UN holds biggest meeting on World Environment Day

The red-browed Amazon parrot is severely endangered. Photo in public domainTUESDAY, JUNE 5: All eyes are on the city shadowed by the towering Christ the Redeemer and home to the most biodiverse wildlife on the planet—as the United Nations hosts its biggest meeting in history: This is Rio+20 on World Environment Day. Early projections are that this monumental meeting could dramatically change the way the world views green economies.


Two decades ago, the world convened for the Rio summit; this was 20 years after the first UN conference on the environment, held in Stockholm (thus, this year is the 40th anniversary of that first meeting). It was in Stockholm that the United Nations Environment Program was created. While people were only beginning to understand words like “global warming” in 1972, conversations concerning “green” can be heard around the world today. Unfortunately, shifting entire continents into a green sustainability takes layers of work. This week’s summit aims to further our collective work on many of those layers. By creating sustainable jobs, countries will boost their economies; by not harming the environment with these jobs, countries will ensure both environmental and financial stability for years to come.


Celebrations began in Rio last week, as Brazil became the first country to launch the Green Passport initiative. Experts report that tourism accounts for 11 percent of the global GDP, and by choosing “green,” tourists can help preserve the countries—and resources in those countries—that they visit. Essentially, by traveling sustainably, tourists can positively impact the communities they visit. The Green Passport is a look-alike passport document that contains tips on how to make environmentally wise choices on trips, and an accompanying website lists sustainable hotels, food and means of travel around the world.


Wind turbines are part of Green Economy. Photo in public domaina In connection with the UN Conference on the Human Environment held June 5-16, 1972, World Environment Day commemorates this landmark issue. The UN clearly is drawing on underlying spiritual themes in this work. The aim of World Environment Day is raising “global awareness of the need to take positive environmental action.” This year’s theme defines Green Economy: an economic model to encourage quality of life for all humans and social equity, while reducing environmental detriments. A Green Economy also runs quite differently than what most world citizens are used to today in that it grows through public and private investments that reduce carbon emissions and pollution. (Got a green event to register for World Environment Day? Register it here.) By pushing awareness, the UN hopes to encourage countries to pass policy reforms and regulations that preserve the world’s rapidly disappearing resources, wildlife and help to maintain balnce in our global ecosystems.

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