Nairobi, 21 April 2009 On April 22, we celebrate the Anniversary of the first Earth Day in 1970, a landmark in the history of the environmental movement - a movement, which gave birth to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in 1972.
The first Earth Day was conceived partly out of frustration that basic issues like air quality and water pollution still had not been addressed. Today, intelligent management of the planet has to be a fundamental issue taking center stage, as the international community faces the twin challenges of dealing with the most serious global economic crisis since the 1930s, and negotiating an equitable and definitive agreement on climate change in Copenhagen in December.
Many major economies have introduced "green" stimulus packages. Various programs, such as UNEP's Green Economy Initiative, seek to re-focus the global economy towards investments in clean technologies and "natural" infrastructure such as forests and soils, as the best bet for real growth, combating climate change and triggering an employment boom in the 21st century.
However, this is just the beginning. Sealing the climate deal at the crucial UN climate convention in Copenhagen will not happen without a groundswell of public pressure for action on climate change ? in developed and developing nations alike. The message to world leaders is simple and urgent: "Seal the Deal! - Work together to find a solution that is scientifically-credible, equitable and economically-defensible.
The past few years have seen renewed interest from the public in engaging in environmental stewardship. Bridging the gap between Earth Day on April 22nd, and World Environment Day, 6 weeks later on June 5th, is one of the principal vehicles through which the United Nations mobilizes this enthusiasm, enhancing political attention and action. The theme for WED 2009, Your Planet Needs You. UNite to Combat Climate Change, reflects the urgency for nations to join in addressing climate change, by reducing their carbon footprint, and improving the management of forests and other valuable natural resources.
Earth Day initiatives demonstrate how responsible governments, civil society, and the private sector can catalyze this energy, by promoting an enhanced understanding of the challenges we all face in safeguarding our own survival and that of future generations.