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The environment: at the heart of our work

Published on 9th June 2017

Monday June 5 was World Environment Day.


Each World Environment Day is organised around a theme that focuses attention on a particularly pressing environmental concern. The theme for 2017 was “Connecting People to nature”.


World Environment Day 2017



Gill Greer - VSA CEO


In her blog, Gill wrote on Monday that, “As the evidence already shows us, it is the poor, and the poorest women and children who will suffer most from climate change.  Many are already seeing their land and their livelihoods impacted every day.


“Here at VSA we will integrate the consideration of climate change into all we do, at home and with our partners across an increasingly vulnerable Pacific.” - See more of Gill’s blog here


As part of their assignments, some of our volunteers work on projects closely related to environmental protection and the impacts of climate change on vulnerable communities across the Pacific. We heard from a few of them about how they and their partners marked World Environment Day: 



World Environment Day

Norah Riddick spent World Environment Day swimming with her students on Nango Island


Norah Riddick


Physio/Occupational Therapist & Administrative Assistant, Callan Service for Persons with Disabilities, Kaveing, Papua New Guinea


Our Early Intervention class has been learning about the ocean recently, and this week we decided to conclude by celebrating World Environment Day with a class trip to Nango Island.


Early Intervention children are essentially pre-schoolers and some of those attending Callan have disabilities. On Tuesday 6 June we invited Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) to show us their puppet show about climate change and how we need to look after our environment.


The island trip was the final part of the class learning. The fact that it was also good fun was a big part of what we aimed to be doing. It was a really nice way to celebrate World Environment Day.



World Environment Day

Alison Turner (centre) with fellow VSA volunteer Rebecca Vella-King (left) and Dave Waldien from Bat Conservation International (right)


Alison Turner


Ecotourism and Conservation Adviser, Rotokas Ecotourism Association, Bougainville


I have been part of a couple of World Environment Day celebrations with schools in the Rotokas region of Bougainville.  Students from neighbouring schools come together (this means a walk of up to two hours for some) and share drama, songs and speeches on the theme of environmental protection.  A play by senior students, depicting a bunch of youth (SP beer cans in hand) cutting down trees to get “protein” (possums and birds), while the clan chief railed against the breaking of traditional hunting laws, was a real crowd pleaser.


This play highlighted some of the real issues for Rotokas clans.  In this remote roadless part of Bougainville, pretty much every day is environment day as the villagers are entirely dependent on their largely forested ecosystem for their lives. It provides all the materials for their houses, their food (“protein” is almost entirely derived from hunting), their water and the soils for their gardens. A tradition of clan chief-led environmental stewardship remains but is faltering throughout Rotokas.


Meanwhile international conservation organisations have recognised the Rotokas region with the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund declaring 75,000 hectares of Rotokas to be a “Key Biodiversity Area” within eastern Melanesia, with over 12 globally threatened species present.


There is now local and international will to develop a conservation plan for Rotokas. Rotokas Ecotourism have partnered with UNDP, Bat Conservation International, and VSA to explore ways to conserve and sustain their ecosystems and livelihoods.  Hopefully in the next few years World Environment Day will celebrate the completion of a clan led Rotokas Conservation Plan that can be celebrated and respected by all those who live and visit this wonderful area.



World Environment Day

Astra Rushton-Allan with local students at Buka Unity Library



Astra Rushton-Allan


Community Conservation Assistant with the Bougainville Bureau for the Environment, Buka, Bougainville.


The Bureau is currently working on re-establishing Bougainville's first and only protected area, Pirung Wildlife Management Area.


For World Environment Day, Astra organised a poster competition at Buka Unity Library based on the theme “I’m with nature”:


“We had the poster competition launch and set up an environment themed display with library books and got the kids to help make some of the display by colouring in some cut outs. A lot of school kids pass through the library in the afternoon and the display will be at library all of June, so hopefully we get lots of entries. I am really looking forward to seeing what the kids come up with.



World Environment Day

Mangrove sites on South Tarawa are highlighted for special protection in the Land Use Plan in Kiribati


Emma O'Neill


Land Management Systems Adviser, Ministry of Environment, lands and Agriculture Development (MELAD), Kiribati


In a fragile atoll environment like Kiribati everything we do on the land has an impact. We need to be so careful to think about all of these things when developing our land use plans. Recently, together with my colleagues at MELAD, have been working on a new General Land Use Plan for South Tarawa. This recognises the interconnections between land use and environment and helps to ensure our precious marine and freshwater resources are looked after. 


An example of what this plan does is make sure mangrove sites are given special protection. 


Outside of work, this year's theme of "connecting people to nature" really resonated. Swimming in the beautiful clear water in Kiribati always reminds me of why looking after our environment is so important. Not only do the oceans support a vast ecosystem, but the feeling you get from spending time here is unbeatable!



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