carbon, resource efficient and socially inclusive. In other words, a green economy is one whose growth in income and employment is driven by public and private investments that reduce carbon emissions and pollution, enhance energy and resource efficiency, and prevent the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services.
Launched in late 2008, the UNEP green economy initiative provides a comprehensive and practical working mechanism, through analysis and policy support for investing in green sectors and in greening environmentally unfriendly sectors. The initiative has three main activities aiming at 1) producing a green economy report and related research materials, 2) providing advisory services on ways to move towards a green economy in specific countries, and 3) engaging a wide range of research, non-governmental organizations, business and UN partners in implementing the green economy initiative.
On understanding the green economy, let's attend to the second part of the theme -- if this includes us or not. UNEP has identified 10 important sectors that include agriculture, building, energy supply, fisheries, forestry, manufacturing industries, transport, tourism, water, and waste disposal. We can involve ourselves in these sectors both individually and socially.
Agriculture is basic to most industries including the food industry for feeding the growing population. We all consume agricultural products. Using this consumer power, we can support local, organic (decreasing or even avoiding the factory made food items) and sustainable agriculture. When we buy local, organic and sustainable food products, we send a message to the local producers that we support a green economy for agriculture.
Construction of buildings and other structures takes a large toll on global resources and climate. We need to opt for low-impact construction. For instance, constructing a big, high rise building keeping open space and trees around can accommodate more people and also sustain the natural environment. Developing railways for transport instead of more dependence on carpeted roads can have less impact on the environment.
The current mainstream energy sources -- oil, coal, gas, etc. are not only harmful to health and environment; they are not sustainable in a world of growing energy needs. The best way is to develop and use renewable energy sources like solar, wind power etc. But still these are in the formative stage. In this transitional period, we can opt for austerity, using energy only when it is essential.
Fishes are delicious and healthy; but overfishing is depleting this natural resource from both inland and sea waters. By rule, fishermen and fish business people need to use 'ecolabels' from which buyers know which one is harvested sustainably and which not. Through buying only those harvested sustainably, we send a message that we support green economy for fisheries.
Forests support livelihoods, societies and cultures, our climate, and a plethora of wildlife and ecosystems. Deforestation accounts for close to 20% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, preserving the forests is of utmost necessity. We need to use wood as less as possible to help sustain the forests; using renewable energy, electronic gadgets (instead of paper) are the ways. Thus, we send a message that we support healthy environment and sustainable livelihood.
Manufacturing industries have been unwisely rough on the environment, these must smoothen their conduct. As consumers of industrial products, we can support businesses that have sustainability plans, use ecolabels, and invest in renewable energy. By doing so, we send a message that it is time for manufacturers to transit to green economy.
Transport vehicles pollute the environment through emissions, being many on the roads, causing traffic jam as well as accidents. Reducing the use of vehicles is necessary. Taking up public transports instead of riding a car alone is a way. Walking and riding bikes are other personal ways of leading green life.
Tourism has become a fashion now-a-days. This has positive effects on economy but can have negative impacts on the environment. We can opt for 'ecotourism' by travelling local sites with others and using hotels and agencies that support ecotourism. Thus, we can help achieve economic growth without sacrificing environmental and social well-being.
Water is another name for life. Availability of this essential resource, especially safe drinking water, is decreasing sharply. We need to use water wisely. Some of the ways of more effective water use are turning off the tap when we are not using it; waiting until we have a full load to run our laundry or dishwasher; and limiting the shower time.
Using most things only once has become a way of 'modern' life. A by-product of such unwise 'modernity' is accumulating more and more waste products. Now, there's no space to keep so many and so much of waste products. So, we need to go back to reusable products. We must learn and apply recycling method wherever and whenever possible.
The above ways of leading green life are few of many possibilities. We must take up every possible measure to preserve the natural environment that sustains our resources remembering that there's still only one earth to live on.
The writer is a biologist and Senior Specialist at NCTB, Dhaka. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.