World Environment Day (WED), celebrated annually on 5 June since 1972, took on a more popular flavour in 2015. While official preparations got off to a slow start, grassroots actions from people across the world gave the campaign a vitality not seen in years.
In Saudi Arabia, 15 women crocheted a mural from 2,000 plastic bags in support of this year’s theme—Seven Billion Dreams. One Planet. Consume with Care. As members of a collective, Kees Chic, the women focused on countering the negative impact of export-driven growth that does not benefit local people or the planet because of increased carbon emissions from transport.
“There is no good in a nation that neither eats what they grow nor wears what they have made themselves,” they said. With their activities, they aim to reduce plastic waste, increase employment for women and improve local handmade productions. In Islamic Republic of Iran, with the cooperation of Kurdistan’s Department of Environment, Ashti Cultural Cycling Club demonstrated the impacts of waste to villagers in Asr Abad through a neighbourhood clean-up activity. With the help of local children, they displayed banners and posters, and handed out brochures during the bike ride and clean-up event.
Other grassroots activities included a sailing expedition from Panama to Port Douglas, launched by the Edmondson family on WED. Steve, Katrina and their two children sailed out with the hope their actions will increase awareness and appreciation of our natural and fragile environment.
Cote d’Ivoire focused on consumption patterns that are making our world unsustainable. The government sent out a mobile truck to market WED that travelled through three cities, as well as smaller communities, in a bid to spread the word far and wide. Panel discussions on the theme were also broadcast on television.
Of course, official events also took place across the globe involving high-level politicians. President Sergio Mattarella gave a speech on WED in Italy, the official host country for WED 2015. Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, got his hands dirty and dug in to plant a tree.
Meanwhile, Brazilian authorities hosted an entire week of celebrations for WED.
Celebrities like Nadya Hutangalung, Leonardo DiCaprio and Richard Branson, and religious leader Sri Sri Ravis Shankar also lent their support. In addition, UNEP Goodwill ambassadors Yaya Touré, Jack Johnson, Gisele Bündchen, Ian Somerhalder, Li Bingbing and Suzanna Owiyo were engaged in many hands-on and online activities.
Apart from grassroots and official activities, WED was also celebrated via various types of technology. In Paris, more than 173 electronic billboards around the city announced WED over three days. Beijing Airport Authority displayed 80 large billboards, 400 television screens and 64 LED screens with WED messaging.
Meanwhile, on Twitter, WED trended globally in over 20 countries on the day. Businesses, NGOs, politicians, celebrities and individuals all posted tweets with WED messaging. On YouTube, over 500 new videos (news clips, documentaries, event footage, music videos and animations) were uploaded in celebration. The media were not to be left out, generating more than 18,000 news articles in 35 languages on WED across the world.
This year’s theme for WED clearly resonated with the audience. People were able to personalize how they saw environmental issues touching their own lives, and respond through appropriate positive actions. With over 1 million people registered on the WED website as participants, World Environment Day 2015 has unleashed a torrent of passion for the planet through diverse and creative activities.