I believe in reducing my personal consumption of valuable resources, but I don't see how I can make much of a difference by myself. What is the point, if most people carry on as normal? cÉcile bordier, france

You have already taken the first step - being aware of the need to reduce your consumption. The next step is to use this awareness in your daily life. If you follow it through with action then people will see the difference you are making in your community, and by setting such an example, you will inspire those around you to change.

Even if I turn off lights and taps when I'm not using them, how does that help someone living half a world away? How can the energy being saved benefit them? orszi ihÁsz, hungary

It may sound rather presumptuous to assume that the action of one person can affect the state of the global environment. But the action you take at home will have an impact in your immediate environment. If enough of us do our part, even in small ways, we can have a significant effect. The message is simple: 'Think global, act local!'

There are so many environmental groups out there, advocating so many different issues, that it can be very confusing knowing where to start! Which of the problems currently facing our planet should be our top priority? jindrich vodicka, czech republic

The problems affecting our planet are not tied to one single issue or priority - many interconnected factors contribute to the deterioration of our environment. So it is good to have different organizations with diverse approaches working on environmental issues. In terms of priorities, the first thing to do is look around you and identify for yourself the environmental issue that is affecting your own community the most. Then get involved and do what you can to address it in a way that is relevant to local needs.

What are governments doing now to address the problem of resource inequality? Does the United Nations have a programme in place to help coordinate their efforts? jen schofield, uk

Resource inequality is linked to access to food, water and clean air. Unfortunately, half the world lacks access to such basic necessities. To address this the United Nations, in partnership with other organizations, is mobilizing a global campaign to fight and reduce the level of poverty, improve lives, ensure sustainable development and create a better world by the year 2015.

Surely people in developing countries need to consume more? What have you got to say to them? pierre jeanmougin, france
If we are to solve the inequalities in the world, increasing overall consumption is not the solution. It is more to do with the fair and appropriate use of available resources to meet basic needs and improve the quality of life. Increased consumption does not necessarily lead to greater happiness or health. For example, more cars on the roads will cause more air pollution, noise and accidents - and make us less fit. What is important is to be aware of what to consume and how.
What can I do in my daily life to help conserve resources? How can I get my family and friends involved as well? nisrine kaderbhay, india
We all have to make lifestyle choices and changes. We need to look for changes we can make to reduce the use of resources and look after the environment. Many people say today's youth are the leaders of tomorrow, but today also belongs to you. You don't have to wait to care for the earth. If you show a sense of good leadership and stewardship in caring for the environment, then your family and friends will follow you.

Do you have questions on environment and development issues that you would like the experts at UNEP to answer?

Please send them to cpiinfo@unep.org, and we will try and answer them in future issues.

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