World Environment Day

June 5: For an ex-Environmental Educator, the date has huge significance.

June 5 in 1972 was the day the first UN International Conference on the Environment kicked off in Stockholm, Sweden. And since then, the day is observed as World Environment Day.

What was this Conference about? Well, it was called the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment. While it was termed a conference on the Environment, developing countries and NGOs brought to fore the need to link Environment with Development, insisting that the environment could not be considered in isolation. Today, this seems obvious, but back in  those days, this point had to be lobbied for, fought for and agitated for.


India can be proud of its contribution to this paradigm shift in thinking. Mrs. Indira Gandhi who attended the Conference, famously said in her address ‘Poverty is the biggest polluter’. Interestingly, India had even then realized the importance of Environmental concerns—Mrs. Gandhi was the only Head of State (other than that of the host country Sweden), to attend the Conference.

By contrast, the event to mark the 20th Anniversary of this conference, popularly called the Earth Summit and held in Rio de Janeiro, had 108 Heads of States in attendance!

Equally in contrast is India’s own attitude towards the environment. The high standards we set for ourselves and the world are certainly being diluted by our policy decisions and actions—now more rapidly than ever.

This, coupled with the disasters we are seeing around—from COVID to cyclones–all in some way or the other related to humankind’s exploitation of the environment, make it important to observe World Environment Day with even more seriousness than ever.

And while we are here, here is a quick look at WED themes over the years.

1973 Only one Earth
1974 Only one Earth (during Expo ’74)
1975 Human Settlements
1976 Water: Vital Resource for Life
1977 Ozone Layer Environmental Concern; Lands Loss and Soil Degradation
1978 Development without Destruction
1979 Only One Future for Our Children
1980 A New Challenge for the New Decade: Development without Destruction
1981 Ground Water; Toxic Chemicals in Human Food Chains
1982 Ten Years after Stockholm (Renewal of Environmental Concerns)
1983 Managing and Disposing Hazardous Waste: Acid Rain and Energy
1984 Desertification
1985 Youth: Population and the Environment
1986 A Tree for Peace
1987 Environment and Shelter: More Than A Roof
1988 When People Put the Environment First, Development Will Last
1989 Global Warming; Global Warning
1990 Children and the Environment
1991 Climate Change. Need for Global Partnership
1992 Only One Earth, Care and Share
1993 Poverty and the Environment
1994 One Earth One Family
1995 We the Peoples: United for the Global Environment
1996 Our Earth, Our Habitat, Our Home
1997 ·         For Life on Earth
1998 For Life on Earth (Save Our Seas)
1999 Our Earth – Our Future
2000 The Environment Millennium
2001 Connect the World with a World Wide Web
2002 Give Earth a Chance
2003 Water
2004 Wanted! Seas and Oceans
2005 Green Cities
2006 Deserts and Desertification
2007 Melting Ice – a Hot Topic
2008 CO2, Kick the Habit – Towards a Low Carbon Economy
2009 Your Planet Needs You – Unite to Combat Climate Change
2010 Many Species. One Planet. One Future
2011 Forests: Nature at your Service
2012 Green Economy: Does it include you?
2013 Think. Eat. Save
2014 small island developing states
2015 One World, One Environment
2016 Zero tolerance for the illegal trade in wildlife
2017 Connecting People to Nature
2018 Beat Plastic Pollution
2019 Beat Air Pollution
2020 Time for Nature


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