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Remarks by Ambassador Syed Akbaruddin, Permanent Representative 

 at an event on 

“Youth Power the Planet: an SDG Activate Talk to Celebrate Earth Day” 

on the occasion of International Mother Earth Day 

19 April 2018

President of the General Assembly, H.E. Lajcak,

Mr. Laurence Chandy from UNICEF,

Distinguished Guests and

My young friends,


      It is exciting to be among the young, as we come together to celebrate the Earth Day. It is not everyday that we get to meet so many young energetic persons, here at the UN.

2.     The commemoration of the Earth Day started a few decades ago here in New York.  It reminds us of the need to think about our own future, and the impact of our own actions to the future of this world.

3.    Today, we are here to think about solutions for the future. And the young are the future of this world.

4.    It is, therefore, a privilege to meet all these bright minds who are thinking of the future and of solutions to make this a better world.


5.    Our planet, with all the wonderful forms of lives, remains a unique place in the cosmos. Although our quest to search for life beyond has started, the planet earth, so far, is the only one known to mankind that sustains life.

6.    Ever since the first images of the Earth taken from space started capturing our imagination in late 1960s, our understanding of the uniqueness and the fragility of the ecosystem has grown exponentially.

7.    But remarkably, even hundreds of years before these amazing modern technological advances, our ancestors across the world understood the inter-connectedness and inter-dependence of life on Earth.

8.    Ancient traditions have imagined our home as 'mother earth'. All of us are part of the nature and not separate from it.

9.    All ancient cultures respect and revere various aspects of nature - such as the Sun, the Moon, rivers, lakes, mountains, trees, plants and animals, and so on.

10.    Another fascinating thing is that the ways and cycles of life in the past, be it farming or fishing or other economic activities, have been such that these were very substantially sustainable for centuries. They were only disrupted in times of serious natural disasters.

11.    Our ancestors understood these cycles and the critical importance of harmony in nature intuitively.

12.    But with the onset of industrial revolution, the scale of change started becoming exponential. Human activities began to have impact on a much wider scale, most importantly disrupting the carbon cycle that is essential for life itself.

13.    After a long period of unsustainable economic activities, the modern scientific knowledge has also grown to make us understand the implications of many of our actions.

14.    Industrial scale agriculture, food industry, manufacturing, our modern lifestyles, the use of fossil fuels, the growing pollution -all carry serious implications for the availability of resources, our climate, as also the general well being of human societies.

15.    Scientists tell us that humans have only been around for a mere 0.004% of Earth’s history. However, the times that we live in is already being called by many as ‘anthropocene’ or the period during which human activity has been the dominant influence on climate and the environment; in other words, on the Earth's geology and ecosystems .

16.    I am aware that there are others who still dispute this. However, that there is a debate warns us of the dramatic impact of human species on the entire Earth system.


17.    It is often said that we do not inherit this Earth from our ancestors, but borrow it from our children.  This reminds us that our life-spans are too short in comparison to the deep time. 

18.    It, therefore, reminds us of our responsibility towards future generations, so that the resources that we depend on are not exhausted and the human civilization can last longer. 

19.    In many cultures, including in my own country India, rivers are considered holy and sacred. This is because water sustains life, just as the Sun sustains life. 

20.    Some of you may know that in several parts of the world, there are serious moves to accord the status of legal entities to rivers by courts. These range from New Zealand to Colombia to India.

21.    This situation has arisen since rivers in many parts of the world have started facing serious threats due to excessive pollution and indiscriminate urbanization and they are in need of some legal protection.  

22.    Such awareness of the implications of our collective actions and how these may make our environment unlivable for future generations is very necessary.

23.    With awareness and understanding comes the willingness to take action that can lead to change.

24.    In mythology, both ancient and modern, a change very often requires heroes. But in reality, change often comes from ordinary citizens, who become heroes through their actions.

25.    Some of you may have heard of a forest conservation movement in India some decades back called the ‘Chipko’ movement, where local community people, especially women, clung on to trees in a non-violent protest to prevent the trees from being cut down.

26.    They were heroes in their own right since they were doing the right thing.

27.    In the last few years, people are coming to realize the massive scale of plastic pollution all around our cities and even in rivers and oceans.

28.    Plastics are not only endangering the environment and lives of animals and even whales, they are creating a massive problem for the future.

29.    But, people are busy finding solutions to re-cycle or re-use and taking actions to clean up.

30.    For instance, in India, a chemistry professor Dr. Vasudevan has patented a process to use plastics to build roads. Such efforts are heroic.

31.    Also in India, a local community in Mumbai, led by a young lawyer Afroz Shah, has worked tirelessly to remove thousands of tonnes of trash along a 2.5 km beach.  The massive ongoing clean-up has even led to Ridley turtles returning to the beach to hatch their young ones after two decades.  These committed people are all heroes.

32.    There are similar stories of action and innovation from around the world.  This gives us hope.

33.    I am very happy that we have amongst us today several Young Climate Heroes.  We all are highly impressed by their commitment and inspirational work to secure a better future for all of us. 

34.    They are the real Action Heroes.  Their actions will inspire and make more heroes from among their peers.

35.    I am happy to see here Miss SathvighaSona Sridhar, a young artist from Chennai, who has won the UNICEF Climate Comic Contest - mayher hero, ‘Tre’join the long list of heroes who work for sustainable development.

36.    I also congratulate the other Climate Heroes of today – Gitanjali Rao, the 12-year-old inventor; AnelaArifi, a young scientist and inventor; Sherell Henry, who is using Art and Code for good; Zubaida Bello, a young poet; and Sonny, an artist and conservationist.

37.    I thank UNICEF and other organizers of this wonderful event, who have brought together so many young and committed talent, here today.

38.    I have no doubt that such initiatives will help motivate many more to start working to find solutions for tomorrow.  The future, they say, belongs to you. It is your choices that will be decisive in making for a better tomorrow. In your success, lies our collective well being.

Thank you.