CAN human activities and environmental preservation co-exist without one forsaking the other? Is there a formula to strike a balance between the need for development and managing our environment? These are complex questions that we have been asking ourselves for decades. Over time we have become complacent with these earth-saving questions entrenched in our lives as mere rhetoric.
As we know, development and human growth are almost synonymous. The need for development is precipitated by people’s desire to live and enjoy the bounty the world has to offer. On that same token we cannot deny that development with its seductive nature and human fallibility has led to people squandering the earth for maximum benefits, leaving nothing for the future.
In demographics, the world population is the total number of humans currently living, and was estimated to have reached 7.8 billion people as of March 2020. It took over 200,000 years of human history for the world’s population to reach 1 billion, and only 200 years more to reach 7 billion. The seven-fold increase of the world population over two centuries amplified humans’ impact on the natural environment. However, it is in the last five decades or so that we have seen a steep surge in activities surpassing the need and going on a binge for the best and the most.
On the occasion of World Environment Day observed on June 5, we have been given the opportunity of a life time this year to halt everything, take stock of ourselves and press the reset button where we know we can make a difference.
The idea is to create awareness among people regarding the protection and preservation of the environment. The date coincides with the first day of a landmark conference.
In 1972, the first major conference on environmental issues convened under the auspices of the United Nations and was held from June 5 to 16 in Stockholm, Sweden. Known as the Conference on the Human Environment, or the Stockholm Conference, its goal was to forge a basic common outlook on how to address the challenge of preserving and enhancing the human environment. This in fact marked a turning point in the development of international environmental politics.
Later that year, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution designating June 5 as World Environment Day and urging governments and organisations in the entire United Nations system to undertake activities reaffirming the concern for the preservation of the environment, with a view to deepening environmental awareness as well as values and to pursuing the determination expressed at the conference.
Agreed, that as populations grows, the right to expansion, growth and prosperity cannot be denied as it becomes a fundamental rights issue. If governments, politicians, builders and every organisation and person down the line took collective responsibility to manage the delicate balance between need and greed, we will not be going on the deficit.
It is interesting that a UN-backed report by Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Bio-diversity and Ecosystems Services revealed that one million animal and plant species are threatened with extinction from human activity.
The report dated May 2019, compiled by 145 authors from 50 countries, is credited as presenting the most comprehensive look at humanity’s imprint on nature ever to be completed, having tracked the relationship between economic development and the impact on the planet over the last 50 years.
A critical message from the report is that nature fares better when people are most connected to nature and those living within it are supported; when people benefit from biodiversity, they protect it.
When we discuss the Earth’s environment, we are talking about the health of the atmosphere, forests, plants, animals, water, and each ecosystem. Everything from the roots of trees underground to the air we breathe is part of the environment, and the health of each part affects the health of the whole.
The threats to environment include climate change caused by greenhouse gases, air and water pollution, deforestation, and more. As a result of so many serious environmental threats, the Earth is changing. Arctic ice melt is changing ocean currents, plants and animals are becoming extinct at a staggering rate. It’s easy to look at that list and feel small and insignificant. After all, the Earth has over seven billion people.
However, the widely circulated notion that individuals do not have the power to bring change is a myth. Each of us has to make our own choices about how we can act and react about protecting the environment.
Remember, in a democracy it is a fact that every vote counts to make the system work, likewise, our individual conscious decisions and actions will fix the problem which we created for the environment.
There are everyday actions people can take to protect the environment and it is not rocket science but mere habits that can be developed.
Parents should start educating their children on sustainability and teachers should start right from the time formal education begins.
It is high time we include subjects and courses on environmental and sustainability in the school and tertiary education syllabus.
Let’s make every action of ours count, every day.