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| Last Updated: 08/09/2017

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World Environment Day 2017

 World Environment Day 2017

‘Connecting People to Nature’, the theme for World Environment Day 2017, implores us to get outdoors and into nature, to appreciate its beauty and its importance, and to take forward the call to protect the Earth that we share.

World Environment Day is the biggest annual event for positive environmental action and takes place every 5 June. This year’s host country Canada got to choose the theme and will be at the centre of celebrations around the planet.

 World Environment Day is a day for everyone, everywhere. Since it began in 1972, global citizens have organized many thousands of events, from neighbourhood clean-ups, to action against wildlife crime, to replanting forests. This year’s theme invites you to think about how we are part of nature and how intimately we depend on it. It challenges us to find fun and exciting ways to experience and cherish this vital relationship.

 

The value of nature

In recent decades, scientific advances as well as growing environmental problems such as global warming are helping us to understand the countless ways in which natural systems support our own prosperity and well-being.

For example, the world’s oceans, forests and soils act as vast stores for greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane; farmers and fisher-folk harness nature on land and under water to provide us with food; scientists develop medicines using genetic material drawn from the millions of species that make up Earth’s astounding biological diversity.

Billions of rural people around the world spend every working day ‘connected to nature’ and appreciate full well their dependence on natural water supplies and how nature provides their livelihoods in the form of fertile soil. They are among the first to suffer when ecosystems are threatened, whether by pollution, climate change or over-exploitation.

Nature’s gifts are often hard to value in monetary terms. Like clean air, they are often taken for granted, at least until they become scarce. However, economists are developing ways to measure the multi-trillion-dollar worth of many so-called ‘ecosystem services’, from insects pollinating fruit trees in the orchards of California to the leisure, health and spiritual benefits of a hike up a Himalayan valley.

 
 

Hit the park

This year’s World Environment Day is an ideal occasion to go out and enjoy your country’s national parks and other wilderness areas. Park authorities in some countries may follow Canada’s example and waive or reduce park entry fees on June 5 or for a longer period.

Once you are there, why not set yourself a challenge (seek out a rare mammal, identify five butterflies, reach the remotest corner of the park). Record what you see, and send us a photo of yourself and/or your discoveries so we can post it on our digital channels and encourage others to go exploring too.

You could join the growing number of citizen scientists. More and more smartphone apps help you log your sightings and connect with others who can identify the species. The records feed into conservation strategies and map the effects of climate change on biodiversity.