What must concern us all is that the environment is not an infinite provider of resources.
So said Edna Molewa, minister of environmental affairs at the launch of World Environment Day on 5 June in MANGAUNG, FREE STATE.
She was talking to a large contingent of young people, taking the opportunity to combine celebrations of environment and youth day, which also traditionally takes place in June every year.
World Environment Day was established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1972 at the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment to create, educate and raise awareness on environmental conservation. WED is the biggest, most widely celebrated global day for positive environmental action. This year's theme for WED, as set by the UN is The Green Economy: Does it include you?
According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the Green economy is a system of economic activities resulting in improved human well-being, while ensuring the protection of future generations against significant environmental risks and ecological scarcities. The green economy is driven by sectors such as water, fisheries, waste management and policy, research and governance. "The South African government has identified the green economy as one of the key elements in the new growth path as well as in the industry policy action plan," said Molewa.
The transitioning to a green economy brings with it many advantages; these include reduced carbon emissions, energy and resource efficiency and real sustainable economic growth. "A low-carbon, resource efficient and sustainable economy has the potential to create jobs across many sectors of the economy and we can become an engine of development," said Molewa.
"Our diverse biodiversity is our competitive edge in growing our economy whilst at the same time addressing climate change and we are doing that through our Environment Programmes."
Restoring and preserving natural ecosystems can stimulate rural economies, create rural and urban jobs and help maintain critical ecosystem services that are vital to the economy such as energy and water supply.
"Through our Environment Programmes, we aim to enhance water security, improve ecological integrity, restore the productive potential of land, promote sustainable use of natural resources and invest in the most marginalized sectors of South African society."
Other key events celebrated during Environment Month included World Oceans Day on 8 June (WOD) and World Day to Combat Desertification on 17 June (WDCD). This year the Department also focused on Bioprospecting, Access and Benefit Sharing (BABS) as part of its activities.
World Oceans Day was celebrated under the theme, "Knowing our Oceans, Safeguarding its Benefits." The theme emphasised the fundamental importance of understanding our oceans and how they impact on society, through science and technology, thereby enabling us to manage our ocean resources effectively. Our oceans provide numerous benefits that can only be secured and safeguarded through knowledge. The benefits derived from the oceans include: climate regulation, waste absorption, sustenance, economic development through tourism, and seafood distribution, transportation, medicine and recreation.
World Day to Combat Desertification is observed annually on 17 June. World Day to Combat Desertification has been observed since 1994 to promote public awareness relating to international cooperation to combat desertification and the effects of drought, and the implementation of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). The 2012 theme, as set by the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification was Healthy soil sustains life, let's go land degradation neutral.