21 Apr 2017 Story Environment under review

Earth Day: Environmental literacy more important than ever

It’s been 47 years since the first Earth Day on April 22nd 1970 marked the birth of widespread environmental awareness, back in the flowery heyday of social and environmental activism.

Since then, we have increased our understanding of the planet and its ecosystems, and we have signed increasingly detailed international treaties, like those governing climate change, ozone-destroying substances, the protection and use of biodiversity, the prevention of desertification, and various forms of pollution.

But it’s the young people of today that will have to implement those agreements and come up with new solutions for growing environmental problems.

Their task will be harder than ours – on an Earth that will need to accommodate an unprecedented 9 billion people by 2050, all trying to share the resources needed to achieve  9 billion different dreams.

Education for our young people now is the key to ensuring continued progress and even survival for these billions. Just as other kinds of literacy allow access to decision-making and participation in democratic processes, environmental and climate literacy is the bedrock of action for an equitable and sustainable world.

That’s why this year’s Earth Day is dedicated to global environmental and climate literacy, led by a large network of non-profits, government organizations and business leaders in a campaign that asks the citizens of the world to take a stand and support teaching for environmental and climate literacy from kindergarten to pre-university schools.

Raising awareness of environmental issues has always been high on the agenda of UN Environment, which leads several initiatives, networks and partnerships that target youth, universities and schools.

So we are delighted to be launching today the new Young Champions of the Earth prize. This will provide a global stage for young people to showcase technological inventions and innovative business models for improving our planet’s health – and by doing so will spread the word and inspire millions more to get involved.

Six young people – one from each of UN Environment’ s global regions – will be named Young Champions of the Earth. These winners will each receive US$15,000 in seed funding as well as intensive training and tailored mentoring to help bring their big environmental ideas to life.

We’re looking for curious, colourful and courageous young people between the ages of 18 and 30. Could you be one of them? Find out more in the video below and on the Young Champions website

Through the Young Champions prize, UN Environment hopes to show the world that sometimes all it takes is a good idea, initiative and self-belief to turn your dreams into concrete action that will benefit all of us.

Perhaps we’ll be hearing from you.