With five months down already, 2012 is set to be a landmark year on several fronts. Political pundits surely followed the recent shift of regime in France, and will have their attention focused on the US in November. In sports, England will be the centre of attraction during the forthcoming summer Olympic Games, while soccer fans already saw the crowning of new Champions: Zambia and Chelsea, amongst others. Surely, they would enthusiastically be following the ‘Euro 2012’ tournament during this month.
June 2012 would also be very symbolic in something that concerns all of us, no matter who we are and where we are in the world. It is the environment which is hereby being invoked. Various activities, at local, regional and international levels are being organised to put forward its great significance in this very month. To begin with, the whole world is ‘celebrating’ the World Environment Day on June 5th, under a theme entitled ‘Green Economy – Does it include you?’ Indeed, such an alliance would foster investments in cleaner energy sources, materials, processes and products with an ultimate aim to become resource-efficient and to pollute less. Also coherent with the theme, is the creation of ‘green jobs’ and the formulation of eco-labels and standards.
This year marks the 40th celebration of the World Environment Day and would be quite memorial. In fact, in the year 1972, Sweden’s capital, Stockholm, gathered delegates from more than 100 states for the United Nations (UN) conference on the human environment, which happened to start on June 5th. Held in response to ecological disasters that struck the world, e.g. industrial pollution, or oceanic oil spills, the conference saw the participation of Governmental and Intergovernmental officials, but also representatives of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs). It took place during the ‘green revolution’ since the layman started responding to the call of scientists ringing alarm bells over the plight against the environment. A specialised UN body called the United Nations Environmental Programme, UNEP, was also created in 1972, while a year before, the famous organisation, Greenpeace, was officially born.
The deliberations of the Stockholm Conference eventually helped to promote a better understanding of the environment at large, as it was earlier considered as a subsidiary discipline of Biology. Thus, in the following years, the world saw the emergence of different legislations of international dimensions aimed at protecting the air, waters (inland & oceans), fauna (animals) and flora (plants) in the form of regulations, treaties or agreements. Furthermore, other sensitive areas received ample concerns as well, e.g. ozone layer depletion, deforestation, use of hazardous substances, movement of toxic wastes (including nuclear wastes). The whole process paved the way for mutual understanding and cooperation among different states as some situations could easily lead to conflicts.
After 1972, the next milestone for the environment was in 1992, when the ‘capital of the world’ was in the southern hemisphere, over a few days. The famous city of Rio de Janeiro, Brasil, hosted the UN Conference on Environment and Development, popularly named the Earth Summit. In the early 90s, many governments had in place dedicated environmental ministries while the number of environmental NGOs mushroomed across the globe. Consequently, the scope of the conference was more intense between various participating groups. Moreover, issues on the discussion table could be supported by a thick scientific data as a result of technological progress. For instance, the principles of the Global Warming phenomenon could be better explained with the aid of computer and imaging systems.
Among concerns at the Earth Summit, was a burning issue: Climate Change. At present, its effects have already been evidenced by upheavals in natural processes, for e.g. temperature extremes, unusual rainfalls, intense storms, floods, heavy snowfalls, or droughts. Needless to say that, such types of climatic conditions have a negative impact on agriculture and farming, and by extrapolation on the global economy. A concerted effort among nations was thus necessary to minimise these effects and within the next five years from 1992, the Kyoto Protocol was adopted in view to curb emissions of Greenhouse Gases, GHGs, a group of culprits for the situation. Unfortunately, not all targets set in Japan have been reached, as some nations are yet to fulfill their engagement.
If we ponder on our deeds on Earth, we would find that the real culprit for most environmental damage is the human race. Indeed, our needs for a better and more comfortable lifestyle has created situations whereby natural resources are fast depleting, the quality of air and water are constantly changing or other living species have unfortunately become extinct due to our activities. In reality, the world has witnessed an accelerated developmental process which corroborates with the rate at which natural resources are being consumed. In practice most human activities generate wastes and may be creating pollution problems if these are not properly managed. As the situation appears precarious, mankind has also been working on how trends can be gradually altered.
Development would certainly not be halted and instead the world is called upon to adopt the principles of Sustainable Development, i.e. development which meets our present demands and those of our future generations. A concept incorporated in the 2000 UN Millennium Development Goals, and which more than 190 countries attending the 2002 World Summit in Johannesburg, South Africa, decided to adhere to. Nowadays, the word sustainable has itself become quite fashionable as new themes have emerged from it, e.g. Sustainable Health or even Sustainable Procurement. In fact, sustainability speaks about long term vision and can be applicable in many contexts. Undoubtedly, our small island state would be acclaimed for implementing the ‘Maurice Ile Durable’ project further ahead.
This year, Rio de Janeiro will once again be in the limelight for hosting the UN Conference on Sustainable Development christened “Rio +20”. It would offer a media-hyped platform for stakeholders representing international agencies, governments, private sector, NGOs, academia, civil society, etc. to voice out respective concerns. At this stage, building up a holistic partnership framework is highly desirable so that discussions can be turned into actions. It is well known that a level-playing field is hard to attain with regards to the environment as all countries have their own realities and specificities, but it is strongly hoped that this mass gathering officially starting on June 20th would be constructive to enough instill consciousness that we are all bound to one common planet, one common fate. At Rio, it is our future which would be discussed therein.
Hysterically, 2012 is believed to be the end of the world further to some ancient beliefs. However, it is more likely, with modern thoughts, to be historically remembered for many years to come.