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Pokemon Cards and Climate Change--a New Link



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 What do Charles and eight year-old Sho Scott--a father and son team planning a 4,700km cycle trip from the top to the bottom of Japan--have in common with 1,500 households in the Afghan capital Kabul.

 Or share with Mae C. Jemison, the first African-American female astronaut, hundreds joining a beach clean-up and mangrove restoration in Lamu, Kenya or a Symphony for nature concert in Mexico.

 They are all people and communities pledging to do their bit for World Environment Day (WED) on or around 5 June under this year’s slogan of “Your Planet Needs You-UNite to Combat Climate Change”.

 Indeed millions of people across Continents are expected to express their individualistic and communal concerns for a better and more sustainable planet.

 Ban Ki-Moon, the UN Secretary-General, has called 2009 the Year of Climate Change.

 It underlines the mounting threats to economies and livelihoods that will ensue if governments fail to Seal the Deal at the crucial UN climate convention meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark, this December.

 Underscoring too the enormous potential transformation towards a low carbon, resource efficient society if a decisive, scientifically-defensible and equitable agreement is inked.

 Politicians alongside members of organizations like mine can all too often become lost in the minutiae of international negotiations.

 Burning the midnight oil, surrounded by mountains of text and animated debates about the significance of a comma here or a full stop there, it can become all too easy to forget why action is needed.

 Why, if we raise our eyes above the complicated texts and set aside the narrow issues that divide us and focus on the wider concerns that unite us all, genuine progress can perhaps be made.

 WED is a moment for the voices of the global public to be heard--reminders by words but very much by deed to politicians of the importance of environmental sustainability to the health, prosperity and prospects for six billion people.

 WED, established in 1972 by a UN General Assembly resolution that also witnessed the birth of UNEP, will this year involve well over 100 countries.

 UNEP, which has the privilege to spearhead the celebrations focused in 2009 on Mexico, has set up the ‘Climate Heroes’ campaign to reflect the urgency of the coming weeks and months.

 Charles Scott, a director at Intel Capital in New York City and his Japanese-American son Sho, are among the first of this heroic group.

 Their cycle journey will take them from Cape Souya on the northern tip of Hokkaido to Cape Sata and the southern-most tip of Kyushu with stops in places like Sado ga Shima, Mount Nikko, Kyoto and Hiroshima on the way.

 They plan to visit 11 World Heritage Sites including Shiretoko Peninsula, the southern most point of the northern hemisphere where sea ice forms and which is home to red foxes, brown bear and sea eagles.

 Mr Scott says the idea is to “shake things up, think differently, break out of whatever routine you are in”--a good message to climate negotiators as they struggle to find a way to bring developed and developing economies together by December.

 They are also raising money for UNEP’s Billion Tree Campaign. Since 2006 it has inspired the planting of over 2 billion trees with over three billion more pledged.

 Many people understandably wonder--when faced with the Gorgon-like monster of climate change and the seemingly Herculean task facing the world--how they can make a difference.

 But over the past three years schools in Africa, kindergartens in Europe, geishas in Japan alongside businesses and citieshave shown the way.

 President Felipe Calderon of Mexico even called out the army to plant millions of trees in support of BTC.

 The now is seven billion trees planted by December: one for each person alive with a bit to spare.

 Meanwhile every day up to 5 June UNEP is posting its daily “Do Something Tip”, linking up with the social network Twitter.

 The “Kick the Carbon Habit” UN Guide suggests there are many small 'no regrets' choices that together could reduce daily emissions by someone in a developed economy from say 38 Kg to 14 Kg.

 These include:-

●Waking up with a traditional wind-up alarm clock rather than the beep of an electronic one - this can save someone almost 48 grams (g) of CO2 each day.

●Choosing to dry clothes on a washing line versus a tumble dryer - a daily carbon diet of 2.3 Kg of CO2.

●Replacing a 45-minute workout on a treadmill with a jog in a nearby park. This saves nearly 1 Kg of the main greenhouse gas.

●Heating bread rolls in a toaster versus an oven for 15 minutes saves nearly 170 g of CO2;

●Taking the train rather than the car for a daily office commute of as little as 8 km may save a big 1.7 Kg of CO2;

●Shutting down your computer and flat screen both during lunch break and after working hours will cut CO2 emissions generated by these appliances by one-third;

●Investing in a water-saving shower head will not only save 10 liters of water per minute, but will also cut CO2 emissions resulting from a three-minute hot shower by half.

 So what will you do on WED?

 In Paris, join the gathering around the Eiffel Tower for the screening of “Home”, a new and moving environmental film by the celebrated French-born aerial photographer Yann Arthus-Betrand.

 If in Omaha, Nebraska join astronaut and environmentalist Ms Jemison with students for a workshop on the “Earth We Share”.

 On the Kenyan island of Lamu join local government officials and young people in a mangrove-planting competition, a beach clean up and a ‘zero-waste’ football match.

 In Mexico, celebrate the natural world through a symphonic concert with the Republic’s President and the people of Xcaret, south of Cancun.

 On WED there will be around six months left before Copenhagen--less than 200 days before humanity’s date with destiny.

 The public needs to send a clear and unequivocal signal to world leaders--for in the end it is the public that give politicians their license to operate.

 There are numerous compelling reasons to combat climate change--WED reminds us it can be fun too.

 ‘Climate Heroes’ Charles and Sho Scott, whose 2-month journey is announced in New York on 5 June, arrive in Japan shortly afterwards.

 “I want to do my bit to make sure that climate change made by my generation is not passed on in an even more destructive form to Sho’s generation or that of his children…I also want to see as many World Heritage Sites in Japan as I can!,” said Charles.

 Sho wants to deal with climate change too but has some special ideas about the spin-off benefits.

 “We will see about the dad’s World Heritage Sites....maybe the odd one. But I also want to find the biggest Pokemon store in all of Japan!”.

 Combating climate change has, as said, multiple benefits--acquiring more Pikachus, Bulbasaurs and Mews had until now not been uppermost on my mind--but why not!


Achim Steiner

Achim was born in Carazinho, Southern Brazil in 1961 of German parents. After recieving an MA from the University of London, specializing in development economics, he worked at several international environmental organizations. Before joining UNEP, he served as Director General of the World Conservation Union (IUCN, HQ in Switzerland) from 2001 to 2006. IUCN compiles the Red List of Threatened Species. He has served as the Executive Director of UNEP since June 2006. His hobbies are moviegoing and shopping in flea market. He is a father of two.