03 June 2011
by Jingqi Liu
Tonle Sap, Cambodia: National UN Volunteer Leng Lay is an Assistant to the NSLS (National Sustainable Livelihood Specialist). The Tonle Sap biosphere covers over 30,000 hectares and provides refuge for some 200 different plant and fish species, along with 42 different reptile species and 15 mammal species. The UN Volunteers train people to conserve and sustainably manage biodiversity and natural resources, meaning that they have to live and learn how life works in the floating villages too. The project runs in partnership with UNDP-GEF and the Government of Japan. (Peter Harris / United Nations Volunteers, 2008) Bonn, Germany:
This year, World Environment Day on 5 June is themed ‘Forests: Nature at your Service’. It notes how the ‘work’ of forest ecosystems is intrinsically connected to people’s daily life.
Each of us has a reciprocal responsibility to green the earth that gives us life. So it is crucial to acknowledge the great contributions that ordinary citizens have made to our environment through volunteering.
People volunteer in many ways to help make our world a better place, but environmental action tops the bill.
Volunteers have always contributed their time, knowledge and hard work tackling diverse issues like climate change, biodiversity, deforestation and water conservation, physically and intellectually, at home and abroad.
At local levels, the grassroots efforts of indigenous people in their own communities contribute enormously to protecting their local environments. The integration of community members in environmental projects and campaigns can bring in creative and localized solutions to tackle environmental challenges.
An inspiring example is the Dhaba forest village in India. Through the joint effort of all 17 families, the villagers have not just protected but expanded 600 acres of forest cover around their village. The branches of volunteerism have allowed these citizens to reach corners which could otherwise have been difficult to cover.
The volunteers’ positive impact on the environment is not just about their actions, but also about passing on awareness of the environment, influencing the people and communities around them. The villagers of Dhaba have been spreading countless seeds in every single corner.
So, while UN agencies, governments, NGOs, businesses and civil society continue cooperating for a better environment, we must also continue to value and advocate for the power of volunteerism.
Ten years ago, we celebrated the International Year of Volunteers, and during the past decade, the seeds of volunteerism have germinated and spread. Without doubt, if volunteerism takes root, it will bear fruit throughout the future of our planet.