"There's not a lot of reason for celebration," UN Environment Programme (UNEP) chief Klaus Toepfer said on Saturday in Barcelona on the state of the planet. UNEP's bleak slogan for 5 June is "Wanted! Seas and Oceans: Dead or Alive?".
A group of children released two turtles, nursed back from
injuries from fishermen's nets, into the Mediterranean from a Barcelona beach. From Australia to Zambia, activists tried to clean beaches, promote renewable energy or plant trees.
"Society can no longer view the world's oceans as a convenient dumping ground for our waste, or as an unlimited source of plenty," UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in a call for urgent action.
He noted that governments agreed at an Earth Summit in Johannesburg in 2002 to try to restore depleted fish stocks by 2015 and to set up more protected marine areas, like wildlife parks on land, by 2012.
"This last goal...is especially important," he said in a statement. "Less than 0.5% of marine habitats are protected - compared with 11.5% of global land area."
Plastic bag killers
About 75% of fish stocks, from cod to tuna, are caught faster than they can breed, and every year plastic waste such as supermarket bags kills one million sea birds, 100,000 sea mammals and countless fish.
Some 3.5 billion people, more than half the world's six billion population, rely on seas for their main source of food.
"Wanted! Seas and Oceans:
Dead or Alive?" - UNEP
"I love the turtles," said Nimit Jain, one of the children on the beach in Barcelona. "We're realising we're only part of the ecosystem. We are the ones wasting it. This is our chance to change."
On the other side of the world, volunteers cleaned up trash washed up on Australia's Macquarie Island near Antarctica.
Others focused on wider themes for 5 June, the date a first global summit on the environment was held in Stockholm in 1972. In nations including Sri Lanka and Ghana, activists planted trees to help slow deforestation.
In Oslo, a youth group protested against drilling for oil in the Arctic and urged a shift to renewable energies like solar or wind power with banners saying: "Stop Climate Change."
"If the war on environmental degradation is to be won, we need a major turnaround"
World Bank President
"If the war on environmental degradation is to be won, we need a major turnaround," World Bank President James Wolfensohn wrote in an editorial, saying progress was "alarmingly slow".
He said that aid to help developing nations protect the environment totalled $2.0 billion a year compared with global military spending of $900 billion.