Managing Change for Environment
A sweeping plan of environmental action, called Agenda 21, made its world debut in June 1992 at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. More formally identified as the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, the plan called upon every man, woman, and child on Earth to take part in this global initiative to develop lifestyles that would sustain a vibrant environment and create a world in balance for all.
Leaders from 178 nations were present at the conference when Agenda 21 was ratified. The number 21 refers to the 21st century, considered the turning point for Earth-friendly sustainability by many activists from scientific and environmental communities. To do one's part effectively, it is important gain familiarity with the four major components of Agenda 21.
Section I: Social and Economic Dimensions is a seven-part section of the agenda which focuses on everyday living aspects, including how the individual is affected by global policies and how our daily habits affect the environment:
- International Cooperation to Accelerate Sustainable Development and Related Domestic Policies - Read the news from around the world to know how foreign policy affects every individual everywhere.
- Combating Poverty - Hungry people can't work. Send free food around the world; 657 million cups of food have been distributed so far.
- Changing Consumption Patterns - Buy local.
- Demographic Dynamics and Sustainability - Learn how household demographics affect the environment.
- Protecting and Promoting Human Health Conditions - Healthy children become healthy adults. Become one of 70,000+ individuals every day who contributes health care for 2,161,000 children.
- Promoting Sustainable Human Settlement Development - Promote urban growth boundaries in your community.
- Integrating Environment and Development in Decision-Making - Learn how your elected officials view environmental sustainability and vote accordingly.
Section II: Conservation and Management of Resources for Development reinforces the impact humans have on the plants and animals of the world and how our personal, government, and business policies affect wildlife at every level.
- Protection of the Atmosphere - Choose public transportation whenever possible.
- Integrated Approach to the Planning and Management of Land Resources - Discover how partnerships between people and industry, individuals and governments have solved issues of sustainable land management.
- Combating Deforestation - Save 11.4 square feet of rain forest every day. More than 41,000 acres of rain forest have been saved thus far.
- Managing Fragile Ecosystems: Combating Desertification and Drought - Learn how desertification encourages drought and how to combat it.
- Managing Fragile Ecosystems: Sustainable Mountain Development - Learn about the disastrous effects of mountain top removal mining and how alternative fuel sources and technologies can save the mountains and save lives in the process.
- Promoting Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development - Eat local. Eat in season. Enjoy farmers' markets.
- Conservation of Biological Diversity - Without the entire ecosystem as we know it, human life could simply not exist on Planet Earth. Learn how important sustained biodiversity is for the sake of humankind.
- Environmentally Sound Management of Biotechnology - Biotechnology is here to stay but consumers want the freedom to make informed choices.
- Protection of the Oceans, All Kinds of Seas, Including Enclosed and Semi-Enclosed Seas, and Coastal Areas and the Protection, Rational Use, and Development of their Living Resources - A sea of garbage the size of Texas is growing ever larger in the Pacific Ocean, prompting marine scientists to caution us on how we dispose of the many things we buy.
- Protection of the Quality and Supply of Freshwater Resources: Application of Integrated Approaches to the Development, Management, and Use of Water Resources - The Dead Zone in the Gulf of Mexico is a prime example of how our misuse of freshwater resources upstream can destroy marine life hundreds of miles away.
- Environmentally Sound Management of Toxic Chemicals, Including Prevention of Illegal International Traffic in Toxic and Dangerous Products - Growing consumer awareness and safety concerns led to executions and life-long prison sentences for executives responsible for last year's global distribution of baby formula and milk products tainted with the toxic industrial chemical, melamine.
- Environmentally Sound Management of Hazardous Wastes - Toxic waste isn't just the stuff of science fiction movies. Most Americans trash hazardous waste every day. Find out how to do it safely in your community.
- Environmentally Sound Management of Solid Wastes and Sewage-Related Issues - Do away with solid waste and sewage-related issues by embracing the humanure composting toilet. Learn how to make one for just $25.
- Safe and Environmentally Sound Management of Radioactive Wastes - This is one issue best left in the hands of professionals but the more consumers know about radioactive waste, the safer and more environmentally friendly the solutions will be.
Section III: Strengthening the Role of Major Groups highlights the responsibility of every individual to do his or her share and acknowledges the ability of every individual to have a direct effect managing change for environment health and sustainability:
- Global Action for Women Towards Sustainable and Equitable Development - Women are a driving force in the battle for sustainable and equitable development the world over.
- Children and Youth in Sustainable Development - Encourage children to participate in an organic schoolyard garden project.
- Recognizing and Strengthening the Role of Indigenous People and their Communities - Listen to what the Earth's indigenous peoples are saying about listening to the Earth.
- Strengthening the Role of Non-Governmental Organizations: Partners for Sustainable Development - Get involved with private and non-profit organizations promoting sustainable development from the local to the global communities.
- Local Authorities' Initiatives in Support of Agenda 21 - Encourage local leaders to join the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives.
- Strengthening the Role of Workers and their Trade Unions - Trade unions around the world understand the significance of climate change on the workplace environment and encourage workers to join a unified drive for change.
- Strengthening the Role of Business and Industry - Money talks. Invest in 'green stocks' to show support for companies that conduct business as if the environment matters.
- Scientific and Technological Community - Organize a drive to collect castaway cell phones to donate to battered women, the elderly, and disabled.
- Strengthening the Role of Farmers - If there were no farmers, there'd be no food. No question.
Section IV: Means of Implementation calls for strengthened coordination and cooperation from financial, scientific, educational, commercial, legal, and governmental perspectives:
- Financial Resources and Mechanisms - Got a few bucks to spare and want to change somebody's life? Consider funding a microlending project in a developing country.
- Transfer of Environmentally Sound Technology, Cooperation, and Capacity Building - Donate to one of the many organizations that provide support, training, money, and equipment to people in need.
- Science for Sustainable Development - Spread the wonder of science by donating a low-cost, solar-powered wireless computer to a child in a developing country.
- Promoting Education, Public Awareness, and Training - Join a grassroots movement devoted to fighting poverty and improving the lives of people everywhere. Happy, healthy people care about their environment.
- National Mechanisms and International Cooperation for Capacity Building in Developing Countries - Sometimes all it takes is a baby chicken, pig, goose, or rabbit to give someone the capacity to build a new, productive life.
- International Institutional Arrangements - War, violence, and natural disaster destroy lives and the environment both but your donations of time, talent, or money can change lives.
- International Legal Instruments and Mechanisms - Familiarize yourself with environmental laws that affect your community to prevent catastrophic events in the future.
- Information for Decision Making - Simple decisions, like putting computers to sleep, can help reduce global warming.
No one person can take action in every part of the agenda but if every one of us chose one, two, or several of these initiatives and made them an active part of our everyday living, change would quickly become visible. Every adult can implement change by casting votes for public policies and officials with an eye toward environmental impact, honoring environmentally conscious businesses by buying their products, teaching our children the importance of the natural world we live in, and leading by example.