World Environment Day, celebrated June 5th annually, is the most renowned day for environmental action. World Environment Day (WED) was established in 1972 but was first observed in 1974. Over 143 countries take part in this annual global event, as the day focuses on environmental concerns ranging from pollution to global warming and sustainable food production to protection of wildlife. The aim of the Day is to raise awareness on specific environmental issues and to encourage everyone to protect our natural surroundings.
This year, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) announced that Colombia will be hosting the World Environment Day activities in partnership with Germany. The main focus of World Environment Day 2020 will be on Biodiversity. The theme chosen for this year’s celebration is “Time for Nature.” The theme encourages us to provide the essential infrastructure that supports life on earth and human development. It invites us to think about how we are part of nature and how intimately we depend on it. It challenges us to find fun and exciting ways to experience and cherish this vital relationship.
UNEP Executive Director, Inger Andersen in her World Environment Day address said, “Through COVID-19, the planet has delivered its strongest warning yet that we must change our ways. As we mark a most unusual World Environment Day, it is time to remember that when we protect the planet, we protect ourselves.” The UN Executive Director further elaborated that, “It is time for nature because this will help us lower the risk of future pandemics, slow climate change and build back better and healthier than before.”
Biodiversity is the foundation that supports all life on earth. It affects every aspect of human health, providing clean air and water, nutritious foods, scientific understanding and medicine sources, natural disease resistance, and climate change mitigation. Changing, or removing one element of the branches of this web, affects the entire life system and can result in negative consequences. Our destructive actions such as deforestation, encroachment on wildlife habitats, unsustainable agricultural practices, and acceleration of climate change, have pushed nature beyond its limit. Scientists believe that it would take 1.6 of the Earth’s resources to meet the demands that we make of nature each year.
Let us conserve the resources found here on our twin island of St. Kitts and Nevis. If we continue on this path, our biodiversity loss will have severe implications for our present and future generation, including the collapse of our food and health systems. The foods we eat, the air we breathe, the water we drink and the climate that makes our planet habitable all come from nature. We must rethink what we buy and use and become conscious consumers.
We are living in unprecedented times where nature is sending us a message. Nature is showing us that we are on the verge of a breakdown. For many years we have misused and created an imbalance due to our unforgivable actions to our planet. Many species of plants and animals have been lost due to our wanton disregard to the consequences of our actions. More and more species are being lost and are on the verge of extinction all because of our actions and attitude towards our planet. Let us use this time to reexamine our actions and the impacts that they are having on the environment.
The good news is that we can reverse the trends of biodiversity loss by reimagining our relationship with nature and acting now to increase ambition and accountability for its protection. We must conserve and restore wildlife and wild spaces, change the way we produce and consume food, promote environmentally friendly infrastructure and transform economies to become custodians of nature.
The world’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic has already shown early action and solidarity to tackle pressing issues that threaten our societies. In St. Kitts and Nevis, we must plan ways to build back better. It is imperative that we consider the environmental impacts of all decision making, and environmental protection must be our top priority if we want to conserve, preserve and protect our biodiversity. Environmental considerations must be integrated into our decision making process.
Each one of us has a role to play in ending biodiversity loss and preserving nature for all of us. If we are going to change from our current course of destruction to one of custodians of nature, the time to act for nature is NOW!