Commemoration of the UN Decade on Biodiversity

13 Sep 2013

Statement of Mr. Gary Lewis,

United Nations Resident Coordinator in Iran on the occasion of commemoration of the UN Decade on Biodiversity

Today, I bring greetings from the United Nations to all you committed hard-working Iranians listening to this message.  Right now, in a very symbolic act across 11 provinces in Iran, Hormod is mobilizing – you – its members – to clean-up trash and refuse.  We all appreciate your special effort.  Many of you have brought your families along to help.  In contributing your time and your sweat you are showing respect for our Mother Earth – our one and only planet.  Our Earth is the only home we have.  And we must respect it.

Friends, our planet is in peril.  The impact of our growing populations and climate change will mean that over the next twenty years, the world will need at least 50 per cent more food – 45 per cent more energy – and 30 per cent more water to survive.  In Iran, we face water shortages – desertification – deforestation – biodiversity loss – dust and sand storms – and pollution.  Because of this we will need to conserve more.  And one part of conserving our planet is to preserve – and show respect to – our habitat and our biodiversity. 

This means that we should not treat our country – or our provinces – or our towns – or streets – with disrespect by throwing our litter everywhere.  It can take up to 1,000 years for a plastic bag to biodegrade.  This waste is also hazardous to wildlife – as it can entangle animals or be mistaken for food by them.  Plastic bag litter can block drains, trap birds and kill livestock.  Discarded soft drink bottles and cigarette butts are non-biodegradable refuse.  They spoil the beauty of what – in my opinion – is one of the most beautiful countries on the planet: Iran.

The United Nations is therefore immensely proud to be allowed to speak at these elven events organized by Hormod as part of the UN’s Decade on Biodiversity.  However, it is your own actions which carry a much more powerful message to all Iranians – and to many people beyond Iran’s shores.  By being here today, you are saying we can all turn into environmental protectors of the Earth by personally cleaning up litter whenever – and wherever – we can.

Cleaning up our environment is the first task.  But we must go further.  We must prevent littering in the first place.  We should focus on educating our young people on the need for a clean and healthy environment.  So, to all Iranians – old and young – I have a few practical suggestions.  Keep small trash bags in your car to collect your refuse.  Don’t just dump litter out the car window.  Treat your countryside as if it were your own home.  Young Iranians, if you see adults littering, please tell them it is wrong and show how to avoid littering.  We adults also need to develop these habits in our youngsters – and ourselves.  I have seen many countries change their approach to littering in a matter of a few years.  Success is possible.

Please allow me to end these few words in praise of Hormod for its commemoration of the UN Decade on Biodiversity.  In doing this noble work you are all helping to re-establish the age-old tradition – for which Persian culture is famous – of preserving and celebrating its nature and its gardens.  Good luck and keep up the great work!

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Mr. Gary Lewis, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Iran