Delegate Highlights Crucial Potential Role of Millennials in Creating Sustainable Future, as General Assembly Marks Tenth International Mother Earth Day

GA/12138
22 April 2019
Seventy-third Session, Interactive Dialogue on Harmony with Nature (AM & PM)

Delegate Highlights Crucial Potential Role of Millennials in Creating Sustainable Future, as General Assembly Marks Tenth International Mother Earth Day

Speakers Stress Vital Role of Education, Skills in Tackling Environmental Issues

Thanks to their education, millennials are much more attuned to environmental issues and can play a crucial role in creating a sustainable future, India’s representative said today as the 193‑nation General Assembly commemorated International Mother Earth Day.

He said there is no doubt that an educated and knowledgeable population, aware of its planetary footprint, is better equipped and more disposed to address Earth’s problems.  Recalling that rulings by the Supreme Court of India in 1991 and 2003 made environmental education compulsory in schools and universities, he said that, going forward, non-school initiatives are required to educate rural and urban communities on the need to build resilience against natural disasters, adapt to environmental challenges and manage potential risk.

Assembly President María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés (Ecuador), addressing the opening segment of an interactive dialogue on the commemoration, emphasized that education is the key to a sustainable future since young people must be equipped with knowledge and skills.

Also addressing the opening segment was a community rights activist advocating for the Lake Erie Bill of Rights, who recalled that the people of Toledo, Ohio, voted in February and approved that local charter amendment, which recognizes the lake’s inalienable rights to exist, flourish and evolve naturally.  Through the law, she said, members of the community seek to hold accountable polluters — including corporations, Governments and individuals — who profit from production- and extraction-related economic activities despite their known degradation of the life-sustaining ecosystems of Lake Erie, the source of drinking water for 11 million people.  “Injustice will only triumph if we choose to remain hostage to an oppressive system of laws that support the needs of industry and greed over the very real and dire needs of this planet,” she warned.

Bolivia’s Deputy Minister for Environment, Biodiversity, Climate Change and Forest Management and Development emphasized the need to end capitalism and forge a new system based on complementarity between people and nature.

Ecuador’s representative, recalling that his country’s Constitution was the first in the world to recognize the rights of nature, said children must grow up learning respect for animals and plants.  It is also important to empower young people to make their opinions on environmental protection heard, he added, suggesting that the United Nations Institute for Training and Research provide more courses to help diplomats and others improve their knowledge of environmental issues.

The representative of Bangladesh pointed out that children are the biggest stakeholders in the fourth Industrial Revolution, emphasizing the need to reform educational systems in order to forge a stronger bond between children and nature.

Today’s interactive dialogue featured two panel discussions focusing on education and climate action.  The commemoration was held in accordance with General Assembly resolution 73/235, entitled “Harmony with Nature”, which requested that the President convene an interactive dialogue to discuss the contributions of harmony with nature in ensuring inclusive, equitable and quality education on taking urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts, and to inspire citizens and societies to reconsider how they interact with the natural world in the context of sustainable development.

The General Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 23 April, for a plenary meeting on the prevention of armed conflict.

Opening Remarks

MARÍA FERNANDA ESPINOSA GARCÉS (Ecuador), President of General Assembly, described the tenth anniversary of International Mother Earth Day as a moment of reflection on and commitment to that cause.  Citing the challenges confronting the planet, she said they include the contamination of waters and the killing of species.  Climate change and the resultant extreme weather events are estimated to have affected 17 million people in 2018, she said, warning that Mother Earth is in serious danger.  Stressing the need to protect the planet as well as lives, she said nature has rights and countries like Bolivia, Ecuador and Colombia are striving to uphold them.  She went on to underline the need to strike a balance between protecting nature and economic development, setting aside unnecessary exploitation.  That calls for solidarity, urgent responses, collective action and new compacts, she said, adding that education is the key to a sustainable future since young people must be equipped with knowledge and skills.  Shared responsibility among States, the private sector and civil society, including indigenous communities, is also vital.

Statements

CYNTHIA SILVA MATURANA, Deputy Minister for Environment, Biodiversity, Climate Change and Forest Management and Development of Bolivia, said the tenth anniversary of Mother Earth Day is not merely a commemoration, but an opportunity to understand that human beings are a part of nature’s system.  Noting the importance of complementarity between living beings and nature, she emphasized the need to end capitalism and forge a new system based on complementarity.  It is also important to learn from each other and from successes achieved in other parts of the world, she added.  This is an important time for the planet, she said, underlining the importance of education to establishing sustainable production systems and building a common future beyond individuality.  Today’s dialogue should inspire a plan of action and create a system to thwart predators, she stressed.

SYED AKBARUDDIN (India) said there is no doubt that an educated and knowledgeable population, aware of its planetary footprint, is better equipped and more disposed to address Earth’s problems.  Millennials are much more attuned to environmental issues because of the education they received, he said, adding that, in due course, that demographic is likely to have a bigger impact.  Recalling that rulings in 1991 and 2003 by the Supreme Court of India made environmental education compulsory in schools and universities, he said that, going forward, non-school initiatives are required to educate rural and urban communities on the need to build resilience against natural disasters, adapt to environmental challenges and manage potential risk.  He went on to stress that children’s literature and mainstream films must incorporate climate change issues.

LUIS GALLEGOS CHIRIBOGA (Ecuador), recalling that his country’s Constitution was the first in the world to recognize the rights of nature, emphasized that harmony with nature must be considered at all levels of education.  Children must grow up learning respect for animals and plants, he said, adding that young people must be empowered to make their opinions on environmental protection heard.  The United Nations Institute for Training and Research should provide more courses that can help enable diplomats and others to improve their knowledge of environmental issues.  Noting that climate change reduces the chances for sustainable development, he underscored the need to improve the capacity of developing countries to implement environmental measures.

TAREQ ARIFUL ISLAM (Bangladesh), describing climate change as the biggest threat to Earth’s existence, emphasized that transformation and corrective action means changing day-to-day patterns of production and consumption.  That requires awareness and that begins with children, he said, adding that educational systems must inculcate sustainable development and responsible use of resources.  Pointing out that children are the biggest stakeholders in the fourth Industrial Revolution, he stressed the need to reform educational systems and to forge a stronger bond between children and nature.  Describing Bangladesh as one of the world’s most environmentally fragile countries, he said the Government is determined to use the voice of youth to respond to the challenge of climate change.

MARKIE MILLER, community rights advocate, recalled that the people of Toledo, Ohio, voted in February to approve the Lake Erie Bill of Rights, a local charter amendment that recognizes the lake’s inalienable right to exist, flourish and evolve naturally.  “Our economy cannot be sustained without a healthy environment,” she emphasized, pointing out that Lake Erie is the source of drinking water for 11 million people.  The local law seeks to hold polluters accountable, including corporations, Governments and individuals who profit from production and extraction activities despite their known degradation of life sustaining ecosystems.  “Injustice will only triumph if we choose to remain hostage to an oppressive system of laws that support the needs of industry and greed over the very real and dire needs of this planet,” she warned, stressing that the Lake Erie Bill of Rights is under threat today.  “The system may rule against Lake Erie and our law… we don’t lose until we quit — and we will never quit on Lake Erie or Mother Earth.”

For information media. Not an official record.