Every day should be World Environment Day!
Today is the United Nations day for encouraging worldwide awareness and action to protect our environment. This year’s theme is Reimagine, Recreate and Restore and it urges us to actively grow trees, green our cities, rewild our gardens, change our diets, clean up rivers and coasts, and make peace with nature.
Many monetary assessments of our natural capital conclude that nature is not worth much, therefore very little of the global GDP trickles back to those who manage and care for the planet. Natural capital has long been considered “free” and we have taken for granted the benefits that nature provides and used it at a rate that the Earth cannot replenish.
Conservation International (CI) describes our planet’s natural capital as our life-support system. They explained the value of “natural capital” as the sources of the services that nature provides, including fresh water, flood control and forest products; and it is just as important, and often overlooked. Farms, forests, parks, wetlands, lakes, and oceans all support life and they are also under enormous pressure. Natural capital supports human and financial capital and when climate change, overpopulation or pollution threatens nature, societies and economies are also threatened.
CI is helping governments and businesses quantify our reliance and impact on natural capital to ensure it is managed well for future generations. CI helped develop the Natural Capital Protocol, which provides a standardized framework for businesses to identify, measure and value their direct and indirect impacts and dependencies on natural capital, from the sourcing of raw materials to more efficient use of water.
CI identified three solutions aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 14 and 15 which call to conserve and sustainably use marine resources, and protect, restore and promote the sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems to boost the planet’s capacity to regenerate biological resources.
1. Classical conservation ― Efforts to protect and preserve wild spaces, particularly biodiversity hotspots.
2. Restoration ― Overused ecosystems need to be restored. Reforestation of tropical forests and mangroves has the triple benefit of increasing biodiversity, sequestering carbon dioxide, and acting as flood barriers during hurricanes for coastal urban areas in the tropics and subtropics.
3. Regenerative agriculture and sustainable fishing ― To keep feeding humanity, we need to find better ways of farming and fishing. Farming needs to maintain soil-productivity, groundwater levels, water cycles and genetic diversity, while avoiding contamination. Fishing needs to support overall ocean health to help ensure that the ocean continues to provide for generations to come.
Human activity such as burning fossil fuels (e.g. car emissions) and changing land use (e.g. deforestation) increases carbon dioxide emissions (CO2) levels in the atmosphere and the warning bells get louder each year as we surpass tipping points.
According to the National Academy of Sciences (NASA), forests and other land vegetation currently remove up to 30 percent of human CO2 from the atmosphere during photosynthesis.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the ocean currently absorbs about 30% of CO2 and the resulting acidification impacts many ocean species, especially organisms such as oysters and corals that make hard shells and skeletons. If the pH gets too low, shells and skeletons can even begin to dissolve.
We know that our quality of life and our survival is dependent on the health of our planet’s biological resources. We know that we need fertile soil, clean water, and clean air to provide us with the food and physical health we require and they keep us psychologically and spiritually grounded. We also know that vibrant natural ecosystems such as oceans and forests are indispensable to keep our planet livable, for example, by regulating the climate and absorbing carbon emissions.
There is a direct link between the destruction of nature and disease outbreaks will become more frequent due to the accelerating destruction of natureaccording to a growing body of research which spotlights the role of protecting and restoring nature in preventing future pandemics. We have been warned for years that as the global wildlife trade persists and human activities expand deeper into tropical forests and degrade or destroy wildlife habitats, we are increasing our exposure to stressed or sick wild animals and the diseases they may carry.
Earth Overshoot Day marks the date when humanity’s demand for ecological resources and services in a given year exceeds what Earth can regenerate in that year. Last year, the date fell on August 22 for our world.
This year in Switzerland, where itmustbeNOW is headquartered, it is shocking that Earth Overshoot Day already took place on May 11th, when we used more from nature than the country can renew in the whole year!
Nature doesn’t need people. We need nature and we need to protect it because our lives depend on it.
It must be NOW!