Celebrate World Environment Day

By Karen D. Kendrick-Hands, Past Chair & Director of Projects for the Environmental Sustainability Rotarian Action Group (ESRAG)

It’s been almost exactly six years since I connected threats to our natural environment to the power of Rotarians to be part of the solution. On a late spring day in 2013, I pondered the future of my six month-old granddaughter Claire.  What would her world would be like in 60 years when she was my age? Would she have the same opportunities to enjoy the beauty of nature? Would she enjoy a finely-tuned ecosystem where the pollinating insects arrived just in time to service the apple blossoms, so there would be fruit in the fall? Would she recognize the calls and plumage of the birds who returned to nest and feed their youth who hatched in perfect sync with their insect food supply? In the past six years, human-caused risks to our ecosystem have accelerated.

Still the power of Rotary offers hope. Six years ago, I realized that Rotarians could help solve the evolving humanitarian crisis caused by over-use of resources and too much carbon dioxide in our atmosphere and oceans.  Paul Riehemann, Past President of my Rotary Club of Madison in the United States and I shared our passion and urgency with like-minded Rotarians worldwide to form the Environmental Sustainability Rotarian Action Group (ESRAG). As a resource and organizing point for Rotarians, ESRAG helps clubs develop projects to benefit the environment and to develop solutions to mitigate and adapt to climate change.

Every year, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) leads the celebration of World Environment Day on 5 June. This year’s theme is Beat Air Pollution, and UNEP invited Rotary to join their party.

In response, ESRAG is inviting all Rotary clubs to support World Environment Day by implementing an environmental service project or making a commitment to a project. To help clubs develop projects, we created a handbook with input from UNEP, with resources on environmental projects. Download the handbook here.

We invite each of you and your clubs to celebrate World Environment Day today and honor its spirit every day. Share your completed projects on Rotary Showcase using the environment tag, and let us how we can help you celebrate in 2020, the 50th anniversary of World Environment Day.

“By helping to protect our natural world, we support all of our areas of focus — and take action to create positive, lasting change — across the globe, in our communities, and in ourselves.” – ESRAG World Environment Day handbook

Each project undertaken is a necessary step towards preserving our planet Earth, and inspiring further action. ESRAG and the UN Environment Programme thank you for your participation and commitment, and so does Claire.


In 2020, ESRAG will join others on 5 June to honor the 50th Anniversary of World Environment Day in a pre-RI Convention Presidential Conference in Honolulu, celebrating Rotary’s 75-Year Legacy of Humanitarian Cooperation with the United Nations. Plan now to join the celebration.

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