April 22 is Earth Day – a day to remind us to protect the air we breathe, the water we drink, the places in nature we visit, and the wildlife we see. It has been celebrated in America since 1970, helping to transform the ways the United States and many countries interact with the world around us and changing how we view our impact on the natural world.
This year on Earth Day, the United States resolves to build on the progress made over the past half-century by reaffirming our commitment to take actions that will ensure a clean and healthy Earth for our children and grandchildren. Climate change and habitat loss threaten the extinction of between one-third and one-half of all species on Earth by the end of this century.
In Lao PDR, I have been inspired by your commitment to saving the fragile systems that you care take for the world to keep some of the Earth’s treasured animals from extinction. For World Wildlife Day last month, I visited the Lao Conservation Trust for Wildlife (LCTW) in Vientiane province, Free the Bears Wildlife Sanctuary in Luang Prabang province, and the Elephant Conservation Center in Xayabouly province.
LCTW has recently seen an increased number of citizens taking action to report wildlife crime, and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry has promoted LCTW’s ‘1601 rescue hotline’ number. Free the Bears has rescued over 100 bears in Laos, most of them since 2017. These organizations rely on cooperation with law enforcement authorities to act on wildlife crime tips, and the increases in seizures and rescues shows the Lao government’s growing will and capacity to combat the illegal wildlife trade. In addition, the Lao people show their interest in protecting animals from wildlife traffickers by calling in the tips.
As Americans who are entrusted to live responsibly in your country, we are working to reduce our environmental footprint by improving our energy, water, and waste management strategies at the Embassy. Each individual can help make a difference. But in the end, multilateralism is the only way to jointly advance our environmental priorities.
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted how interconnected our world is. We are all global citizens of a planet facing multiple stressors. We must continue to work together to stop and reverse the damage already done. Each action we take to improve our communities helps build a foundation that can lead to stronger national and international action. We’ve seen time and again what the world can achieve when we come together around a cause.
Earth Day reminds all global citizens that as long as we stay united and focused on protecting the one planet we have, we can leave it in better shape for future generations. This Earth Day, let us marshal our best efforts toward building a safer, more stable, and more sustainable world.
The United States remains committed to working with Lao PDR and other countries around the world to help achieve our common environmental goals.
Dr. Peter M. Haymond is the U.S. Ambassador to Vientiane, Laos.