Eswatini Environment Authority Representative,
Ministry of Tourism representative,
School leadership and teachers,
Eswatini Youth Biodiversity Network leadership and team,
Students present today,
All protocols observed.
It’s a pleasure to be here today at Sigombeni High School in (belated) honor of Earth Day. Fifty-two years ago, on April 22, 1970, the first Earth Day celebration took place in the United States—the celebration helped spark the environmental awareness campaigns, and quickly grew into an international movement. The movement has gained momentum over the years and last Friday millions of people joined hands to commemorate Earth Day.
Earth Day is an opportunity to reconnect and recommit to nature. It’s time to commit to taking action—each one of us, in big ways and in small ways. It’s a reminder of our obligation to act to protect our environment, not just on Earth Day, but every day. I am happy that we gathered here today to take steps, as a school and as a community to improve the environment. Thank you to everyone here who has volunteered to serve.
As you know, the U.S. government is deeply committed to stronger climate action. In recent years, scientists have underscored the need to limit planetary warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius in order to stave off the worst impacts of climate change. The time to act is now.
This year’s Earth Day theme is “Invest in our Planet” and we are here to reiterate that message. As young people, your future is dependent on actions we all take today, and wise investments today will yield fruitful results in the future. Wisely investing means doing something small today that will have long-term benefits, such as planting a seedling and watching it grow. By that same token, small steps taken now toward healing and National Dialogue can yield major benefits for the future. As Eswatini is poised for what we hope will be an inclusive, productive, and consequential national dialogue, we hope that all emaSwati – government and non-governmental, young and old, women and men – contribute to a peaceful environment that supports constructive, non-judgemental dialogue, peaceful reform, and healing.. The long-term benefits cannot be overstated.
The annual commemoration of Earth Day focuses on creating and accelerating solutions to combat our greatest threat, climate change, and to inspire everyone – governments, citizens, and businesses to do their part. It is encouraging to see so many young people gathered here, participating in the cleanup campaign and planting trees—these are practical ways of doing your part and we hope this will be the beginning, or the continuation, of such efforts: to consciously protect our planet and live sustainably.
The call to “Invest in our planet” also applies to governments, businesses, and organizations. The U.S. government has an ongoing “Green Diplomacy” program that is designed to institutionalize a culture of sustainability and climate preparedness. The U.S. Embassy in Eswatini is doing our part. Last week we announced that our embassy compound has been certified by the National Wildlife Federation® as a wildlife habitat. Only 24 other U.S. embassies in the world have this qualification, and we were proud to join the list of environmentally friendly green spaces. Our green space covers a planted area of nearly 2 acres, and provides a native plant habitat that helps sustain pollinators and other wildlife populations. Our green space is home to an impressive diversity of plants – we have 47 indigenous and 24 exotic plants! Our notable flora and fauna include: the yellow Fever tree, which can grow up to 30 meters tall; the African baobab tree, which can live up to 2000 years; and more.
I would like to thank the leadership of Sigombeni High School for playing their part too by hosting today’s event. We hope the trees planted today will be a part of this school’s legacy in environmental friendliness for years to come.
Today’s event organizers are the Eswatini Youth Biodiversity Network (EYBN), and I would like to thank them for their leadership in engaging with the youth in the country and creating awareness on the importance of environmental sustainability. The young people of the world are at the forefront, calling on governments and businesses to respect and protect the Earth they will inherit. As the climate crisis becomes ever more serious, its devastating effects are being felt: droughts, floods and other natural disasters affect food security and can adversely affect communities and the entire country. We must take action to mitigate the climate crisis.
Gcina Dlamini has also informed us that today the school will be launching the Environmental School Club. Wonderful news! We are pleased to hear about this initiative. There are many activities that club members can do to protect the environment—think about recycling and reusing, or about cleaning up trash in other communities. We wish the school club well and we sincerely hope the school leadership will continue to support them. We look forward to hearing about all the projects and activities they will organize in future.
I am also grateful to see the depth of commitment from this community, who organized this event, prepared this land, and came out today. Thank you for your service, and thank you for supporting the environment!