Every day, is a day on earth

At the moment it seems as though there are days, even weeks, for everything. To start with the most obvious are the most famous and well observed. Take for instance religious days in the Jewish, Christian, Musilm, Hindu, Zostran and many other faiths. On the other end of the spectrum is May Day, internationally celebrated throughout the world by communists, workers and socialist of all types. 

You also get Days devoted to historical events. There is the famous American Independence celebrations, St Patricks day (possibly more famous), D-Day and Martin Luther King Memorial Day. In South Africa historical days are peppered throughout our calendar. These include the commemorations of the first democratic elections in 1994, the Sharpeville Massacre and the 1976 student up-risings all of which are officially public holidays.

The UN is also an important generator of international days such as world Aids Day, World Women’s Day and the international Day of Peace. These are the most well known ones but  you’ve probably also heard of International Literacy Day, World Cancer Day, World Health Day, World Malaria Day and World Heart day. Others which you may have escaped your notice however include International Jazz Day, World Radio Day, World Poetry Day, International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action, Day of the Seafarer, World Post Day, World Philosophy Day, Africa Industrialization Day, World Population Day and the International Day of Human Space Flight. Again all of these are officially sanctioned by the UN.

Of course not all days are so serious, many people around the world celebrate Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and even Secretaries Day. Then there is the ultimate Heart-Making-Breaking Day whose number of devoted adherents is matched only by the amount of appalled cynics it generates, Valentine’s Day.

The environment has a day all for itself, the simply named World Environment Day, but there are a number of related ones as well dealing with different categories. These include World Water Day, World Meteorological Day, World Migratory Bird Day, World Day of Biological Diversity,  World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought, World Habitat Day even an International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict.

All celebratory days of are designed to highlight a specific issue and create awareness. Although those affected by the issues raised by these days are often very grateful for the increased spotlight there has also been a lot of criticism from affected groups. Take for instance the 16 days of activism against women and child abuse. Gender activists rightly point out that given the plague of violence happening in South Africa that 16 days simply is not enough. They would rather that this was an issue consistently on the national agenda and one that should not be tackled with a smiling politician and a photo opportunity once a year.

On the other hand there are important issues with their own days such as World Head Injury Awareness day.  Perhaps this is does not always require large a constant national focus and highlighting the issue once year has potential life saving qualities.

In this context the environment presents something of special case. When modern environmental activism began in the 1960’s a lot of work was put into “Big Issue” aspects of the problem. These normally focused on things like industrial activity, individual species conservation such as Whales and Rhinos (sadly a problem once again) and the creation of large conservation areas. All of these issues were things that were most easily dealt with by state agencies and bodies that created international law. To be sure public sentiment was important to pressurise governments and companies to take action but at it was at the institutional level where a lot of action took place. For this kind of change “International Day” type activism was an important and useful tool to get the message across.

Recently however we have seen a sea of change in the way that people are addressing the issue. Institutions at a government, corporate and international level have been in place quite some time and have started have a definite effect on “mainstreaming” the issue of the environment. There are still problems however with unwieldy bureaucracies not being agile enough to deal with quickly evolving environmental issues. Philosophically the environment has also started to change. Ideas like sustainable development which encompass the social and economic spheres are tremendously popular as are the “bottom-up” approaches that it espouses. In addition new challenges such as global warming have focused the issue on how individuals can make a difference to the green cause not just the “big boys”. This has in turn changed the type of emphasis the people place on their activism. For instance whilst we still have Earth Day, where people get together, plant trees, collect rubbish and talk about the environment, we now also have Earth Hour.  Here the focus is on just one hour where people turn off their lights to save energy. Famous landmarks around the world have gotten involved to highlight the problem by turning off their lights. The campaign is highly visual, makes use of social media, only focuses on an hour and asks individual people to switch off their own lights. These show all the hall marks of new approaches to environment awareness and the show the next generation of green activism.

The Joburg Green Map is definitely part of this revolution. People in South African are really starting to get the message that the environment is important and would like to do something about. The obvious place to start this is our cities, homes and communities however, especially in Johannesburg, people still battle to plug into the institutions that can help make this change. Whether it is a nearby recycling depo or a great place to get organic produce, the Joburg Green Map is the perfect tool to help create a cleaner greener society in your own way and assist in making every day, a day on earth.


The original version of this article first appeared on www.absoluteenergy.co.za

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