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Why Biodiversity Matters and What You Can Do on World Environment Day

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Fast is not always good. Species are becoming extinct at the fastest rate known in geological history, and most of these extinctions are tied to human activity. This year is the UN Year of Biodiversity and it seems as if in the blink of an eye, we are already half-way through it. This was a year that many of us had long looked forward to, perhaps with a mixture of excitement and trepidation.

gorilla and child

This was the year we had set a collective alarm clock as the deadline to achieve a significant reduction in the rate of loss of biodiversity. Now it is ringing rather loudly. All assessments of progress indicate that we are far from reaching the goals we set in 2002.

UNEP’s most recent report assessing biodiversity on Earth warns that a massive further loss of biodiversity is increasingly likely, and with it, a severe reduction of many essential services to society as “tipping points” are approached. That could mean terrifying scenarios – such as the dieback of large areas of the Amazon forest with consequences for the global climate, regional rainfall and widespread species extinctions. It may mean multiple collapses of coral reef ecosystems, due to a combination of ocean acidification, warmer waters and overfishing.

Rising global populations, a demand for more resources, finite oil supplies, increasing globalisation and massive species extinctions, all define an era that could be described as both a crisis and a wake-up call.

WED 2010

Every year the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) uses World Environment Day (WED) as a vehicle to raise worldwide awareness of important environmental issues with the aim of creating awareness and driving political action. This year’s WED will be held under the theme – Many Species. One Planet. One Future. This theme serves as a call to action to stop and reverse biodiversity loss.

UNEP is proud and pleased that Rwanda will be the host. Under the leadership of President Paul Kagame, Rwanda has developed a visionary strategy for sustainable development and environmental protection, with a spate of new policies and laws for environmental management. This is an opportunity to showcase the successes reached in Rwanda.

I have been to visit Rwanda in the run up to our WED events and am both impressed and awed. Rwanda, known affectionately as the “Land of a Thousand Hills” is located in Central Africa. Rwanda is a beautiful country and one that embodies the spirit of progressive political action to protect the environment. Here, environment is also a very important and sensitive factor in the socio-economic, political and cultural development of the country.

President Kagame has raised the environmental bar across the Continent and indeed the world by calling for a low carbon, resource efficient Green Economy. In doing so, he has articulated a new direction for action on poverty alleviation by linking the future of Africa’s economy with investing in environmental sustainability.

In the run up to WED 2010, we’re also calling on individuals, groups, communities and organizations to do their bit to conserve the diversity of life on our planet. This is a partnership between us all. Tell us what you are doing to mark WED, no matter how small. For every activity registered on our website, we will donate $10 to Gorilla conservation in Rwanda. That means your efforts count twice!

Our website also has a series of suggestions of everyday practical tips how to help “green our world”. For a more in depth look at all the exciting celebrations and festivities for this year’s biggest ever WED around the world and on the ground, please visit:

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