#BTColumn – Our environment needs our help

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by this author are their own and do not represent the official position of the Barbados Today Inc.

by Wayne Campbell

“It is our collective and individual responsibility to preserve and tend to the world in which we all live.”- Dalai Lama

We often think that the protection of the environment is the responsibility of the government. As a result many of us go about gleefully throwing our garbage through the window or into the gully.

Sadly, too many of us appear to have a disconnect between our survival on planet Earth and the protection of the environment.

Unfortunately, many of us have divorced ourselves from the personal responsibility that we all should have regarding the protection of the environment. Environmental protection to some extent is still lagging in developing societies where the legislative framework and enforcement of breaches are lax.

Funding or the lack thereof is another critical element in the fight to protect our environment. Governments’ worldwide struggle to set aside enough funds surrounding matters of the environment.

All around us we see and are experiencing the degradation of the environment. On Saturday, June 5 the international community paused to commemorate World Environment Day (WED).

It all started in 1972. It was then the United Nations General Assembly or UNGA established World Environment Day. The first celebration, under the slogan “Only One Earth” took place in 1974. In the following years, WED has developed as a platform to raise awareness on the problems facing our environment such as air pollution, plastic pollution, illegal wildlife trade, sustainable consumption, sea-level increase, and food security, among others.

Furthermore, WED helps drive change in consumption patterns and in national and international environmental policy. It is that time of the year when civil societies, environmentalists, school students and global leaders take a moment to reflect upon the impact of human activity on Mother Earth.

World Environment Day is also the time to think about unique, workable solutions that can help in resolving issues such as deforestation, plastic pollution etc.

The theme this year for World Environment Day was “Reimagine. Recreate. Restore” According to the United Nations, this World Environment Day, the human population had to resolve to bring about little changes in its lifestyle that can help restore the natural order of things.

We have seen repeatedly when urban planning or lack thereof creates problems in many cities as we have created vast concrete jungles in many cities. Children and the average citizen have little or no green spaces for children to play and explore nature.

We have seen some action regarding the ban on single-use plastic.  We must recreate and reimagine ways to help Mother Earth heal.

This year, it’s all about restoring the natural ecosystem. Ecosystem restoration can take many forms: Growing trees, greening cities, rewilding gardens, changing diets or cleaning up rivers and coasts. This is the generation that can make peace with nature.

This year, the UN wants each nation to pledge for reversing the mindless practices that are polluting our cities, coasts and forests. If we are able to bring back some lost glory, we would be able to prevent millions from falling in the ugly trap of hunger, displacement and diseases.

This year, the United Nations will also launch ‘UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration’. It is 10-year plans that will make the authorities think on the path of stopping the degradation of the ecosystem. 2021 is also the year for humanity to reflect on how the coronavirus pandemic has forced everyone to reevaluate their priorities.

What is Ecosystem Restoration?

Ecosystem restoration means assisting in the recovery of ecosystems that have been degraded or destroyed, as well as conserving the ecosystems that are still intact. Healthier ecosystems, with richer biodiversity, yield greater benefits such as more fertile soils, bigger yields of timber and fish, and larger stores of greenhouse gases.

Restoration can happen in many ways, for example through actively planting or by removing pressures so that nature can recover on its own. It is not always possible or desirable to return an ecosystem to its original state. We still need farmland and infrastructure on land that was once forest, for instance, and ecosystems, like societies, need to adapt to a changing climate.

Between now and 2030, the restoration of 350 million hectares of degraded terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems could generate US$9 trillion in ecosystem services. Restoration could also remove 13 to 26 gigatons of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.

The economic benefits of such interventions exceed nine times the cost of investment, whereas inaction is at least three times more costly than ecosystem restoration.

All kinds of ecosystems can be restored, including forests, farmlands, cities, wetlands and oceans.

Restoration initiatives can be launched by almost anyone, from governments and development agencies to businesses, communities and individuals. That is because the causes of degradation are many and varied, and can have an impact at different scales.

UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021-2030)

The United Nations General Assembly has proclaimed the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration following a proposal and resolution for action by over 70 countries from all latitudes. It is a rallying call for the protection and revival of ecosystems all around the world, for the benefit of people and nature.

It aims to halt the degradation of ecosystems, and restore them to achieve global goals. Only with healthy ecosystems can we enhance people’s livelihoods, counteract climate change, and stop the collapse of biodiversity.

The UN Decade runs from 2021 through 2030, which is also the deadline for the Sustainable Development Goals and the timeline scientists have identified as the last chance to prevent catastrophic climate change.

The Way Forward

The restoration of the environment must incorporate the youth. Youth comes with vitality and an unbridled sense of passion which is what is needed to engage political leaders. Our political leaders must implement environmental measures and ensure that licence granted for development take into consideration the long term viability of the environment.

We tend to forget that noise pollution is also destroying the environment; more attention is definitely requited in this area.

The international community needs to make the link between the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal #13 which speaks to taking urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts and the protection of the environment.

Climate change is affecting every country on every continent. It is disrupting national economies and affecting lives. Weather patterns are changing, sea levels are rising, and weather events are becoming more extreme.

Although greenhouse gas emissions are projected to drop about six per cent due to travel bans and economic slowdowns resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, this improvement is only temporary.

Climate change is not on pause. Once the global economy begins to recover from the pandemic, emissions are expected to return to higher levels.

Saving lives and livelihoods requires urgent action to address both the pandemic and the climate emergency.

We must be mindful as well that we share Mother Earth with plant and animal life and as such as decisions made must consider the shared responsibility that we have regarding the environment.  On World Environment Day we ought to have committed to redoubling our efforts in protecting the environment.

In the words of António Guterres, Secretary General of the United Nations, we are ravaging the very ecosystems that provide us with the food, water and resources we need to survive. The Earth is resilient, but she needs our help.

Wayne Campbell is an educator and social commentator with an interest in development policies as they affect culture and or gender issues. [email protected] @WayneCamo #WED #GenerationRestoration #reimaginerecreaterestore

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