Australia is home to vast forests, oceans abundant with marine life and an enchanting range of flora and fauna unique to our continent. The Murray River is experiencing its best health in over a decade, with increased water flow replenishing drought-affected wetlands and floodplains, leading to a boom in flora and fauna growth. In positive signs for Australian marine health, Victoria’s Port Phillip and Western Port bays have reported record numbers of whale and dolphin sightings.
Despite these environmental positives, much of Australia’s rich biodiversity remains under threat. Over half of the native fish found in the Murray-Darling basin are now regarded as threatened species following years of drought and man-made wetland degradation. The world-heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef has experienced serious coral bleaching as sea temperature continue to rise. Meanwhile, Australian biodiversity and soil have been irreversibly impacted by deforestation and clearing for agricultural purposes, driving already endangered species to the brink of extinction.
The occasion of World Environment Day on June 5th provides us with the perfect opportunity to reflect on the environmental consequences of human activity in Australia. Established by the United Nations in 1972 to promote awareness of environmental issues, World Environment Day encourages people from across the globe to consider ways they can improve the quality of life of all living things without harming the environment. The day is also a means of celebrating the valuable work of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), who have worked tirelessly on the development of international environmental conventions and assisted national governments to implement environmentally responsible policies and practices.
The theme for World Environment Day in 2017 is ‘Connecting People to Nature’. This theme invites us to reflect on our personal connection with the environment, to appreciate the beauty of our native wildlife, and to pledge to protect Australia’s rich biodiversity from ever-increasing environmental challenges.
What can you do on World Environment Day?
People are urged to organise or take part in a variety of events and awareness campaigns, from beach clean-ups and tree re-planting to galvanizing collective action to protect the environment. Many state governments and local councils will be facilitating World Environment Day events, so get in touch with your local council to learn how you can participate.
You may also wish to attend the World Environment Day Awards, hosted by the United Nations Association of Australia. The awards will highlight and recognise the innovative and outstanding environmental programs and initiatives across Australia. More information on the awards can be found here.
And if photography is more your thing, people are invited to use social media to show their personal connection to nature by taking part in the UNEP World Environment Day photo competition. Entrants are urged to post photos and videos of their favourite places in nature with the hashtag #WorldEnvironmentDay and #WithNature, with the best photos to be featured in an exhibition held at the United Nations headquarters. More information on the competition can be found here.