by Madeleine Freundlich
On June 5, millions of people around the globe will plant seeds, recycle bottles, and start brand new clean energy projects—all in honor of United Nations World Environment Day. In a Filipino city called Talisay, families will start the day by walking through the streets collecting trash. A small elementary school in Fiji will hold a competition for best recycled art projects. And in Olanchito, Honduras, families at EcoLogic’s Communities Organizing for Watersheds project site will come together to clean waste from streams—just like they do every day.
World Environment Day has been observed annually since 1972, with the goal of inspiring people across the globe to protect our scarce natural resources. The day’s theme this year is “Consuming with Care.” The United Nations Environment Program is urging people to think about water consumption in particular, as humans can access and safely drink only .05% of the water on our planet. Due to thoughtless overconsumption, that percentage is quickly shrinking.
Working with our local partner, the Association of Water Committees of the Southern Sector of Pico Bonito National Park (AJAASSPIB), EcoLogic’s Communities Organizing for Watersheds project in Honduras has helped bring together 27 community water councils and a municipal government to help more than 40,000 people gain access to clean drinking water. Members of the councils take the lead in protecting their local watersheds, and have set up a system where everyone pays for and manages the water to ensure access for the whole community.
Thanks to EcoLogic’s work with AJAASSPIB, local people are doing more than just protecting the area—they’re developing new purification systems and planting new trees to reforest damaged areas. The project has been so successful that the water councils won the Innovation Award from the Yale chapter of the International Society of Tropical Foresters this past January.
We are polluting water faster than nature can recycle and re-purify it. In areas where clean water is scarce or threatened, putting community councils in charge can accelerate conservation efforts. EcoLogic believes that people who live near or in a threatened ecosystems are the ones best positioned to repair and protect those systems. Our staff know that although countries are made up of consumers, “consuming with care” is not only critical, but very possible. Supporting local citizens over private water companies can make a big difference in ensuring smart, sustainable water protection.