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People celebrate World Environment Day (WED) in many different ways all over the world: planting trees, cleaning up local beaches, organising meetings, joining online protests. Each year the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) chooses a particular issue to focus on. One year it might be forests, another year it might be wildlife. And each year there is a new host; a city which is the centre point for all the celebrations.
How it first started
The United Nations (UN) named 5 June as international World Environment Day at the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment in 1972. The idea was to draw attention to the many problems that are facing our environment. They wanted to include as many people, organisations and governments, both local and national, as possible. They wanted to show that positive change is possible when people work together to fight for a common cause.
The first World Environment Day
The first WED was celebrated in 1974 in the city of Spokane in the USA. The slogan for that first year was ‘Only One Earth’ and it was celebrated with the world’s first world fair to be dedicated to the environment. The exhibition lasted for six months.
Since 1974 the WED has been hosted by 34 different cities in 25 different countries around the world, from Cuba to Korea, from Belgium to Brazil. Some countries have hosted the main celebrations two or more times, including Bangladesh, Canada and China. But that doesn’t mean that all the celebrations take place in the host country. Every year people from all over the world take part in a huge number of different events to draw attention to the main issue.
Each year the celebrations focus on a particular problem. Over the last ten years key issues have included wildlife, forests and plastic waste, among other things. Each issue has a slogan. Past slogans include ‘Think. Eat. Save.’, which asked people to think about the issue of food waste, and ‘Raise your voice, not the sea level’, to focus on the effect that global warming is having on small island nations around the world. As well as slogans, hashtags have become important for the campaigns too. In a recent campaign the hashtag #WildforLife became a strong symbol for the fight against all kinds of illegal trading in plants and animals.
What you can do
If you want to take part in the celebrations, or support this year’s special cause, here are some things that you can do. You can visit the official website to find out what this year’s slogan is. You can search for the slogan online to find organisations and events in your area or online. You can share information about the cause and the events on social media or form a local action group of your own and organise an event in your community. Whatever you do, you won’t be alone. Millions of people all around the world will be joining the celebrations and fighting for a better future for our planet.