1996 Earth Day Message

May 5, 1996

WASHINGTON, D.C., May 5, 1996 — Peace Corps Volunteers are celebrating International Earth Day today with activities around the world.

For example, volunteers in Romania have arranged to have 800 people conduct clean-up campaigns in 28 cities, cleaning parks, trails and streets. In the Dominican Republic, Peace Corps volunteers are leading efforts to plant 2,000 trees, while in Hungary, volunteers have set up an exhibition on the environment.

"Because of their commitment to protecting the world's environment, Peace Corps volunteers feel a special connection to Earth Day," said Peace Corps Director Mark Gearan. "But every day, not just Earth Day, Peace Corps volunteers are supporting national and community-based efforts to protect fragile environmental areas. Environmental protection is one of the Peace Corps' fastest-growing programs."

Peace Corps volunteers work to combat deforestation, which in the past decade alone has destroyed rain forests covering areas three times the size of France. They are fighting pollution in countries where almost 5 percent of all deaths are caused by unclean air. Volunteers are also dedicated to saving endangered species at a time when extinction threatens more than 20 percent of species globally. 

With more than 1,100 environmental volunteers serving in 52 countries, the Peace Corps is one of the largest grass-roots organizations in the world dedicated to the environment. 

Gearan said that Peace Corps volunteers are committed to teaching environmental awareness, so children can grow up knowing the importance of preserving their resources and protecting their environment. These volunteers live and work in communities where they are immersed in the local culture, allowing them to tailor projects to fit the needs of their communities.

In Nepal, for instance, where deforestation is causing severe soil erosion, volunteers are helping local officials and communities implement sustainable forest management techniques. Volunteers in Niger are working with officials in national parks to preserve the last troop of wild giraffes in West Africa by documenting their population size, migrations and behaviors. In Uganda, volunteers help manage protected areas that are home to gorillas and other wild game.

Since the Peace Corps was founded by President John F. Kennedy in 1961, more than 140,000 Americans have returned from service in 130 countries. Currently, there are almost 7,000 volunteers serving in 94 countries.

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