The link between a healthy planet and the health of humanity is increasingly apparent.
Biodiversity loss from climate change, habitat destruction, chemical pollution and invasive species creates closer contact between animals and humans — making it easier for viruses to generate and escalate.
On June 5, the world honoured World Environment Day, a day designated by the United Nations to encourage global awareness and action to protect the environment and, in turn, future generations.
This year, World Environment Day marked its 20th anniversary, and Australian Global Citizens celebrated by attending Global Citizen’s free online event — which unpacked how the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has presented a once in a lifetime opportunity to reset the environmental future and featured a range of incredible guest speakers.
In honour of #WorldEnvironmentDay on June 5, @GlblCtznAU is hosting a free webinar to unpack how #COVID19 has presented a once in a generation opportunity to reset our environmental future — and we’d love for you to join us!— GlblCtznAU (@GlblCtznAU) May 28, 2020
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Global Citizen Australian Country Director, Sarah Meredith, began the event by conveying Global Citizen’s long-standing commitment to educating others on the long-term impacts of environmental destruction.
"At Global Citizen, we want to see a world without poverty, and a healthy environment is essential to that,” she said. “We know that the environment is something our Australian and New Zealand Global Citizens are deeply passionate about, and we wanted to take the opportunity of World Environment Day to hear from some incredible speakers who have dedicated much of their lives to improving the planet for all of us.”
Among those fighting to protect natural ecosystems is Andy Ridley, the founder of Earth Hour and CEO and founder of ocean conservation organisation, Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef.
Ridley explained that Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef uses innovative technology and data to monitor and protect the world’s largest reef. While under “incredible pressure from climate change,” Ridley highlighted that the reef is resilient and should be regarded as an “inspiration for change.”
"Change is possible. That is the massive takeaway from COVID-19,” he said. “What scares me is losing this opportunity for change. We can’t approach conservation in the way we have been before. We all need to ask ourselves what is it that we are not addressing and what do we want to address to make real change.”
Alongside Ridley, ARIA-nominated songwriter, producer and climate activist Holly Rankin joined the event.
Rankin, better known as Jack River, took the time to share how she first became an environmental activist and offered insight into how others could similarly get involved on a local and federal level.
"It’s really hard to know where to start,” she said. “For me, it's about educating, and then sharing information in a way that's easy to understand. Now, more than ever, it's time to become extremely informed and then share really useful information that's going to create impact.”
River added: “Every person here should contact their state and federal members and their mayors. Scroll through their recorded communication on the climate and then reach out and communicate with your leaders.”
Climate, COVID and community - join us and share your views at 11am on Friday 5th June: World Environment Day. Register here: https://t.co/MJn1ONMFA8pic.twitter.com/7ab8KgOFrM— GLHAM (@glhamorg) June 4, 2020
Also in attendance was Misha Coleman, the executive director of the Global Health Alliance Australia, a peak body representing 48 global health organisations. Coleman is also the Mayor of the City of Yarra, an inner suburb Melbourne council that just released its first Climate Emergency Plan.
"Preparedness and response need to happen on a national level,” Coleman told the audience. “The intersection between climate change, environmental health and animal health is absolutely inexplicable. To make an individual change, we have to buy things without packaging and force the supply of non-packaged food. We can’t just rely on recycling; we have to generate less waste.”
Coleman ended by echoing River’s call to action for everyone to contact their local representatives.
"Everyone ring your major and ask what they are doing to respond to the climate emergency,” she said.
You can watch the full World Environment Day event on Global Citizen’s Australia Facebook page.
Global Citizen holds events around the world, year-round.
The Australian Global Citizen team are always adding new exciting events in cities across the country and online — so make sure you check back on our Facebook page for announcements on upcoming events.
These events provide an opportunity for people to join the conversation with like-minded Global Citizens, hear from pioneering activists creating incredible change, meet the Australian Global Citizen team and learn how to increase impact within their community and beyond.