By Dr. K. Khelchandra Singh
World Environment Day (WED) is an annual event celebrated every year on 5th June to raise global awareness of the need to take positive environmental action. It is run by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The United Nations Conference on the Human Environment was held from 5–16 June 1972 at Stockholm. The WED was established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1972 and has grown to become one of the main vehicles through which the UN stimulates worldwide awareness of the environment and encourages political attention and action. The first World Environment Day was observed in the year 1973. WED is designed to give a human face to environmental issues, empower people to become active agents of sustainable and equitable development, promote an understanding that communities are pivotal to changing attitudes towards environmental issues; and advocate partnership which will ensure all nations and people enjoy a safer and more prosperous future.
The theme for World Environment Day 2013 is Think.Eat.Save: Reduce Your Foodprint. Think.Eat.Save is an anti-food waste and food loss campaign that encourages you to reduce your foodprint. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), every year 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted. This is equivalent to the same amount produced in the whole of sub-Saharan Africa. At the same time, 1 in every 7 people in the world go to bed hungry and more than 20,000 children under the age of 5 die daily from hunger. Given this enormous imbalance in lifestyles and the resultant devastating effects on the environment, this year’s theme – Think.Eat.Save – encourages you to become more aware of the environmental impact of the food choices you make and empowers you to make informed decisions.
Mongolia is the official host country for this year’s World Environment Day (WED) celebration on 5th June 2013, which will focus on reducing food waste and loss. If food waste and loss was country, then it would be the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases after the USA and China. Mongolia was chosen by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) for its efforts to shift towards a green economy in its major economic sectors such as mining and for promoting environmental awareness among youth.”Mongolia is facing enormous challenges, including growing pressure on food security, traditional nomadic herding and water supplies as a result of the impacts of climate change,” said UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner. “Indeed it is estimated that annual mean temperature has increased by over 2°C during the last 70 years and precipitation has decreased in most regions, except the western part of the country, indicating that Mongolia is among the most vulnerable nations in the world to global warming. “Yet its Government is also determined to meet these challenges and seize the opportunities of a less-polluting and more-sustainable future – from a moratorium on new mining pending improved environmental regulations to plans to become a renewable energy power-house and exporter of clean energy regionally,” he said. “I am sure that as the global host of WED, Mongolia will demonstrate to the world that a transition to a green economy is possible, even within some of the most traditionally challenging industrial sectors, when leadership, vision, smart policies and political will are translated into action on the ground,” Mr. Steiner said.
While the planet is struggling to provide us with enough resources to sustain its 7 billion people, FAO estimates that a third of global food production is either wasted or lost. Food waste is an enormous drain on natural resources and a contributor to negative environmental impacts. This year’s campaign rallies you to take action from your home and then witness the power of collective decisions you and others have made to reduce food waste, save money, minimise the environmental impact of food production and force food production processes to become more efficient. If food is wasted, it means that all the resources and inputs used in the production of all the food are also lost. For example, it takes about 1,000 litres of water to produce 1 litre of milk and about 16,000 litres goes into a cow’s food to make a hamburger. The resulting greenhouse gas emissions from the cows themselves, and throughout the food supply chain, all end up in vain when we waste food. In fact, the global food production occupies 25% of all habitable land and is responsible for 70% of fresh water consumption, 80% of deforestation, and 30% of greenhouse gas emissions. It is the largest ways for biodiversity loss and changes in land-use pattern. It is better to make proper decision by purposefully selecting foods that have fewer impacts on the environment, such as organic foods that do not use chemicals in the production process. Choosing to buy locally can also mean that foods are not flown halfway across the world and therefore it will help in limiting emissions as a whole. Therefore think properly before you eat and help to save our mother earth that is sustainable to all of us!
(The author is presently working as Head, Department of Environmental Science, Pachhunga University College Campus, Mizoram University, Aizawl-796001, and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)