Every 5th of June since the 1972 Stockholm Conference thousands of people, organizations, and actions are held to celebrate World´s Environment Day. Led by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and hosted yearly by one country; this year is Sweden´s turn with the campaign slogan “Only One Earth” and with the focus on “Living Sustainably in Harmony with Nature”.
Actions from the whole globe were taken and in Greece could not be the exception. With Wheeling2help the organization where I am currently doing my volunteering, we joined the call from Save Your Hood Movement and went to one of the local beaches in the area to clean it.
Save Your Hood is a movement of people that aims to raise awareness about pollution and to change the mindset regarding waste and equality with mother nature. The logic of indifference became the reason for Vassilis Sfakianopoulos -Va Sfak- to start a voluntary initiative along with some of his friends. It has become a movement of volunteers expanding and inspiring other people to protect the environment. The organization created during the lockdown had collected 7.64 litters of garbage and organized more than 4122 actions across 252 municipalities in Greece. Along with the clean-ups, environmental education courses and workshops are held.
On Facebook with the name “Save your hood” a team coordinates and informs all individual and group awareness initiatives throughout Greece. Once a week, a poll is held with various places created by the members and administrators of the group, so everyone can register in their own place and propose an action to clean a beach, a neighborhood, or the like. The rest is very simple. The group of volunteers meet and together clean the area following some basic rules about separation and informing the municipality where are the bins collected.
With such a huge and admiring movement, I had to use to chance to ask Va Sfak some questions regarding this year's topic of commemoration and get his personal views on it.
- What does it mean to you to live in harmony with Nature?
It means everything. The environment is above us so it is something we should care about. We should follow the rules of nature first and afterward everything else. However, to have a full comprehension of what we meant with the word “nature” is not easy. Even if we are in the perfect place, deep in “connection” with nature, in the Olympus Mountain, for example, we are still not aware that what society is doing is also putting in danger nature and Earth. So, it is hard to say that we could live in harmony if there are still many things happening and endangering the Earth. We should accept first that we are destroying it and afterward unite and make the change happen. Just like that maybe we will be more in connection and harmony with it.
- What are your views on some critics about the limits of civic engagement and volunteering vs the governmental responsibilities to clean for example the beach, roads, etc.?
We are all part of the problem Citizens, societies, and government. Our daily habits are making things worst for the planet. So, if you know that, everything you are making is kind of helping the world. I don’t care if volunteering has a bad criticism from some If they don’t act and do anything for it, is on them.
- Finally, do you think we have Only One Earth or there is life somewhere else?
Yes, [laughs] of course. We have only one Earth and that’s part of our slogan as Save Your Hood is that. We cannot have our houses tidy, cars clean, and not our environment. This is our only home and therefore we should care for it and try to make it better for us. We will die one day, yes, and without us, the Earth keeps living.
If you want to know more about this movement, here is the link where you can get all information .
Remember We have #OnlyOneEarth.