Celsias is headquartered in New Zealand (although our editor is in the U.S. and our writers hail from over twenty countries) so it is particularly exciting to be a part of World Environment Day 2008 in our home town of Wellington.
Events included a ‘crowd freeze’ organized by Intersect, a leadership and networking organization for young people, where at exactly noon on Lambton Quay, hundreds of people who had been pre-positioned in a high-traffic area of the city suddenly stopped in their tracks, while students handed out flyers to the astonished lunch-time crowd describing steps people can take to save the planet. The participants stayed still for a full 5 minutes until, at the sound of a saxophone, they began to move again. The Freeze was inspired by similar 'flash mob' events that have happened around the world, including one at Grand Central Station in New York. However, this was one of the first times a Freeze was used to promote environmental issues.
On a more serious (and moving) note, President Anote Tong of the Pacific island nation of Kiribati spoke eloquently about the personal impact that global warming and rising sea levels are having on his country and its people. He described the Kiribati population as devoutly Christian, and when global warming first appeared in the media, many church leaders dismissed the reports, telling their congregations that God would never allow such a travesty to happen to their beautiful country. However, the population now accepts that Kiribati will likely be submerged this century. In fact, global warming is already manifesting itself; farmers are demanding compensation from his government for ruined taro crops as salt water encroaches groundwater, and several villages founded hundreds of years ago have been moved to higher ground.
Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore last year, exhorted everyone to become vegetarian. That drew a chuckle until he explained that the greenhouse gases emitted in raising, feeding, slaughtering, chilling and distributing meat is far greater than the equivalent nutritional value available from locally-grown vegetables, nuts and fruits.
Prime Minister Helen Clark handed-out awards to the finalists in the Seventeenth International Children’s Painting Competition on the Environment. Organized annually by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and sponsored by Nikon and Bayer since 1991, over 15,000 children between 6 and 14 years old submitted paintings that described their feelings about global warming. The winners came from countries as diverse as Nigeria, Ukraine, the U.S., France, China, and Brazil, driving home the point that climate change knows no borders.World Environment Day was part celebration for what has already been achieved in terms of public awareness, but also part admonition that the time to act is now if we are to save our fellow citizens from the menace that is global warming.