Everybody can voice for this global campaign via social media by using the hashtag #Only One Earth
World Environment Day is one of the most significant events celebrated every year on 5th June throughout the world, with each year having a specific theme and a host country. The theme for 2021 was “Ecosystem Restoration” and was globally hosted by Pakistan. In year 2020, it was “Time for Nature” hosted by Colombia. In 2019, it was “Beat Air Pollution” hosted by China. India also hosted WED in 2018 under the theme “Beat Plastic Pollution”. This year the main event is being hosted by Sweden. “Only One Earth” is the campaign with focus on “Living Sustainably in Harmony with Nature”.
The year 2022 marks 50 years since the first United Nations Conference on the Human Environment held at Stockholm in the year 1972, which led to the designation of 5 June as World Environment Day. The first celebration of WED under the slogan “Only One Earth” took place in 1974. The theme is being revived for WED 2022 as this planet is our only home and humanity must safeguard its finite resources. The #Only One Earth global campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment with a major focus on fixing our broken relationship with nature.
In the quest for technological advancements and seemingly better quality of life, our reckless attitude towards environment is leaving behind a dirty pile of problems for the younger generation to tackle. The global pandemic of 2019 is in fact a red flag pointing to an imbalance in ecological systems. According to scientists, zoonotic diseases such as COVID-19 can be traced to changes in land use and deforestation. When an area of land is deforested and converted to agriculture, or used for infrastructure development, it reduces the natural habitat available to species and can bring them into more regular contact with each other as well as with humans. This gives microbes a greater ability to move between species and to make the jump to people.
Besides this, the wildlife trade is another activity that is bringing wildlife into close contact with people and providing microbes the opportunity to mix between species. In many countries wild animals are captured and brought live to markets to be sold. However, unless well-managed and regulated, these markets can pose a significant threat to human health, thereby creating the ideal conditions for diseases to spill over. Our blatant disregard for the environment has pushed the natural world to its limits. The outbreak of Covid-19 was a clear manifestation of our dangerously unbalanced relationship with nature. Nature needs time to replenish and a collective effort is required to improve our environment so that our future generations can also live with nature and not with its fury.
The Member States of the United Nations have declared the decade (2021-2030) as UN Decade on Restoration of Ecosystems. Restoration of natural habitats should be given utmost priority. Restoration can only be carried out by living in harmony with the environment and protecting biodiversity. Action on the illegal, unregulated and high-risk wildlife trade is a critical step to prevent future zoonotic diseases from emerging. Switching to sustainable consumption and production patterns is necessary to reduce the strain on environment. So is improving the management of chemicals and toxic wastes, supporting companies transition to green infrastructure and practices, so as to enable cleaner, greener and sustainable living in harmony with nature and for diminishing the opportunities for pandemics to upend the world and the economy.
Knowledge is the precursor of changes. We cannot bring about the changes needed without understanding the interdependence between people and nature. The health of our planet and humanity’s future are inseparable. The collective efforts of a billion individuals will resonate on a global scale and make the Environmental Day celebration worthwhile. In conclusion, it is important to emphasise that though we celebrate one calendar day as World Environment Day, it is in fact more of a movement to celebrate our planet. Let’s nurture the nature so that we can have a better future.
The writer has a Master’s in Environmental Science from Kashmir University. She teaches at Kashmir Harvard Higher Secondary Institute, Habak Naseem Bagh Srinagar. [email protected]