World Environment Day 2015: Lessons from Sesame Street

Jasmine Huggins | June 5, 2015

Maria del Cid Aguilar and her son on her farm in Las Marias, Usulután, El Salvador. Leaf rust has destroyed most of her coffee farm, and she is preparing to plant cocoa alongside it, because it is more resistent to the higher temperatures and humidity that have come with climate change. Climate change adaptation is a serious challenge for organizations working in rural areas. Photo: Sean Hawkey

Maria del Cid Aguilar and her son on her farm in Las Marias, Usulután, El Salvador. Leaf rust has destroyed most of her coffee farm, and she is preparing to plant cocoa alongside it, because it is more resistent to the higher temperatures and humidity that have come with climate change. Climate change adaptation is a serious challenge for organizations working in rural areas. Photo: Sean Hawkey

Was anyone out there a hardcore Sesame Street fan?  I certainly was.  Perhaps I should be embarrassed, but even today, at my ripe old age, I still remember many of those songs and their lyrics so very well.  One of them was about Willie Wimple, who walked around the streets tossing garbage everywhere, in streets and in rivers and lakes. “Now if every kid did it, can’t you see, what an icky, messy, dirty, no fun world it would be.  YUCK.”  So went the jingle.

Today, I am remembering young Willie and humming that memorable tune.  It is World Environment Day – the day designated by the United Nations to raise awareness and call for action around the globe on environmental protection.   The WED theme this year is “Seven Billion Dreams. One Planet. Consume with Care.” The message could not come any sooner, for scientists have been telling us for several years now that the world is perilously close to damaging tipping points in the management of increasingly vulnerable ecosystems.

It turns out that we have not been consuming with care. According to the UN, the current pace of extraction of natural resources is rapidly outstripping their availability and accessibility. We consume far too much – notably in developed countries – and this consumption is placing an inordinate burden on global supplies. Environmental degradation is one of the results of this overconsumption; we are polluting our waters, chopping down invaluable tropical forests, turning enormous acres of formerly agricultural land into pastures for controversial biofuels and depleting natural water supplies. In doing so, we are harming a hitherto balanced ecological system that evolved over centuries.

We also have been using far too much energy, particularly from fossil fuel-based sources such as oil, coal and gas, all of which have generated high carbon emissions. Science now tells us that our dependence on such energy sources has had a devastating effect on changing climatic patterns across the globe; our oceans are getting hotter, ever more extreme weather is being experienced all over the world and critically important glacial waters are melting at a faster pace than even the climate scientists originally predicted. According to the United States Environmental Defense Fund, there is no species on the planet, neither man, flora nor fauna that will remain unaffected. Climate Change will affect agriculture, transportation, water supply, and all other aspects of life. For decades, it seems, we have been like Willie Wimple, tossing garbage around, and we are fast approaching an alarming, potentially irreversible, “yuck” moment.

But every kid can do differently. Just like the song said. We are part of the 7 billion and we can contribute to the dream of a better cared for planet.  It will not be too late, but we need to start acting now and we need to be consistent.  Today, CWS invites you to pledge to take some individual action that can contribute to the global effort.  If you pledge to take an action today, you will be literally joining thousands of persons across the planet, also promising to take one small step towards a healthier planet. Call it our commitment to a “no – yuck“ moment.

There are so many changes that you can promise to make:

  • use plastic bags less and fewer plastics generally;
  • turn off the TV if you are not looking at it;
  • turn off all the lights when you leave the office/house, and the computer and the screen too;
  • turn off the water until you are really ready to rinse;
  • wash more with cold water and dry more with natural sunlight;
  • turn the heating/air conditioning down one degree;
  • switch to an ecofriendly energy source;
  • walk or cycle more and drive less;
  • exercise your individual consumer power by being more circumspect about what you buy and from which company you buy it.

And, because we know that the Willie Wimples out there are not just individuals, but also wasteful companies, transnational corporations and extractive industries, your pledge today could be to write to them and put on the pressure for awareness and reform.  Then pledge to use your electoral power by contacting your members of Congress – particularly those who still deny that Climate Change is real and was caused by all of us – to demand action, including greater enforcement of environmental protections across all government departments.

All these individual pledges will add up and make a change.

On Twitter?  Tweet us your pledge for World Environment Day and tag @CWS_Global.  We’ll retweet some of our favorite pledges.

Today, I am pledging to stop running the shower for so long, finally end my addiction to plastic bags and cease having the television on as background noise.   I know that it will make a small, but important difference.

Jasmine Huggins is a Senior Advocacy Officer with CWS.


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