And so the commemoration of the National Environment Week started with a bang and lots of colour on Monday.
Guided by the theme “Healthy Environment, Healthy People,” Beach Road came alive when officials from the relevant government ministries joined students and members of the community to show their support for the nationwide effort to protect the environment.
When they arrived in front of the government building, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi highlighted the importance of this week’s commemoration.
“The environment is our gift from God,” he reminded. “And we are the caretaker of the environment. Therefore, it is our responsibility to look after the environment and maintain God’s gift to us.”
We couldn’t agree more. You see; the earth as God had created and presented to us was perfect. How do we know? Well the story of Creation in the book of Genesis tells us that when God finished speaking the earth into existence, he looked and saw that it was good and he was happy.
But for years mankind have been taking the earth and his surrounding environment for granted. He did not think seriously about the damage caused by his reckless exploitation and abuse of it, continuing to plunder it through greed and the pursuit of unquestionable wealth.
Now today, we are confronted by the degradation this has caused to our habitat and the consequences are enormous – especially for people like us inhabiting small island states. The irony is that we, residents on small islands, had very little to do with the causes of today’s environmental problems. It is the big and wealthy nations who are to blame for most of it.
The sad reality is that we stand to be impacted the most by the consequences of such reckless behaviour.
The most serious threat of them all is sea level rise threatening to bury low-lying islands so that one day, we might all become climate refugees simply because we will have nowhere else to go.
Believe it or not, there are atolls and islands near and far experiencing the reality of this already.
But sea level rise and coastal erosion are not the only problems.
There is water shortage caused when forests in water catchment areas are felled for lumber, or to make way for plantations. There is the issue of flooding which results carry mineral-poisoned water to the sea where they cause damage to the marine environment there, and destruction to sea life. Man, in the end, is deprived of this source of sustenance. There are challenges created by waste, especially solid waste. The list goes on.
Which is why these national efforts to raise awareness about what we can do to protect the environment come at a very critical point in time. Indeed, everyone has a role to play. From the small steps we take at home to national events such as the National Environment Week being commemorated throughout the country today.
The good news is that the message is slowly but surely filtering through to the young people of this nation. Take Marist School student, Elrod Leung Wai, who was among hundreds of students at the parade on Monday.
“This week is very important because it reminds us that we have to keep our environment clean and healthy,” he said. “We have to keep it clean by making sure that we don’t litter. That shows other people from other countries that we love our environment.”
Well isn’t this what we want to hear from all our young children?
We want them to know that what they do today matters tomorrow.
After all, our children, their children and their children’s children will inherit the environment. Which is why we must do everything in our power to ensure the earth we leave with them will be in a condition where they will be able to enjoy it.
Indeed, this is what we hope this week’s environment commemoration will achieve. People of all ages – especially children – getting a thorough understanding of the perils arising from maintaining a negligent attitude towards the environment, and the need to care for it at all times.
We trust therefore that all the events underway will shine more light on the serious dangers facing the environment with the idea of eliminating this threat.
We’ve said this before and we will say it again; education is naturally the key to save the environment. Everyone should be made to understand fully the costly consequences we all face if we don’t take this threat seriously.
Aside from that, officials holding positions of responsibility should ensure environment-related dealings are above board. They should desist from greed, corruption, abuse and bribes so they are seen as genuine about their message.
Have a happy National Environment Week Samoa, God bless!