Environment Month Celebrations to focus on Sustainable Development
03 June 2015
Sustainable Development will take centre stage as South Africa prepares to celebrate national Environment month. This year celebrations will unfold under the overarching theme, "Seven Billion Dreams, One Planet. Consume with Care."Environment Month is an annual event on South Africa’s environment calendar.
The theme was declared by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) for the celebration of World Environment Day (WED) on 5 June. This theme centres on the well-being of humanity, the environment, and the functioning of the economy, which ultimately depends upon the responsible management of the planet’s natural resources.
As concerns for the environment and its ability to sustain our current consumption patterns grow, globally the move towards sustainable development is becoming increasingly urgent. There is an acknowledgment that the earth’s supply of natural resources is not infinite. Faced with the real threat of climate change, sustainable development becomes more pertinent and significant from the South African and worldwide perspective.
Our challenge as a nation which is a developing state is to find a healthy balance between the three pillars - economic growth, social development and environmental sustainability. In pursuit of South Africa's developmental pathway, a shared vision and common goal of sustainability has emerged as a strong driver of industry values as well as societal behaviour.
As a nation we adopted the National Development Plan, which maps out the vision of the country for the 20 years ahead. As the environment sector, we will implement related aspects of the priority areas in this Plan that deal with sustainable development.
Our rich environmental and natural resource-endowment such as productive land, clean and sufficient water, healthy air, beautiful landscapes, vibrant cities, towns, villages and cultures; (the very foundation for our inclusive sustainable economic and social development) must not only benefit us today but also our children and grandchildren.
As part of the global community, South Africa celebrates World Environment Day which was established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1972 at the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment to create, educate and raise awareness on environmental conservation.
Environment Month Activities
- The national celebrations of the World Environment Day will take place in Kimberley, Northern Cape on 6 June 2015, with provinces and various municipalities also expected to host celebratory events. The commemoration will focus on key environmental aspects such as job creation in the environment sector, sustainable development, biodiversity and weather. In addition, the event will focus on environmental careers. This is particularly befitting as June is also Youth Month in South Africa.
- Other key events in June include World Oceans Day on 8 June and the World Day to Combat Desertification (WDCD) on 17 June.
World Oceans Day activities take place under the pertinent theme, as determined by the United Nations, “Healthy Oceans, Healthy Planet”. World Oceans Day was first introduced in 1992 to raise awareness of the crucial role the sea plays as a source of food, oxygen and medicine. It was officially recognized by the United Nations (UN) in 2008 and is observed on 8 June each year.
In South Africa, the theme has been expanded in line with South Africa’s ocean economy initiatives. The adopted theme is “Healthy Oceans, Healthy Planet: Enabling Sustainable Ocean Economy Development.” It is envisaged that World Oceans Day will take place in Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape as the Department strives to raise awareness of the ocean in a non-coastal area.
World Day to Combat Desertification will take place in Nquthu local municipality in KwaZulu-Natal. The UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) Secretariat has announced that the theme for 2015 will be “Attainment of food security for all through sustainable food systems,” which will be used in combination with the slogan “No such thing as a free lunch. Invest in healthy soils.”
WDCD has been observed since 1994 and aims to promote awareness relating to international cooperation to combat desertification and the effects of drought, as well as the implementation of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification.
Since 1994, the Department of Environmental Affairs has facilitated a dramatic and sustained process of forming environmental guiding principles, institution-building, restructuring, legislation and policy development that recognises the intricate linkages between socio-economic developments to environmental stewardship.
This is evident from the numerous legislative amendments and the new way the Department is implementing existing Environmental Laws, resulting in a better balance between the three dimensions of sustainable development -- environmental sustainability, sustained economic growth and social development. The environmental sector has also become a significant contributor to economic development, job creation and poverty alleviation.
The Minister of Environmental Affairs, Mrs Edna Molewa emphasised, “However, none of these goals can be achieved without the contribution of all South Africans, and citizens of the world. In keeping with the theme of this year’s World Environment Day of “Seven Billion Dreams. One Planet, Consume with Care”, it is pertinent to consider that it is the responsibility of each and every person to protect our environment, to do more with less or ensure that greater care is taken in the way limited resources are consumed, in order to secure a sustainable future for all.”
Minister Molewa went on to call on all South Africans to do something for our environment, no matter how small. “It is only through our collective commitment and power that we will have a positive impact on mother earth, and in so doing, contribute to the United Nations Environment Programme’s goal of ensuring that all people become agents for change,” she said.
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