Green steps to heal earth amid the virus

Deccan Herald, May 06, 2021

By George Cheriyan & Simi T.B.,

Earth Day, celebrated every year on April 22, saw more than one billion people participate in various activities around the world to draw attention to environmental degradation and the need for immediate action to tackle issues including loss of biodiversity, increasing pollution, etc. The theme this year is ‘Restore Our Earth’, and its focus is on natural processes, emerging green technologies and innovative thinking that can restore the world’s ecosystems.

This year, the observation of the day is more significant since the world continues to be in the grip of the deadly pandemic. The year-long struggle against a virus has taught us humans to never take our beautiful planet for granted. It showed us that the overall wellness of humans is not limited to material wellbeing, but some fresh air, water, food and adequate sunlight within a safe space.

The pandemic, therefore, is a stark reminder of the vulnerability of humans and the planet in the face of global-scale threats. The consequences of our reckless actions are already apparent from the rise in human sufferings caused by drastic climate change, spread of pandemic, economic losses and the accelerating erosion of life on earth. Such unchecked damage to our environment needs to be addressed. And restoring our earth becomes more urgent against this backdrop.

The United Nations Environment Programme 2021 report titled ‘Making Peace with Nature’ underlines that saving precious lives and livelihoods should be the top priority of any nation. But by exposing humanity’s vulnerability, the pandemic can also help make 2021 a turning point towards a more sustainable and inclusive world. The report claims that we have the ability to transform our impact on the world. A sustainable economy driven by renewable energy and nature-based solutions will create new jobs, cleaner infrastructure and a resilient future. An inclusive world at peace with nature can ensure that people enjoy better health and the full respect of their human rights, so they can live with dignity on a healthy planet.

As a country, we need to focus more on building an economy that is more resilient, diversified and attractive. An ideal balance needs to be achieved between making a living and protecting the environment, and it is never so simple. Serious efforts should be put in to bring in some balance among economy, ecology and equity. Sustainable opportunities created by the pandemic — like avoiding unnecessary travels, more use of bicycles, less dependence on office space and promotion of work-from-home culture, increased dependence on local food stores and local businesses — should also be encouraged. Making people adopt even simple practices could enhance sustainability and reduce carbon footprint to a considerable extent. Besides, people have already started looking for a little inspiration on how to protect and restore earth and its environment. An almost 4,550% increase was reported in Google searches related to ‘how to live a sustainable lifestyle’, since the lockdowns began. The pandemic and the subsequent threat to survival have forced people to think about mending their lifestyles.

There are a few immediate things that must be given due importance as we tide over the pandemic crisis. First, recognise that Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are even more relevant today, especially in the context of Covid-19. The response to such global emergencies has to stem from action on SDGs. Achieving SDGs will not only help us out of the current crisis but also help us find ways to replenish the fast deteriorating natural world. Countries that have frameworks in place to achieve SDGs and simultaneously meet the obligations under Paris agreement will see a rapid decline of global emissions and restored ecosystems.

Second, promote and adopt green technologies, especially by a country like ours that is already facing serious environment problems in industrialisation. We need to ensure that our production process contributes to efficient use of resources, materials and energy, as well as reduce waste emissions.

Third, keep working on technology and market innovations to enable small and medium enterprises to turn their business model sustainable without losing profitability. Finally, always remember that nature provides lots of opportunities and it is everyone’s responsibility to effectively utilise them and encourage fellow citizens to adopt sustainable activities. We should learn to use this crisis to encourage greater action, collaboration and knowledge sharing among stakeholders for large public good.

Apart from these initiatives, if we also strive to restore our greenery and forests that play a crucial part in global climate and sustainable development solutions, then we do have a significant opportunity in the immediate future to celebrate Earth Day as a day when humanity embraces mother earth.

(George Cheriyan is Director and Simi T B, a Policy Analyst at CUTS International, Jaipur)


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