Dubai: As millions of people around the world raise awareness about the planet on Earth Day, Dubai marked the occasion in its own way.
For the Dubai Municipality, this year’s Earth Day focused on educating young people and children on climate and environmental issues.
On the long, glassy sands of kite beach on a sweltering Saturday afternoon, schoolchildren and their parents gathered for a series of green-themed activities.
In one area, teenagers sat on pedal-powered blenders to make orange, banana and grape smoothies. As the event’s emcee explained, there’s no need to rely on electricity for everything.
“We’re here because we volunteered to take part from our school,” said Frukhan Ali, a Pakistani tenth-grader.
He and eight of his classmates were busy piecing together a giant jigsaw that, when completed, showed a picture of the planet from space.
Nearby, smaller children painted on recycled pieces of wood.
“This is the first time we’ve been to this kind of event,” said Daniya Pradeshnaya, an Indian expat.
The mother-of-two smiled as her two-year-old daughter merrily daubed yellow and red paint on a small, chunky wood canvas.
“At home also, she likes to paint like that, to show to my mother,” chimes in Kasherat, her seven-year-old brother.
Children at the event seemed enthralled by one activity — the chance to make artificial coloured clouds in a jar using hot water, ice blocks, hairspray and food colouring
“We are explaining how the clouds are formed,” said Kareem Atif, an Egyptian whose firm, the Nutty Scientists, helps organise science experiments that kids can take part in.
School-aged volunteers from Green Hope, an international youth organisation that focuses on saving the environment, also helped at the event.
“As today is Earth Day, we are here to spread awareness by volunteering with the Dubai Municipality,” said Anshita, an Indian eighth-grader.
Her classmate, Saanvirai, who also volunteers with Green Hope, has one tip for anyone who wishes to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle.
“One practical thing I recommend is that while going for shopping, use reusable paper or jute bags instead of getting the plastic bags, and you can reuse them.”
As the sun set, the beach event’s main stage played environmental cartoons and movies to an audience that sat and watched on beanbags placed on the sand.
According to the director-general of Dubai Municipality, Hussain Nasser Lootah, Earth Day represents the emirate’s prioritisation of environmental issues.
“The world has, for some time, been experiencing an unprecedented shift in attitudes towards climate change and environmental degradation,” Lootah said. “We are more aware now than ever of our impact on our planet and we must use this awareness. We must embrace opportunities to teach our children wholeheartedly to respect and care for the environment.”
Dubai Municipality officials said that local efforts to protect the environment needed involvement from across society.
“Environmental and climate issues cannot be overcome by any one entity,” said Tasnim Salem Al Falasi, the head of the municipality’s Environmental Awareness Section.
There “instead must be a combined effort of individuals, the community and organisations alike”.
BOX: What is Earth Day?
Celebrated on April 22 every year, Earth Day is dedicated to environmental awareness.
Earth Day was first held in 1970 in the United States, after a devastating oil spill. Today, more than 190 countries — and an estimated billion or more people — take part. Organisers claim the day is the “the largest secular holiday in the world”.
The day carries more than just symbolic value.
Last year, 195 countries — including the UAE — signed on Earth Day the Paris Agreement. The landmark accord aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions around the world.