World Environment Day

Created Without Petroleum
Jun 5, 2010 9:00 AM ET

ElegRoo Blog

World Environment Day (WED) is June 5. It began on that day in 1972 when the UN Conference on the Human Environment began. The First WED was celebrated on June 5, 1973. The day calls attention to the environment and is intended to stimulate political and public  action. Each year WED is  hosted by a different city/country, commemorating a different theme.

For 2010, the host is Rwanda and the theme is "Many Species. One Planet. One Future", celebrating the thrilling diversity of life on Earth as part of the 2010  International Year of Biodiversity.

Around the globe people will hold all sorts of activities to recognize the day -- while people of the US Gulf Coast regions fight the massive petroleum spew from BP's mile-deep sea-bed well; while animals are tarred with the inescapable goo-tide; and wetlands are turned to sludge.

On this day, we can celebrate a traditional human interaction with the natural world that creates a thing of beauty and function -- without any petroleum, no plastic, no chemical processing.

The Zulu are one of only two peoples on the earth who create water-tight baskets. (The other are natives of Central America.) Zulu weavers use only grasses native to their KwaZulu-Natal homeland and local ilala palm, dyed using only natural, locally-derived vegetable dyes.

This weaving is traditional with the Zulu people, though was once a male-oriented skill. Different shaped baskets are designed for local beer, others for seeds, grains, greens, all purposes imaginable. But then the men were taken to work the mines and imported tin vessels replaced the baskets -- the art nearly died out. In the early 70s, a missionary organized weaving classes after Sunday services and enlisted four female master weavers to teach at what became known as the Vukani workshops (named for the missionary).

Traditional skills were passed along; new designs and colors were created; an art form was saved that sustainably uses a few of the great diversity of earth's species. Over the decades since, many weavers have reached Master-level status, had their work displayed in museums around the world and create astounding works of beauty.

Of the original four teachers at the Vukani workshops, one remains -- and she still weaves. That living treasure of Zulu basketry is Laurentia Dlamini.

On World Environment Day, let's celebrate the diversity of species on our earth -- and the diversity of people and their creations without petroleum.