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Global Theme for World Environment Day 2022: Only One Earth

An introduction to this year’s World Environment Day on the theme of 'Only One Earth' - with reflections from Chartered Environmentalists.

What is World Environment Day 2022?

This year’s World Environmental Day (WED), set to take place on the 5th of June, celebrates 50 years of championing sustainable living – striving for a way of life that doesn’t negatively impact the environment and all its ecosystems.

 

Where do SocEnv fit in?

The Society for The Environment (SocEnv) is a champion of WED in the UK and beyond. SocEnv has a cross-sector reach, bringing together professionals from a wide range of disciplines, giving us a platform to raise awareness of WED and drive real change.

 

What is the 2022 World Environment Day theme?

The theme chosen for this World Environmental Day has its roots in history, as this year marks 50 years since ‘Only One Earth’ was the motto of the 1972 Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment, and then the theme of the very first World Environment Day, in 1974.

 

So why it is important?

We are using the earth’s resources at an unsustainable speed. The theme sends the simple message that this planet is our only home, and we must live in a way that protects it for today and into the future. There is no Planet B.

To explain more about why this year’s theme is so important, we asked the experts – Chartered Environmentalists (CEnv) for  their insights.

Chartered Environmentalist status is achieved through the dedication and expertise of an  environmental professional from their respective field, ranging from: engineering, forestry, ecology, to name just a few. This status sets CEnv apart from others working in their field so they can utilise their specific expertise to lead, advise and work hands-on as practitioners.

Read on to discover the true value of this year’s WED theme and how you can get involved.

 

CEnv Insights

First up, our Vice Chair Dougal Driver CEnv, CEO of Grown in Britain, explains how this year’s theme must help to drive cross-sector collaboration. Dougal explains:

“This year’s World Environment Day is once again a rallying call for environmental action. The theme ‘Only One Earth’ helps to illustrate the reality of the Earth’s finite resources and therefore, the urgent need to protect the environment, in order to meet the needs of current and future generations.

The theme also reflects an important truth, which is that the Earth is home to all of us, and it is the responsibility of everyone to help to preserve it. We must work together and collaborate, in whatever way we can.

As an umbrella body working in partnership with professionals, institutions, and organisations across sectors, collaboration is at the heart of everything SocEnv does. There are solutions to the environmental challenge in front of us – and by working together we help to share knowledge and maximise our impact.

For this year’s World Environment Day and beyond, we call on everyone to join us and get involved – whether that be by sharing a case study of what you’re doing, holding an event to drive awareness and action, or by gaining top tips on creating change via #OnlyOneEarth on social media.”

 

Reflecting on how things have changed since the inception of World Environment Day, Professor Carolyn Roberts CEnv FRGS FIEnvSc FCIWEM CWEM SFHEA, Water and Environment Consultant, adds:

“I left home for University College London in September 1972, unaware that only a few weeks earlier a major step had been taken in managing global environmental challenges. Acid rainfall, chemical pollution, and desertification did not appear in school syllabi for either Geography or Geology, and certainly not in Physics. But the UN’s Stockholm Conference had started the ball rolling, and we Geography undergraduates were introduced to early graphs of rising carbon dioxide levels recorded in Mauna Loa, prompting debate about the influence of human activity and fossil fuels – far-sighted lecturers! The newly published ‘Limits to Growth’ volume on resource depletion was also on the agenda, as was Rachel Carson’s ‘Silent Spring’, testifying to the unexpected damage to wildlife caused by profligate DDT use. But the word ‘sustainability’ was not in common parlance, and I don’t think I had ever heard it used.

Fifty years on, a lot has changed, and many of the more acute issues are partly resolved – acid rainfall and the hole in the ozone layer have been addressed if not eliminated though international collaboration. Acute point-source pollution is now illegal almost everywhere. Environmental science is on school and university curricula, and ‘sustainability’ routinely forms part of business narratives. Professional bodies now exist that promote more holistic approaches to the science – the impacts of land use and energy choices on climate change, soils and ecology, are recognised in much legislation. But the global challenge has simultaneously become more critical, whilst agreement does not imply local compliance. In the UK we still have widespread shameful practices. 375,000 discharges of raw sewage into English rivers in 2021, for instance, is a national disgrace, and occurs despite the fact that we have the technology to handle it. And because of the exigencies of the appalling Ukraine war and the consequent impacts on gas supplies, the UK government is contemplating restarting coal mines and North Sea oil extraction. Climate change is proving extremely intractable, despite the international agreements. There is clearly much further to go.”

 

Penny Walker CEnv FRSA CPF FIEMA Dip.IEC also emphasises the solutions that exist to the challenges in front of us, drawing from her own work as a facilitator and environmental consultant:

“It’s clearer than ever that we only have one Earth. Every day we see more evidence of how interconnected we are, and how dependent we are on our beautiful and over-pressured planet. There are conflicts over resources, eco-system collapse, extreme weather events, mass movements of people escaping terrible situations and finding a better future for themselves and their families. It’s hard not to look away.

The great news is that we already have all the technical solutions we need to meet everyone’s needs today and into the long-term future. It needs all of us to listen to each other better, with compassion and curiosity, to overcome the barriers and find new ways of living together on Earth. Sharing, reusing, being super-smart with how we use energy and resources, making space for wild things. We can do this at home, in our communities and as part of our work.

When I see people creating solutions, it recharges my hope and gives me the extra push I need for my own sustainability projects.”

 

Adding insights from his work in the further education sector, Russell Burton CEnv MIEMA MCIOB, Director of Hillside Environmental Services, said:

“’Only One Earth’ stands as true today as it did 50 years ago, yet the solutions available to us have advanced. The planet’s resources are limited, and the climate emergency is prevalent but the change that we need is happening on the ground.

In our work with the further education sector, we are seeing every day the commitment of the younger generation to combat climate change. This is reflected in schools, colleges, and universities that are creating green curriculums as well as practicing what they preach by setting net-zero targets and becoming eco-friendly operations.

Seeking help from environmental consultants, educational institutes are implementing carbon-reduction solutions such as ground-source heat pumps, solar PV, and smart technologies. Keen to avoid greenwashing, they are reporting on and making continuous improvements across all emission scopes.

It’s a brilliant example of the solutions available to us to motivate climate action rather than dwell on environmental damage.

Of course, barriers still exist, such as funding, but new opportunities like government grants and private finance are available there, too. Momentum is building every day to combat climate change, another sign that the 1972 ‘Only One Earth’ motto is still significant.”

 

Further information

World Environment Day