The Secretary-General message on International Mother Earth Day

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. UN Photo/Mark Garten

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. UN Photo/Mark Garten

New York, 22 April 2015 – The word ‘mother’ holds great power. It evokes memories of the women who gave us life, nurtured us as infants and helped mould us into who we are today. The Earth is the ultimate mother – an astounding planet that has, since time immemorial, supported life in myriad forms. As humans, we outgrow the need for constant maternal care. But we can never outgrow our reliance on Mother Earth. As long as we live, we need air, water, fertile soil and the countless other gifts this planet bestows.

This dependence makes it all the more astonishing that we have allowed rapid and often unwise human development to disrupt so many of the delicate systems that have functioned harmoniously for millennia. We are increasingly aware of the damage our species has wrought – the pollution, the dwindling resources, the species of flora and fauna forever gone, the rush towards tipping points that may alter the way our planet functions. Even with this knowledge, we have yet to change our ways.

But we can change, and 2015 brings a critical opportunity to do just that. This year, the world aims to finalize the post-2015 sustainable development agenda and reach a new and meaningful universal climate change agreement. These processes have the potential to redefine our future for the better, by eradicating extreme poverty in all its forms and resetting our relationship with this planet and every living being it sustains.

But the big decisions that lie ahead are not just for world leaders and policy-makers. Today, on Mother Earth Day, I ask each one of us to be mindful of the impacts our choices have on this planet, and what those impacts will mean for future generations. Not everyone is able to make sustainable choices, but for those who can, simple decisions such as switching to energy-efficient lighting or buying only what you will consume – when accumulated across billions of people – can transform our world. The power to change begins with you.

As a global community, we have the opportunity to make 2015 a turning point in human history. This can be the year our children and grandchildren will remember as when we chose to build a sustainable and resilient future – both for Mother Earth and all those that development has until now left behind. Let us seize this historic opportunity together.