From Kigali to Pittsburgh, the Environment Conversation Continues

Restoring lost and damaged ecosystems—from forests and freshwaters to mangroves and wetlands—can trigger multi-million dollar returns, generate jobs and combat poverty. according to a new report, Dead Planet, Living Planet: Biodiversity and Ecosystem Restoration for Sustainable Development, compiled by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

Launched on June 3, the eve of World Environment Day (WED), the report draws on thousands of ecosystem restoration projects worldwide and showcases more than 30 initiatives that are transforming the lives of communities and countries across the globe.

Speaking from Kigali, Rwanda, Achim Steiner, UN under-secretary general and UNEP executive director, said: “The ecological infrastructure of the planet is generating services to humanity worth by some estimates over $70 trillion a year, perhaps substantially more. In the past these services have been invisible or near invisible in national and international accounts. This should and must change."

As the North America host city for World Environment Day, Pittsburgh, Pa., is celebrating its progress and slated a number of activities for the weekend.

"With the convergence of our three rivers, water has always played a vital role in the economic vitality of our region, whether it is through industry or recreation," said Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato. "We will celebrate the progress we've made in reducing our ecological footprint and creating policies and programs to further promote sustainable practices. But, we will also use this as an opportunity to learn from others. Through our programs, we will initiate important conversations about the importance of water to increased biodiversity."

Some of the activities include:

  • Water Matters! Global Water Conference. Citizens, students, business owners, watershed groups, and community leaders from across the region and North America will gather at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center to be part of a remarkable, eye-opening exploration of the ways Water Matters! This conference will include an exhibit area that highlights the region's leading water innovators, problem solvers, and applied technologies with a focus on hands-on activities and displays.

  • Water Innovation Consortium and Business of Water Assessment. The Pittsburgh World Environment Day Partnership will launch a Water Innovation Consortium to help advance innovations in water conservation, protection and cleanup within the region and the Business of Water Assessment to prepare a water industry analysis to characterize and catalyze the water industry that exists in the region, and to assess opportunities associated with growth that positions the region as a leader in sustainable water development.

In an online exhibition, visitors to Art Works for Change Website can view "Millions of Pieces, Only One Puzzle," to get an idea of the green feats occurring in Rwanda. The nonprofit group invited Venezuelan photographer-biologist Antonio Briceno to photograph the people and land of Rwanda, the host country for this year's World Environment Day. The exhibition features 10 diptychs pairing the stories of individuals with the land upon which they rely for their sustenance and well-being.

Jeannete Uwineza

Among the stories Briceno tells in both words and pictures are those of Jeannete Uwineza, who gathers her family's daily supply of water at a public fountain amid growing water stress; and Alphonse Nsengiyumva, who is part of an effort to use wildlife tourism as a means of protecting forests and the creatures that reside there.

"This work pays homage to the people of Rwanda," says Briceno. "Despite its dramatic history and the many problems it faces, the country is investing in a green economy where they are confident that respect for and preservation of nature will provide for the best health and wealth of its population. We cheer Rwanda on as an example to the rest of the world."

The exhibition was made possible with support from SC Johnson & Son and ContourGlobal. Both companies have a strong presence in the Rwandan and greater African community: SC Johnson is working to sustainably source Pyrethrum, extracted from dried chrysanthemum flowers, for use in its pest control products, while also supporting base of the pyramid economic growth; and ContourGlobal, leading the effort in its Lake Kivu project, harvesting its natural resources which will generate low-cost electricity for use in Rwanda and the wider region and permit the government of Rwanda to bring affordable electricity to millions of its citizens while improving the environment.

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