Stressed and straining in what may be the hottest weeks in recorded history, Sri Lanka joins the international community today in marking World Earth Day with some countries having special events during the whole week.
The world is facing a self-made and self-destructive environmental catastrophe therefore Friday, April 22 could be considered as one of the most important days of the year and we need to reflect deeply on what action we could and should take – individually and collectively to reverse the climate change calamity.
World Earth Day, since 1970, is an annual event, celebrated on April 22 and events are held worldwide for a week to demonstrate support for environmental protection, which is needed more today than ever before.
It is now coordinated globally by the Earth Day Network and celebrated in about 200 countries.
The most important event today will be the signing of the landmark December 2015 Paris Agreement by the world’s economic super powers and unfortunately also the super polluters, the United States and China along with some 120 other countries, including Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka will sign the Paris Agreement today at the United Nations headquarters in New York, while the Government says a comprehensive strategy has been put in place to meet the global challenges on this life-or-death issue. President Maithripala Sirisena himself is the Minister of Environmental Affairs and has committed himself fully to reverse climate change and create a green Sri Lanka.
Representing him at the New York ceremony will be Science, Technology and Research Minister Susil Premajayanth, who is expected to outline to the UN the new national Government’s Blue-Green development strategy.
This strategy has been described by the Government’s as being sustainable, eco-friendly and all-inclusive.
The main thrust will be the setting up of 10,000 Environment Friendly villages, throughout the country by 2020.
The mission to implement the five point ‘Green and Environmentally Beautiful Sri Lanka’ programme will begin next year with the close cooperation of community movements.
When world leaders met in Paris in December last year for the 21st session of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) it was resolved that all possible actions be taken to limit the rise of global warming below 2 degrees Celsius by 2100. For developing nations like Sri Lanka, the limit was set at 1.5 degrees Celsius.
The theme for Earth Day 2016 is ‘Trees for the Earth’. The Earth Day Network in a statement says our planet is losing more than 15 billion trees each year due to deforestation, land development, and bad forest management. That is roughly 48 football fields every minute. In Sri Lankan terms we could say we are playing ‘pandu’ with our trees and environment. The Network says it has a plan to plant 7.8 billion trees by Earth Day’s 50th Anniversary in 2020.
Trees for the Earth will focus on the regions most affected by deforestation. In this mission the network will work with partners from all levels of society, integrate trees into all its existing campaigns, and create coalitions with national and sub national governments, mayors, faith leaders, businesses, and civil society movements across the globe.
So, on this sacred day let us become environmental citizens, who will protect Mother Nature and Mother Earth. May this Tree Friday and Tree Week bear rich fruit for the common good of all people of all religions and races, the poor and the rich.
As the American writer Joyce Kilmer has said in an immortal poem titled; Trees:
“I think that I shall never see,
A poem lovely as a tree;
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest,
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in summer wear,
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain,
Who intimately lives with rain.”