June 5 is World Environment Day. Started in 1974, World Environment Day has been celebrated annually to raise awareness about environmental issues and encourage people to protect, conserve and save the earth.
There are plenty of environmental issues mother earth is facing now, including air pollution, plastic pollution, global warming, climate change, marine pollution, sustainable consumption and a lot more. And there are only one species responsible for all these damages, that is us.
As we all know, human beings became the most evolved species on the planet around 7000 years ago and from then we slowly started living a life of the privileged. We completely forgot where we came from and where we ultimately travel to. In the fast-paced life, we are in a race for luxurious houses, expensive cars and unlimited wealth as we take our mother earth for granted.
In the earlier stages of evolution, we lived in nature, closely attached to all the elements of it, that we used to pray and worship trees, soil, water and oceans. But later, as we started exploring and evolving as the dominant species, we forgot the importance of these things and began to exploit the resources that every other species on the planet equally deserve. And now when the earth gives it back to us in the form of earthquakes, floods, storms and tornados we all are upset about it. But what we don’t realise is that we only are the reason behind these.
Notably, when the pandemic led to the lockdown of all human activities, pictures of cleaner air, land and water resources from many parts of the world were gaining attention on social media. These were highly polluted previously due to the normal human lifestyle. When the cities were shut down for a couple of months, the air became purer, the rivers including the holy Ganga became clearer and the oceans became more cleaner. And there is increasing evidence that the Earth’s protective ozone layer is recovering. It revealed to us how much we are exploiting the mother earth in our fast-paced lives.
Harmony is the one word we completely ignored. When we are polluting the air, we only lack pure air to breathe. When we pollute the rivers we are running out of dependable water sources. We should stop living the life of the privileged and start thinking about the other species around us.
As a result of our irresponsible actions, human activity has already forced 869 species to extinction in the last 500 years and 7079 species are currently classified as critically endangered, that are the most threatened species or else are dependent on conservation efforts to protect them. When it comes to plants, 571 plant species has been driven to extinction between 1753 and 2018. Since the middle of the eighteenth century, an average of more than two plant species is being wiped off the earth every year. And around 5,652 marine species are in serious trouble out of which 300 species are critically endangered.
Hence, we should learn to live a life of co-existence and start using all the resources we have very wisely. Development is always necessary for the progression of the community but sustainability is something indisputable. So it is high time to rethink our actions and take some necessary steps to reverse the damage we have done. We are running out of time and that is why this year the theme of World Environmental Day is ‘Reimagine. Recreate. Restore. 2021 is also marking the beginning of the United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration.
Ecosystem restoration means actively assisting the recovery of the ecosystem that is damaged and also conserving the intact ones. It can start from actively planting trees, cleaning pollutants from soil and water so that nature can recover on its own. Greening cities, rewilding gardens, changing diets or cleaning up rivers and coasts will also contribute to the same. This can be executed by the government, development agencies, organisations, communities, societies and even at individual levels.
To sum up, all kinds of ecosystems can be restored, including forests, farmlands, cities, wetlands and oceans. And all that requires is a little bit of thinking and carefulness. It starts from not throwing those chocolate wrappers or empty plastic bottles on the road and not dumping the garbage bags in the lake or river nearby.
Let us take part in this bigger cause for a better tomorrow in whichever way possible. And let the actions of cleaning surroundings or planting trees not only become an Instagram business but also a consistent effort for a better future of the planet and ours.
“As 2021 marks the beginning of the United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, led jointly by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and with which UNESCO is closely associated, the formidable reservoir of experience accumulated in our biosphere reserves will now be of service to the world.
UNESCO will be responsible for the “Human-Nature” panel, which will expand and extend the avenues that have been explored for the past 50 years in our biosphere reserves in order to prevent the degradation of ecosystems worldwide.”
— Audrey Azoulay, Director-General, on the occasion of World Environment Day 2021