Let us work towards restoring our Earth

Matters India, April 22, 2021

By George Cheriyan

Bengaluru: Earth Day, celebrated every year on April 22, will see this year again more than 1 billion people participating in various activities around the world to draw attention to the urgency of environmental degradation and the need for immediate action highlights environmental issues including loss of biodiversity, increasing pollution.

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 continue to be in the grip of the deadly pandemic. The year long struggle against a virus has forcefully taught us humans to never take our beautiful planet for granted. It showed us that overall wellness of humans are not limited to material wellbeing, but just 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 through rise in human sufferings caused by drastic climate change, spread of pandemic, rise in economic losses and the accelerating erosion of life on Earth. Such unchecked damage to our environment needs to be addressed and restoring our earth comes more urgent in this background.

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 need 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 dependence on bicycles, less dependent on office space and work from home culture, people’s increased dependence on local food stores and local business should also be encouraged.

Encouraging and making people adopt even simple sustainable 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. It was reported that almost 4,550 percent increase in Google searches related to “How to live a sustainable lifestyle”, since lockdowns began. So the pandemic and subsequent threat for survival has forced people to think about mending their otherwise unsustainable lifestyles.

There are couple of few immediate things that must be given its due importance, as this pandemic tides over. First, recognising that Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are even more relevant today especially in the context of Covid-19 and 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 put on a firm path in dealing with finding ways to replenish the otherwise fast deteriorating natural world.

Countries that have framework in place to achieve the SDGs and simultaneously meet the obligations under Paris agreement will see a rapid decline of global emissions and restored ecosystems. Second, promoting and adopting green technologies especially by a country like ours that is already facing serious environment problems in industrialization.

We need to ensure that our production process contribute to efficient use of resources, materials, and energy, as well as reducing 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.

Last but not the least, always remember that nature provides lots of opportunities and it is everyone’s responsibility to effectively utilise them and encourage other fellow citizens to involve in 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 back 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 successful day where humanity embraced mother earth.

(The author is Director of CUTS International, a global public policy research and consumer advocacy organisation. He is also a member of the Global Think Tank on Sustainable Consumption hosted by Swedish Society for Nature Conservation, Stockholm. He can be contacted at gc@cuts.org )

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