World Environment Day – it counts every day

As I sat on top of Tigers Head (Lo Fu Tau) earlier this week, contemplating life and my navel, it’s impossible not to be in awe of the beauty of the environment around me.  I wondered if I, if we, do enough to protect and preserve this environment; do we do enough to engage others to care about our environment?

June 5 was World Environment Day (WED)…did the world remember?  In my line of work the inbox fills daily with news and research on environmental, eco and wellness related topics, but this year there was very little that told me what was going on around the world for WED.

President Obama did make a significant announcement days before, committing the US to reduce carbon emissions, and the UN Convention on Climate Change is underway; although a cynic could argue that this is just another talking shop where the world’s major players won’t agree!

But are we saturated with this eco environmental stuff?

Well I think not, and I sincerely hope that news organizations are not censoring news and research in this area for more fluffy, mundane and mindless crap that is coveted as news.

So one week in from WED I thought I would highlight some interesting intiatves and programs that are happening around the world. world environment day

What is World Environment Day?

It’s a United Nations Environmental Program initiative to “encourage awareness and action for the environment”,  and promotes the principle that “every action counts”. Each year the WED website runs a video blog competition.  The 2014 winner  is …well ok, it is fun, and I see that it would engage young adults…a critical demographic if we are to see positive action on environmental matters. However, the message that struck me from the video is, repetition.  Repetition, like practice, leads to perfection and repetition can convince and motivate change.  Repeating the message, repeating actions, and repeating behaviors will lead to positive change and action. Habits made today will help life tomorrow.

Raise your voice, not the sea level

…is the theme of WED2014.  Rising sea levels are an inevitable effect of climate change.  The most affected are low lying countries, and of these populations women and children are the most vulnerable.  Using alternative energy sources will reducing carbon emissions and the ensuing effects of climate change, while having a positive effect on the environment and human health.  The head of the ICPP thinks that women can play a fundamental role in wider move toward alternative energy sources.He suggest they may even lead the way, through voice (communication), connection and a desire for a safer environment for their children.  Women, he says, “are often more in touch with their natural surroundings.” In a world where 1.3 billion people live without access to electricity, there are some initiatives that aim to correct this unacceptable situation, while supporting women in their roles, and achieving clean environmental goals.  Here are two I have recently come across:

One Earth Designs – Solar source cooking rids exposure to high levels of indoor air pollutants families are exposed to when cooking with coal or wood in poorly ventilated village houses.  Women no longer need to forage for wood for cooking, and these solutions offer a positive environmental and sustainable solution, helping communities to work together to improve their lives, their health and the environment.

A Liter of Light – uses sunlight, recycled plastic bottles and some chlorine and water to produce clean, sustainable light for the poor.  First developed and implemented in the Philippines this simple inexpensive device has improved the lives of thousands.  This is a short stop-animation video of a group making and installing 2000 solar light bottle in Bohol, Philippines.

The wonders of playing and learning outdoors

Image by: Gregor Sticker – Waldkindergarten Duesseldorf

A recent edition of Yes! Magazine featured nature (forest) kindergartens.  I’m a firm believer in the premise that those who interact with the natural world, do care about the environment and environmental matters, and are more likely to ‘raise their voice’, so nature kindergartens seem like the perfect way to nurture little one’s into nature and make nature an integral part of their young lives.

Nature kindergartens are primarily outdoor spaces (some exclusively outdoor) where kids get the opportunity to be totally immersed in nature. They are described as kindergartens without ceilings or walls.  They may have tool sheds (for work and play things), outdoor toilets, a teepee or two and perhaps a fire pit, and this is even in countries where winter temperatures often fall below freezing and snow is common.  In fact in Germany there are about 1500 forest kindergartens or ‘waldkindergartens’.  Kids learn about nature, about ecosystems and how things work in nature, about animals that inhabit the forest where they spend their days, and they have jobs to do as well – forest gnome jobs.

These schools teach kids essential skills in social  and emotional learning and ecological intelligence.  Ecological intelligence is the ability to apply social and emotional learning to an understanding of natural systems and extending empathy and concern to all living things.  It’s not enough to simply educate children about the environment and hope that this will affect their behaviors and attitudes into the future, they need to feel it, touch it, interact with it.  Only then will they ‘raise their voice’ and take action.

In this study, researchers reported that children were more likely to be ‘environmentally friendly’ if they had a connection to nature and had previous experiences with nature.  They found that  kids perceive a connection to nature as: enjoying being in nature, having empathy for creatures, having a sense of oneness with nature, and a sense of responsibility torward nature.  Family values and ties to nature were also found to be strong predictors of environmental behavior and practice. Engaging children in hands-on environmental education and education that encompasses the natural world and the environment in a tangible way, can enhance children’s attitudes towards nature and encourage proenvironmental attitudes and actions that count.

To be fair there were a lot of community activities happening all over the world on and for WED, they just weren’t covered well in the mainstream media.  If you know of other events, activities or programs that are helping your environment and bringing people closer to sustainable and effective environmental actions, please do share them with us. 

References:
Cheng, J. C.-H., & Monroe, M. C. (2012). Connection to nature: Children’s affective attitude toward nature. Environment and Behavior, 44(1), 31-49. doi: 10.1177/0013916510385082
Pachauri, R.K. 2014. Women can lead the transition to a cleaner, sustainable environment, UN Women, viewed at beijing20.unwomen.org/en/news-and-events/stories/2014/6/rajendra-pachauri#sthash.sfypkTeM.dpuf
Sobel, D. 2014. The best way to learn about a tree, Yes Magazine, Spring, p29-31
United Nations Environment Programme, World Environment Day, viewed at www.unep.org/wed/about

 

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