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The transformers: UN Champions who dared to reimagine their worlds

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A corporate titan with an unconventional agenda; the food specialists who looked outside the (takeaway) box; the ocean explorer whose name has become synonymous with conservation: these are just some of the environmental heroes who have dedicated their lives to bringing their audacious visions of a better world to life.

These pioneers are all previous winners of the United Nations Environment Programme’s Champions of the Earth award—the world’s flagship environmental honour—and their actions have inspired others to join them in their fight for a cleaner, fairer and more sustainable world.

As the countdown begins to the announcement of this year’s Champions of the Earth, and ahead of a pivotal Climate Action Summit in New York on 23 September 2019, the energy and vision demonstrated by previous Champions are needed more than ever as the world races to decisively cut carbon emissions before the worst effects of global warming become inevitable.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres wants world leaders, businesses and civil society to come to the Summit with concrete plans to cut emissions by 45 per cent in the next decade and achieve net zero emissions by 2050, in line with the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, and the Sustainable Development Goals.

What is required is nothing less than a complete transformation of economies and societies. In short, it’s a job for heroes.

Thankfully, we already have model citizens to lead us forward. The Champions of the Earth have shown year after year that real change is possible if individuals commit to overhaul the way they live so that we safeguard the planet’s resources and ensure our own survival.

Here we look at five Champions of the Earth who transformed their own worlds.

The trailblazing tycoon: Paul Polman, former CEO of Unilever

2015 laureate for entrepreneurial vision

During more than a decade as Chief Executive Officer of consumer goods giant Unilever, Paul Polman always dared to do things differently. Long before “sustainability” became a buzzword, he sought to decouple economic growth from environmental degradation and increase Unilever’s positive social impact.

Since stepping down last year, Polman has continued his work to put sustainability at the heart of global business. He is chairman of the International Chamber of Commerce and recently co-founded the Imagine foundation to help eradicate poverty and stem climate change by helping companies pursue the Sustainable Development Goals. He announced the news on Twitter, quoting the lyrics of the John Lennon song: “You may say I’m a dreamer but I’m not the only one.”

Polman would like to see “heroic Chief Executive Officers” drive a shift to a low-carbon, more inclusive way of doing business. This call chimes perfectly with one of the six priorities laid out by Guterres for the Climate Action Summit—mobilizing public and private sources of finance to drive decarbonization of all priority sectors and advance resilience.

The Summit’s ambitious agenda finds an echo in Polman’s heart: tweeting out Guterres’ call for urgent action at the meeting, he wrote: “With extreme heat getting worse, nature is telling us what we already know: there’s no time to waste against climate change.”

The food mavericks: Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods

2018 laureates for science and innovation

The role of agriculture in the production of greenhouse gases has led to mounting calls for people to move towards a more plant-based diet. But how can you get hungry, red meat-loving consumers to shift?

The entrepreneurial founders of Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, who won the Champions of the Earth award for creating sustainable alternatives to beef burgers, took up that challenge with gusto.

Beyond Meat worked with top scientists to strip down the core components of meat and extract them from plants instead, using ingredients like peas, beetroot, coconut oil and potato starch.

Impossible Foods took a slightly different tack to arrive at a similar result. Chief Executive Officer Patrick O. Brown’s team discovered an iron-containing molecule that occurs naturally in every cell of every animal and plant and that is responsible for the unique flavours and aromas of meat. They used this knowledge to produce a meatless burger.

The two companies have tapped into a growing demand, especially among younger consumers, for products that are good for both planet and people, proving that it makes good business sense to harness this hunger for products that don’t cost the earth.

Their can-do attitude is exactly what’s needed on a global scale to tackle our climate crisis.

As Patrick O. Brown says: “There are huge global problems, but they are solvable and we’re going to solve them. Just wait.”

The Son of the Desert: Wang Wenbiao, Chairman of Elion Resources Group

2017 laureate for lifetime achievement

When Wang Wenbiao bought the Hangjinqi Saltworks in the middle of the Kubuqi desert in Inner Mongolia in 1988, he embarked on an adventure that would see him rise to the top of the country’s largest private green industries enterprise, Elion Resources Group.

His journey began, as most interesting journeys do, with a problem—how to make the saltworks profitable when the creeping desert was swallowing the salt lake, damaging equipment and making it difficult to transport the salt to market?

Wang, who grew up in Kubuqi, partnered with local communities and the Beijing government to fight the advancing sands and give hope to some of the 70,000 people who had been struggling to survive. In doing so, he showed how private industry could contribute to the fight against climate change and environmental degradation, while still turning a profit.

Wang set up a special fund to pay for afforestation and assigned a third of his staff to plant trees around the lake. He also encouraged local people to grow licorice, a hardy plant that grows well in deserts and is widely used in traditional Chinese medicine. Elion provided locals with seeds, training and other support, and also bought the harvest at a fair price.

Today, around two thirds of the desert has been greened and Wang, who is known as the Son of the Desert, says he is in it for the long haul.

“Greening the deserts is like a marathon, as long as there is a desert, my marathon will not come to an end,” he said.

The Dutch dreamer: Boyan Slat

2014 laureate for inspiration and action

Dutch inventor Boyan Slat was only 19 when he won the Champion of the Earth award for inspiration and action but he was already a young man on a mission: to clean the seas of plastic waste using a revolutionary floating boom.

Since then, Slat has brought his vision to life with The Ocean Cleanup project and although his team was forced to bring the first prototype back to port, they have now returned to sea, hoping to scoop up some of the trillions of pieces of plastic that are choking our fish, killing marine wildlife, damaging coral reefs and turning beaches into rubbish dumps.

Slat’s ongoing passion for the project reflects growing public concern. In 2017, the UN Environment Programme launched its Clean Seas campaign to inspire governments, businesses and people to take action, including cleaning beaches, cutting plastic use and investing more in recycling facilities.

Slat’s original System 001—a 600-metre-long U-shaped floater with a tapered three-metre-deep skirt attached below to trap the plastic—was launched in September 2018 and towed to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a gigantic swell of rubbish twice the size of France.

But The Ocean Cleanup team found that the floater was failing to hold onto the plastic. They tried to modify the design at sea, but were eventually forced to tow the system back to port after it suffered a fatigue fracture.

More tests and modifications were needed but in August, Slat said System 001/B had arrived at the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

“We move forward cautiously knowing we may be presented with more unscheduled learning opportunities… Yet it is safe to say that we are closer than ever to having a tool capable of cleaning up these garbage patches for good,” he wrote on The Ocean Cleanup website.

Her Deepness: Sylvia Earle

2014 laureate for lifetime leadership

A renowned pioneer of deep sea exploration and a distinguished marine biologist, Sylvia Earle has dedicated her life to exploring and protecting the oceans. Her philosophy is simple: “We need to respect the oceans and take care of them as if our lives depended on it. Because they do.”

Earle, 83, has logged more than 7,000 hours underwater across over 100 expeditions—including leading the first team of women aquanauts and setting a record for solo diving to a depth of 1,000-metres. Her list of laudatory titles is impressive: she has been called Her Deepness, a Living Legend, a Hero for the Planet, and the Face of Marine Biology.

Earle was the first woman to serve as the Chief Scientist of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and, since 1998, she has been Explorer-in-Residence at the National Geographic Society.

She is also the founder of Deep Ocean Exploration and Research Inc and the Sylvia Earle Alliance as well as being the leader of the National Geographic Society Sustainable Seas Expeditions.

In 2009, she founded Mission Blue, a global alliance to ignite public support for the protection of a network of Hope Spots—special places that are vital to the health of the ocean. The alliance aims to bring about a significant increase in ocean protection by 2020.

In 2014, she was awarded the Champions of the Earth prize for lifetime leadership. And that works goes on. Earle is still travelling the world, seeking to inspire others with her passion to preserve our seas.

UN Environment

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Green Planet

Let’s play the squid game: but we play for our planet this time

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image source: netflix

Squid game is a current Netflix’s trend series and no one can escape from its influence. The world has Squid game fever now and there are a lot of people who want to partake and experience being in these games. People are lining up to try the popular games in the show and the Squid game’s challenges are piling up in social media and YouTube. This show is climbing up to the first place and achieving global popularity.

In the Squid game, the people who have debts are trying hard in playing the children’s games to win the billion-prize money but the punishment is death. The struggle and the poverty are focused in this series. Besides, it highlights the greed of the people and how it can awaken the devil’s side of human beings. The friendships, sympathy and care can be destroyed easily because of the greed for surviving and money. Apparently, this show is giving a special taste to the audience by the direct approach about our society and socioeconomic conditions. Therefore, it is no wonder that this gains a lot of popularity and becomes Netflix’s most-watched series in history.

Since Squid game wave is striking hard, people are addicted to the show and their willingness to try out the games of this show are unstoppable. So, this time can these passionate audiences participate in the Squid game competition for the sake of our planet? Nowadays, the state of our planet is serious and encountering a plethora of threats; pollution of air and water, ozone layer depletion, climate change, rising sea levels, land degradation, deforestation, loss of biodiversity and so on. 

Due to these environmental concerns, a lot of groups are rising up to spread awareness within the public. These socially conscious groups around the world try hard to inform how the single action of the people can impact the earth. Not only to protect the environment but also to reduce the existing environmental issues, the people from different backgrounds, societies and places have to work together. Although plenty of people are now concerned for their home planet and searching for the answer to solve these issues, educating the public to increase more awareness and attention still needs more room to develop.

To promote environmental awareness and actions to help our planet, the growth of the Squid game can play a perfect role. The unbeatable amount of Squid games addicted fans who are also concerned for the state of the planet can be used in encouraging the public more for the current issues of the earth. Let them play these trend games that they are dying to play and at the same time, the promotion for the actions to preserve the earth will be done.

Creating the competition which inspire Squid game series for our home planet

Type of games and the Rules

Just like in the Squid game series, in this competition, there will be traditional children’s games which were popular in the past. But this time, the games will be collected from various countries. Therefore, the contestants can experience various cultures, explore new things and as a consequence, they will feel connected to each other. Besides these traditional games, there will be games that can help to reduce the carbon footprints such as planting the trees as much as they can in the given time, creating innovative staffs by recycling or reusing the materials and so on. The prime rule for this competition is that the player cannot quit till the game ends and they will have to agree to take the punishment no matter what. And manipulation to each other is not allowed and all the players will be equally treated while in the games.

Host and sponsors

The international organizations such as WWF, IUCN, UNESCO, UN, ASEAN, ADB, etc can be the host in this game. Since these organizations are helping to identify the environmental problems and supporting the protection, they can be the best candidate to be a host in the competition. Along with them, the big corporations who are embracing sustainability can be the sponsors, in other words, they will take the role of VIPs just like in the Squid game series. As the businesses can make greater profits and create better images by considering the economy, social and environment in operating their businesses. Being the sponsors in this game will help them in implementing the better CSR programs and pursuing sustainability. This is one of the best ways to acquire the public’s attention, also loyal customers and as a result, their brand image and competitive advantage will also be improved.

Players

Who will get the invitation for this game?

A group of socially conscious, young generations and also the people who want to experience the games can be the players in this competition. Most of the youths are worried about the future of the planet and they are concerned about the impacts of the environmental issues. They want to change their lifestyles to be more environmentally friendly compared to the older generations. Due to this competition, the adults can have a chance to remember their nostalgic childhood times and the young can experience these old games while they can make effective things for the planet.

Prize

The prize is one of the incentives to stimulate the people to play in this game. The bitter truth is one of the powerful incentives is money. A group of winners will get the money to invest in the environmental projects. Frankly, to protect our environment and planet, billion dollars is one of the requirements.

Punishment

As the players are competing for the sake of the earth, the punishment will definitely not be death. But instead, the players who will get eliminated from the games will have to spend their times at the special place for several days. That special place is located in one of the biggest landfill sites. Losers of this competition have to work in that place and they will have to help in the disposal services.

To conclude, if this competition actually happens in the future, it will bring certain benefits for the environment, society and businesses. So, why do not we inspire this current most-watched series “Squid game” to spread awareness and encourage the people to save the planet, Earth. Let’s give a chance for the people to play in their favorite childhood’s games, be green and save our home.

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Green Planet

Climate change and global challenges

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The whole world has been severely affected by climate change and the Covid-19 epidemic. The natural character of the whole world has also changed due to the rise in global temperature. Given the current situation, all the people of the world are in a state of panic about the horrors of the coronavirus. The world has been devastated by hundreds of disasters since the 1960s. More than 50 million people have become destitute. Many people have died. And most of the disasters are accompanied by constant climate change.

In 2020, 4 crore people became homeless due to deteriorating weather and climate change. At the same time, the adverse effects of the weather are becoming more extreme due to climate change from this year. This year it will break the record and stand at 5 crore. Many people have to leave their country. This number is double the current refugee population in the world. Not just any particular country or people, people all over the world are facing the harmful effects of climate change. Especially in the last 20 years, this effect has spread from Asia, Europe, Africa to the Americas.

Increasing use of fossil fuels is warming the weather, forcing more people to flee their homes due to unexpected floods or storms. Besides, factors like crop damage and drought are also making this trend more evident. Politicians in rich countries are fearful of increasing pressure on their country’s infrastructure due to the influx of environmental refugees from other countries.

Carbon emissions play the biggest role in climate change. Low-income countries are also deprived of 100 billion a year in promised compensation for carbon emissions. Asia has the highest number of people displaced due to environmental reasons. In countries such as China, India, Bangladesh, Vietnam, the Philippines and Indonesia, millions of people live in low-lying coastal areas or in delta-adjacent areas. More and more people are at risk of flooding due to population growth and urbanization, and the rapid rise in sea level is being added to this.

People have already witnessed extreme weather, drought or heavy rains, cyclones.  That is to say, the destructive form of climate and nature is gradually becoming manifest. Mankind is being blamed for this hostile behavior of nature. People are taking care of nature in many ways. Rivers are being occupied and the mountains are being cut indiscriminately. Houses are being built on agricultural land. In this way, oppression on nature is going on in various ways, due to which nature is becoming hostile. We are ruining all our own achievements. As a result, there has been severe inflammation.

The world’s population is constantly growing. There is no end to the discussion and criticism about population growth. It is time to take stock of what new steps can be taken or how human suffering can be reduced. With the increase in population, new problems have been added. It may seem unbelievable but it is true that every day around 25,000 people in the world die due to eating habits and malnutrition. In addition, the world is facing many adverse reactions including shortage of potable water, air toxicity, depletion of resources, housing problems and the destruction of the Ozone layer.

At the root of this is population growth. The temperature in the capital Dhaka has risen due to rapid population growth. A study has identified 25 high-risk areas in Dhaka as a result of rising temperatures. These areas have been named ‘Hit Island’. The performance of the people of this area is decreasing day by day with the increase of various diseases.

Assistance is needed to increase the capacity of CVF countries to deal with the dual threat of epidemics and disasters, especially those affected by the increased frequency of climate-related disasters. Climate-risk countries contribute the least to global greenhouse gas emissions, but they suffer the most. 2021 is a very important year for climate issues as the United States returns to the Paris Agreement. The COP-26 conference on climate change in Scotland next November is expected to yield some good results on climate change. The main goal of COP-26 is to address the impact of climate change and to educate the world about its harmful effects. Bangladesh has also participated in this climate change prevention project.

In ancient times there was a close relationship between man and nature. Ever since man came in contact with civilization, he has learned to strike at nature. Over time, man began to wreak havoc on nature. The problem of environmental pollution is increasing day by day. The trees were not spared from the victims of cruelty. As a result, fear is constantly concentrated in our habitable world. We look for different ways to get rid of it. But if we let nature be like that, we would not have to suffer this consequence in our lifetime.

Blinded by the fascination of speed, people have cut down the forest and set up houses, sometimes they have driven away the animals there. In recent times, mountains are being cut down and forests are being cleared somewhere. Deforestation is endangering the lives of many people. Even though the seasons are changing, these incidents add to our anxiety. But trees can be very resistant to prevent global warming. If the environment does not survive, the problems of the world will intensify. Animals, human beings will face loss of everything. The main reason is the indifference of the people.

 A closer look reveals that this apathy has a significant effect on the depraved market economy. Rivers, hills, soils, forests are all instruments of income growth in the eyes of that market. In order to earn income from these sources, natural resources are being destroyed, centuries-old trees are losing their lives or the source of the boundless beauty of nature is being endangered. In the past, there was a connection between man and nature, which is why in many places forests have survived because those who grew up in contact with plants can realize the contact with nature by finding ways to do the necessary work without harming the plants.

Climate change is responsible for recent disasters. We have to fight hard to save the world from increasing global warming. World leaders must take strong action, including global initiatives, to leave a sustainable future for the next generation. The international community has a special responsibility to assist countries at risk of climate change in their adaptation and mitigation efforts.

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It’s not fair to single out the five countries in the Greta Thunberg UN children-climate case

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Swedish climate activist, Greta Thunberg. UN Photo/Cia Pak

The Greta Thunberg UN case decision just came out today. You might remember that back in 2019, Greta and other children brought a headline case before the UN to prove that climate change affects children’s rights, and it’s a hard issue of law and rights — something that has been long resisted in the area of human rights law when it comes to the environment. The environment has always been one of those peripheral issues for human rights law and that’s why today’s decision is groundbreaking. In a historic ruling that came out today, the UN Child Rights Committee has found that a State party can be held responsible for the negative impact of its carbon emissions on the rights of children both within and outside its territory.

The countries that are bearing the international public slap in the face in this case, however, (Argentina, Brazil, France, Germany, and Turkey) are not the biggest emitters and polluters. They were selected as a target of the case not for the worst climate impacts, but simply because they have ratified the additional Protocol of the UN Child Rights Convention, so a case against them can be brought; the biggest emitters haven’t. So it’s a bit like a “catch whoever you can”, and that should be born in mind in the discussion.

The countries in the UN Greta case are the classical international law countries (Europe and Latin America) who have agreed that their human rights practices can be reviewed and challenged. The biggest carbon emitters, on the other hand, haven’t agreed to accept cases.The US hasn’t even ratified the Child Rights Convention, as the only country in the world, let alone the Additional Protocol for direct cases.

The case is very important as a test case and one which develops the nexus between human rights law and climate. It develops the principles of the reasoning and the legal parameters — that’s the take-away. We should remember that the five singled out countries are not the bad guys when it comes to climate change.

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