About the Author: Billie Gross serves as a Public Affairs Specialist in the Bureau of Oceans, Environment and Science at the U.S. Department of State.
On April 22, people all over the world will celebrate Earth Day 2009 through various programs, activities and events. However, for the nearly 200 employees in the Bureau of Oceans, Environment and Science (OES), every day is Earth Day as we work diligently to promote diplomacy through advancing environmental stewardship, encouraging economic growth, and promoting social development around the globe to foster a safer, more secure and hopeful world.
These lofty goals are carried out through programs and activities concerning infectious diseases, biodiversity, natural resource conservation, climate change, access to water, ocean and polar affairs, and science and technology cooperation.
The OES bureau leads U.S. participation in the Coalition Against Wildlife Trafficking (CAWT), which focuses public and political attention and resources on ending the illegal trade in wildlife and wildlife products. The U.S. works with its CAWT partners to improve wildlife law enforcement by expanding enforcement training and information sharing and strengthening regional cooperative networks. It also focuses its efforts on reducing consumer demand for illegally traded wildlife by raising awareness of the impacts of illegal wildlife trade on biodiversity and the environment, livelihoods and human health; its links to organized crime; and the availability of sustainable alternatives. In addition, CAWT works to catalyze high-level political will to fight wildlife trafficking by broadening support at the highest political levels for actions to combat the illegal trade in wildlife.
The OES bureau also leads the Department of State’s active participation in international negotiations and initiatives related to sustainable tourism in order to maximize tourism's social and economic benefits to local communities, while reducing negative impacts on the local cultural heritage and environment. For example, through the Congo Basin Forest Partnership, the U.S. supports ecotourism development in several regional parks in Africa. These efforts have resulted in transboundary cooperation and tourism revenue-sharing among parks in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda, home to the endangered mountain gorilla.
The U.S.'s Initiative Against Illegal Logging is aimed at protecting forests and the livelihoods that depend on them. Illegal logging costs countries $10-15 billion each year in lost revenues. Illegal logging and the trade in illegally harvested forest products destroy valuable forest ecosystems and the wildlife that depend on them, undermine legitimate commerce, fuel conflict, and have serious economic and environmental consequences. The initiative aims to address the problem by working with producer and consumer partners to build capacity in developing countries to clarify and enforce forest-related laws, and to establish good governance at all levels. The partnership facilitates the engagement of forest-dependent communities in sustainably managing forests and promotes the use of technologies such as remote sensing to monitor changes in forest conditions and compliance with forest-related laws. In addition, the partnership promotes good business practices, transparent markets and legal trade.
Through its participation in and promotion of these activities and initiatives, the OES bureau demonstrates its commitment to policies that make concrete improvements in people's lives and the individual desire of each employee to leave this world a better place than they found it, thus making every day Earth Day at the Department of State.