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Sukyo Mahikari Centers for Spiritual Development Active
in United Nations 2012 World Environment Day
World Environment Day is an activity of the United Nations and it is celebrated on June 5 every year. The first World Environment Day was in 1973. World Environment Day is hosted every year by a different city with a different theme and is commemorated with an international exposition in the week of June 5. For example the 2012 theme was the green economy in the context of sustainable development. The UN stated that this concept underpins an economy that is low carbon, resource-efficient, and socially inclusive.
This year, World Environment Day also supported one of the main objectives of the Rio+20 Summit, the short name for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, which was held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, from June 20 to 22, 2012 []. At the Rio + 20 conference , world leaders discussed and worked on policies for the restoration and preservation of the planet's environment, and hundreds of non-government organizations held programs at the same time, including two booths by Sukyo Mahikari's Latin American Region. Rio was therefore the natural city to host the international exposition celebrating World Environment Day a few weeks earlier, during the week of June 5.
Five Sukyo Mahikari Centers for Spiritual Development represented North America by holding events sponsored by their centers in cooperation with World Environment Day 2012 and were able to be listed as one of the 9,614 worldwide environmental events posted on the United Nations website. This is very significant for our organization to make known in the global community our commitment to the planet's ecology and our partnership with the global community toward these ends.
Cincinnati Spiritual Development Center members volunteered their services at the Eco Garden in the historic "Over the Rhine" downtown district of Cincinnati on Saturday June 23rd. The Eco Garden is a small organic farm dedicated to bringing sustainable, organic food choices, food production, and education to the underserved communities in Cincinnati. The Eco Garden is also an urban youth garden/market, similar to programs in other cities. The program is operated by Permaganic, a nonprofit organization, which offers internships to about 20 youth in Cincinnati's urban core, helping the teenagers develop job skills such as punctuality, self-motivation, focus, and accountability. The youth learn how to plan crops and plant, grow, and harvest organic fruits and vegetables such as peaches, garlic, greens, tomatoes, and squash, which they then sell at the local farmers' market, Findlay Market, and this year the program was even able to obtain a custom, pedal-powered vehicle to bring the produce to the market through a crowd-sourcing website. The Eco Garden also offers nutrition education, cooking classes, youth intern ambassador outreach programs, and school field trips.

Eight members of the Cincinnati Spiritual Development Center offered our time and work in Celebration of World Environment Day to clear weeds from garden beds and transplant and water rows of vegetables, all while interacting with the local community and giving Light to the city and the garden area. We felt our efforts helped to contribute to a world movement of unity to sustain the richness of our environment.

Florida Spiritual Development Center members gathered at the Oleta River State Park to volunteer with the Miami Museum of Science for the Reclamation Project. The Reclamation Project has the objective of restoring and protecting the land, as Oleta River State Park has been plagued with invasive plants for several years. When the organizers announced that volunteers would be planting 921 native trees and shrubs, it did not seem like there would be enough time to get the job done in a single morning. The Florida sun was blazing, but everyone appeared to be working comfortably. Though everyone worked without wasting any time, the mood was light and joyful throughout the entire activity. People looked genuinely content to be there. Team cooperation was all around as each person took on a different task without hesitation. The morning went by fast, and all 921 native trees and shrubs were successfully planted in two different park areas.

After all the hard work, members were able to enjoy a beautiful nature walk with butterflies along the path. A total of eight Sukyo Mahikari Centers for Spiritual Development volunteers participated in this event (including 1 staff member and 4 youth group members). This activity was a great opportunity to contribute to the environment and to represent our organization in society. We left with a sense of purpose, feeling committed to continue volunteering for The Reclamation Project later this summer and fall.

Hawaii Spiritual Development Center members participated in World Environment Day activities by cleaning Ala Moana Beach Park in Honolulu. Sixteen members picked up trash at this large, municipal beach park located next to Waikiki and within walking distance of the Honolulu center. We did the cleanup as an expression of gratitude for the gifts of nature and respect and reverence for our precious environment. We gathered trash in one major area of the park where there were many picnickers, beachgoers, and individuals enjoying a glorious summer day.

The Sukyo Mahikari Center for Spiritual Development of Hawaii volunteered for litter cleanup at Ala Moana Beach Park in 2010 as part of the City and County of Honolulu's Adopt-A-Park Program to keep our city beautiful and clean. We have been going to this park at least twice a year to pick up trash. When we arrived for World Environment Day 2012, the park was much cleaner than before. There were fewer cigarette butts, and there was virtually no drug paraphernalia. There was mostly food trash, such as wrappings, plastic bottle caps, cups, and utensils. We could see some groups of parkgoers doing recycling by separating their own trash in bags, and adults at one large birthday party were overheard instructing the children to pick up their own trash. In addition, on that same day, another community group had cleaned other areas of the park. We felt uplifted and encouraged by this experience because we felt that nature is being appreciated more than in times past.

The Houston Spiritual Development Center held a panel discussion on ways to participate in the Green Economy. There were three speakers who are members of the Houston center. The first speaker talked about how his HVAC company optimizes new HVAC systems to be more efficient in cooling and dehumidifying. The second speaker provided five simple ways to make your home more energy-efficient. The third speaker gave a presentation on how to harvest and use rainwater to irrigate your plants. After each speaker, people were able to ask questions. The activity lasted about 45 minutes. We hope to hold a similar activity in the future.

Montreal Spiritual Development Center members organized an activity in Mont Royal Park. Mont Royal is just west of downtown Montreal, the city to which it gave its name. In the 1860s, mass cutting of trees on the mountain for firewood led to the area being designated as a park in 1876. The park was originally landscaped by Frederick Law Olmsted, who is well known for New York City's Central Park. We planted trees with Les Amis de la Montagne ("Friends of the Mountain"), a volunteer group that invites Montrealers to come and help out every Saturday with various service opportunities to preserve the natural environment and biodiversity of the beautiful mountain located in the heart of the city .

It was a very hot day, but all of us climbed up to the highest area of the mountain, where Les Amis de la Montagne decided to plant some trees. It was hard work to manipulate tools and soil in the heat, but surrounded by nature and friendships among our own groups and with other groups as well who came with the same desire to beautify the environment, we were able to plant over 50 trees that day. This activity was so much enjoyed by all of us that we all decided to offer our time more on a regular basis and encourage others to participate as well in order to make a difference in this world one tree at a time.

We in Sukyo Mahikari Centers for Spiritual Development were honored to participate in World Environment Day 2012, joining communities around the world and, together with the collective power of other individuals around the world, making every positive action the world takes for the environment count.
The United Nations Environment Programme awarded the North American Region and every center that participated in World Environment Day 2012 a special certificate: Regional Headquarters will send out information about World Environment Day 2013, and we hope that all the centers may be able to organize an activity to participate.

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Sukyo Mahikari is an Affiliate with the United Religions Initiative (URI) of North America