Today, June 5, is World Environment Day, an annual observance created by the United Nations in 1972, and repeated every year since, to increase environmental awareness and motivate environmental action.
The host country for World Environment Day 2011 is India; the host city in North America is Toronto. The theme for World Environment Day this year is Forests: Nature at Your Service, which supports the UN International Year of Forests initiative.
By using World Environment Day to focus world attention on the value of forests and our need to conserve them, the United Nations Environment Programme is performing an invaluable service.
Forests cover one-third of the world's land mass and are home to 80 percent of all land-based biodiversity, including many of the world's most threatened and endangered species.
Forests also play a vital role in mitigating climate change, and ensuring we have clean air to breathe and water to drink. More than three quarters of the world's accessible fresh water comes from forested areas.
Forests are also important to the economy, and not only because of the $330 billion generated annually by timber and other forest products. According to the United Nations, an investment of $30 billion to limit deforestation and degradation could generate $2.5 trillion in new or saved products and services. Forests also shelter 300 million people worldwide, including 60 million indigenous people, and contribute to the livelihood of 1.6 billion.
Yet, despite the critical role forests play in sustaining life on Earth, we lose 36 million acres of natural forest every year.
For things to improve, it is essential that government policies, corporate investments and individual lifestyles become forest-conscious at every level, and begin to encourage the sustainable use of forests and to promote forest conservation and restoration.
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