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Water and climate change among the main alarms of International Mother Earth Day

May 9, 2013
  • The UN and the FAO warn of a tangible reality: the planet is in danger.
  • The Secretary General of the UN, Ban Ki-moon, makes a call to recover harmony with nature.

  • The preservation of the forests is fundamental for the fight against the degradation of the climate.


Since 2009, the General Assembly of the UN has marked the 22nd of April as International Mother Earth Day. The day took shape as a practical consequence of the spirit of the Rio Declaration of 1992: reflecting on the importance of taking care of the unrenewable resources of the planet and recover harmony with the environment as a basis to solve the serious problems that humanity is facing due to the degradation of the biosphere.

The message launched this year by the Secretary General of the UN, Ban Ki-moon, is clearly explicit about the aim of the day: "International Mother Earth Day is a chance to reaffirm our collective responsibility to promote harmony with nature at a time when our planet is under threat from climate change, unsustainable exploitation of natural resources and other man-made problems."

This year the slogan and the campaign has been "The Face of Climate Change ", since the alteration of the planet's climate affects all the inhabitants of the globe, which the UN sees as agents of the problem but also the solution. Through this proposal of awareness-raising and promoting participation, the UN hopes to focus on the environmental impact this year; specifically, its harmful effects on people, animals, ecosystems and natural resources.


Awareness-raising activities

International Earth Mother Day is set within the effort made by the UN to achieve the 2015 goals in the fight against poverty, known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), and emphasises the post-2015 agenda and the spirit of the Rio +20 agreements. To do this, the General Assembly has planned a series of events to boost the immense amount of work already being undertaken.

One of those launched is the Think. Eat. Save project, by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). Its aim is to reduce the loss of food which, apart from the waste, represents a useless expenditure of energy and water – the "hydric footprint" – that have been necessary to produce it. On the other hand, according to the Executive Director of UNEP, Achim Steiner, this problem affects climate change since "the food thrown away into the globe's landfills produces small but significant amounts of methane – a powerful greenhouse gas – are also added to the emissions of the livestock necessary to produce the food."


This activity fully falls within the initiative of the We Are Water Foundation of raising awareness about the hydric footprint of food through its Weeatwater application, for iOS telephones and tablets, which provides information about the water necessary to obtain each food product and to prepare the most typical recipes of each continent.


The importance of preserving the forests

Additionally, the FAO, aware of the importance of preserving the forest mass of the planet to avoid alteration of the water cycle, among other objectives of ecological balance, announced on International Earth Mother Day its first Global Action Plan for the conservation, sustainable use and development of the forests' genetic resources. This plan, pending final approval by the next FAO conference, which will be held in Rome in June 2013, will be developed by the Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture of the FAO (CGRFA), the aim of which is the improvement in the availability and access to information about the genetic resources of the forests and the development of the conservation strategy around the world, as well as promoting the sustainable use of the forests' genetic resources.

The estimations of the numbers of species of trees in the world vary from 80,000 to 100,000, according to the UNEP. The forests' ecosystems are essential refuges for biodiversity, and 12% of the forests in the world are designated primarily to preserving biological diversity.


Raising awareness about the reality of the danger

The UN wishes to express on International Earth Mother Day its conviction that, to achieve a fair balance between the economic, social and environmental needs of the present and future generations, it is essential to face up to the hard truth that our planet is under threat. In this respect, the President of the UN General Assembly, Vuk Jeremic, stated: "The irreversible torrent of physical and ecological transformations across the globe is threatening us with a future reality that is profoundly different from anything that we have experienced until now."

According to the UN, the unsustainable use of the natural resources is eroding the fragile ecosystems, destroying biodiversity, exhausting the fishing grounds due to abusive commercial fishing and threatening the marine food chains on increasing the acidity of the oceans.

One of the most dramatic consequences of this loss of balance with nature is the serious problem of lack of water due to the overexploitation of resources, pollution, and above all due to climate change. The unfavourable evolution of the climate has been one of the central themes of the activities undertaken on International Earth Mother Day around the world. Climate change is directly related to the degradation of arable land, which today suffers a loss of 2,000 million hectares per year, and with the lack of water in extensive areas of the planet, which increase every year. Today it is a growing cause of population displacement in sub-Saharan Africa and the Horn of Africa, where drought has caused a lot of damage over the last decades.

According to UN data, the dry lands now occupy 41.3% of the whole earth's surface and house 34.7% of the world's population. Moreover, more than 50% of agricultural land is in moderate to serious conditions of degradation.

According to information of UN Water, about 1,600 million people depend on the forests for their subsistence. The forests are also the source of 75% of the planets freshwater, and they help control the impact of storms, slow down erosion and flooding, and store a large part of the atmosphere's CO2. One of the goals of the projects in which the We Are Water Foundation collaborates with the Vicente Ferrer Foundation in India has been to help in forest regeneration by means of creating small reservoirs like that of Ganjikunta (see the project) which has transformed the lives of farmers and livestock breeders.


About the We Are Water Foundation

The We Are Water Foundation, promoted by the Roca company, has as objectives, on the one hand, to raise awareness amongst the general public and the administrations about the need to promote a new culture of water and, on the other hand, relieve the negative effects related to the lack of hydric resources, through the development of cooperation and aid programmes alongside diverse organisations such as Education without Frontiers, the Vicente Ferrer Foundation, Intermón Oxfam and UNICEF.