World Environment Day was observed on 5 June 2012 with the aim of educating global citizens about the dangers that threaten natural environments. To this end, the Department of Geography hosted a discussion based on this year’s theme, The green economy – Does it include you, which focuses on creating a low-carbon, resource efficient model for countries.
In 1972, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly established World Environment Day to mark the opening of the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the programme which creates awareness on environmental issues such as global warming. 2012 also celebrates 20 years since the first UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Earth Summit) in Brazil.
Prof Neil Eccles, Acting Chair of the Institute for Corporate Citizenship, discussed what the World Environment Day theme really means and the possible avenues for achieving a global green economy.
His presentation included the countries he felt were the closest to sustainability, those who were not, and nations that were completely unsustainable. There were several theories he outlined to maintain an equilibrium including depopulation, growing technology and lowering a country’s growth rate. Prof Eccles says the world needs to start asking some tough questions to become serious about solving the environmental perils of our time. “We knew 40 years ago that we would eventually need a green economy, so the question is, ‘do we have the time?’ Are we actually smart enough to solve this and do we actually have the will to want to change things?” Click here to view Prof Eccles’ full presentation.
|Front row, from left: Melanie Nicolau (Head of the Geography Department), Ernestina Nkooe (Department of Geography), Anna De Jager (Department of Geography). 2nd row: Anisa Khotoo (Department of Geography), Prof Neil Eccles (Acting Chair of the Institute for Corporate Citizenship), Prof Maggi Linington (Executive Director: College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences); 3rd row: Laura Steyn (Department of Geography), Jaco Immelman (Department of Geography), Chris Vlok (Department of Geography). Back row, Schalk Van Heerden (Department of Geography), Rhett Calvert (Department of Geography), Prof Jimmy Hendrick (Director: School of Environmental Sciences), David Hedding (Department of Geography), Hellene Steenkamp (Department of Geography), Prof Simphiwe Mini (Department of Geography)|
Prof Maggi Linington, Executive Director: College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, drew attention to the fact that South Africa needs a sound green economy. “The question of sustainability is a fundamental one. We should try to care for the earth now,” she said.
As one of the largest universities in the country, Unisa is also playing a critical role in reducing unsustainable practices. According to Prof Divya Singh, Vice-Principal: Advisory and Assurance Services, Unisa has been a signatory to the UN Global Compact since 2007, a strategic policy initiative for businesses that are committed to aligning their operations and strategies with ten universally accepted principles in the areas of human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption. “We subscribe to the Green agenda because of the sustainability obligations imposed by the King III Code, but also, more importantly, because it is the ethical thing to do. As a University, the Vice Chancellor has made ethics an institutional priority and he is driving the initiatives directly from his office.”
Unisa will also be rolling out a carbon footprint report and environmental policy from 2012-2013.