Environment and development
in coastal regions and in small islands

MESSAGE FROM THE UNITED NATIONS
SECRETARY-GENERAL
ON WORLD ENVIRONMENT DAY
5 JUNE 2001

The theme of this year's observance of World Environment Day is Connect with the World Wide Web of Life, a choice that reflects the need for each and every one of us to recognise our role in preserving our fragile planet and the ecosystems, resources and natural processes that bind us all together. More than ever, life on Earth requires of us a sense of universal responsibility - nation to nation, person to person, human to all other forms of life.

Albert Einstein once said that in crisis, imagination is better than knowledge. We do need more knowledge about the world's major ecosystems and development, since it is impossible to devise effective policy unless it is based on sound scientific information. That is one reason why today marks the launch, by the United Nations and the World Resources Institute, of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, an international collaborative effort to fill important knowledge gaps and to map the health of our planet.

At the same time, we know more than enough already to face the hard choices ahead. We already have the technical skills to halt destructive trends and to place our economies on a more sustainable footing. It is not knowledge and scientific research, but political and economic factors, that will determine whether or not the wisdom accumulating in our laboratories and libraries will be put into practice. Challenges such as climate change, desertification, the destruction of biological diversity and population growth are testing not only our imagination, but also our will.

Sustainability is in everybody's interest, rich and poor alike. One in every two jobs worldwide - in agriculture, forestry and fisheries - depends directly on the sustainability of ecosystems. Yet unsustainable practices are woven deeply into the fabric of modern life. And myths have taken hold suggesting there is little alternative to these short-sighted and wasteful patterns of consumption and development. So let us, on this World Environment Day, connect with a new ethic of global stewardship and conservation, and most of all with the imagination and courage to make it a reality.

Kofi A. Annan
Secretary-General of the United Nations
5 June 2001

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