Editorial comment – Protecting our environment

Minister for Environment Parveen Kumar and students of Rishikul Sanatan College in Nasinu mark National Environment Day. Picture: FILIPE NAIGULEVU

YESTERDAY was a special day. On June 5 every year we promote awareness about the importance of our environment. Issues that affect our environment and how we can tackle major concerns are highlighted.

This day was first celebrated in 1973 and has become a very important day in the calendar of many countries around the world.

Yesterday would have been about acknowledging our biodiversity and how we can live and maintain our environment.

More than 200 students from 40 schools within the Suva-Nausori corridor yesterday signed a pledge to be part of a nationwide movement in combating plastic pollution.

They were part of the launch of the national environment celebration at the Rishikul Sanatan College in Nasinu.

That was when Environment Minister Parveen Kumar revealed that a study conducted by the ministry found that about 50 to 60 million plastic bags were used annually in Fiji.

He said Fiji’s once healthy environment was declining because of industrialisation, deforestation, technological development, global warming and pollution.

He urged Fijians to take care of the environment.

Mr Kumar said with this year’s theme being “Beat Plastic Pollution”, the ministry would be hosting Fijians in all divisions to understand the theme better.

“To beat plastic pollution we need to entirely rethink our approach to designing, producing and using plastic products,” he said.

“For this World Environment Day, our national goal is to inspire the kind of solutions that lead to sustainable behavioural change. This will enable us to build on the national momentum to beat plastic pollution.”

He urged Fijians to use the day as a turning point to inspire innovators, activists and leaders in the country to do more than just clean up existing plastics.

In fact we should appreciate and face up to environmental challenges ranging from climate change, global warming, and related issues such as natural disasters, harmful substances, ecosystem management and resource efficiency.

Ideally, World Environment Day should be every day.

We should talk about awareness campaigns, organised clean-ups and many other community events that promote this special day.

It would be good to see the message of protection of our environment spread as widely as possible to every corner of the globe.

We should work on improving the quality of our lives while being mindful of the need to protect nature. As much as we would want to promote a good life for ourselves and our future generations, we have a challenge to embrace such campaigns.

Many of us take a lot of things for granted and forget there are things that we do that negatively impact our environment.

Last year, United Nations secretary general Antonio Guterres urged people of the world to understand the role we have to play to protect our only home.

In his apt message for the special day, he said, “Oceans. Land. Forests. Water. The air that we breathe. This is our environment. It is the keystone of a sustainable future. Without a healthy environment we cannot end poverty or build prosperity. We can use less plastics. Drive less. Waste less food. And teach each other to care. Let us cherish the planet that protects us.”

The Fiji Times will endeavour to play its part in the dissemination of relevant news for people to make well-informed decisions in their lives.

We can make or break our environment. That is why it is important that we take ownership of our country and make important changes in our lives today.

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