Nurture nature for a better future | Daily News

Nurture nature for a better future

Wednesday June 5 was World Environment Day (WED). Also known as International Eco Day, it is commemorated each year on June 5. It is one of the principal vehicles through which the United Nations (UN) stimulates worldwide awareness of the environment and enhances political attention and action.

Since it began in 1972, global citizens have organised many thousands of events, from neighbourhood clean-ups, to action against wildlife crime, to replanting forests.

The aim of WED is to encourage people to become active supporters of sustainable and equitable living, to promote awareness and have an understanding that communities play a central role in changing attitudes towards environmental issues. It also exhorts us to develop partnerships that will ensure all nations and people enjoy a safer and more fulfilling future.

World Environment Day is organized around a theme that focuses attention on a particularly pressing environmental concern. Environment Day 2019 will be hosted by China, with the theme of ‘Air Pollution’. Obviously, we can't stop breathing, but we can do something about the quality of air that we breathe. Ground-level ozone pollution is expected to reduce staple crop yields by 26 per cent by 2030.

China has demonstrated tremendous leadership in tackling air pollution domestically. It can now help spur the world to greater action. Air pollution is a global emergency affecting everyone. China will now be leading the push and stimulating global action to save millions of lives.

China with its growing green energy sector, has emerged as a climate leader. The country owns half the world’s electric vehicles and 99 percent of the world’s electric buses. By hosting World Environment Day 2019, the Chinese government will be able to showcase its innovation and progress toward a cleaner environment.

According to a new UN report on air pollution in Asia and the Pacific, implementing 25 technology policies could see up to a 20 per cent reduction in carbon dioxide and a 45 per cent reduction in methane emissions globally, leading to a third of a degree Celsius saving of global warming.

Meanwhile, several agencies have decided to focus on biodiversity, taking into consideration the rate of extinction of wildlife and plants. It’s frightening but true that our planet is now in the midst of its sixth mass extinction of plants and animals — the sixth wave of extinctions in the past half-billion years.

We are currently experiencing the worst spate of species die-offs since the loss of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. Although extinction is a natural phenomenon, it occurs at a natural ‘background’ rate of about one to five species per year. Scientists estimate we’re now losing species at 1000 to 10,000 times the background rate, with literally dozens going extinct every day. It could be a scary future indeed, with as many as 30 to 50 percent of all species possibly heading toward extinction by mid-century.

Unlike past mass extinctions, caused by events like asteroid strikes, volcanic eruptions, and natural climate shifts, the current crisis is almost entirely caused by us – humans. In fact, 99 percent of currently threatened species are at risk from human activities, primarily those driving habitat loss, introduction of exotic species, and global warming.

Because the rate of change in our biosphere is increasing, and because every species’ extinction potentially leads to the extinction of others bound to that species in a complex ecological web, numbers of extinctions are likely to snowball in the coming decades as ecosystems unravel.

In Sri Lanka, for instance researchers believe poaching has helped reduce our elephant and leopard populations by up to 75 percent over the last century. While firm numbers are scarce, biologists estimate that less than 500 of the big cats remain in the island nation. Unfortunately, Asian elephants face massive threats from poaching, habitat loss and human-elephant conflict.

Tens of thousands of African elephants die every year at the hands of criminals out for their tusks. A global treaty made trading in ivory illegal in 1989, but the illegal international trade in ivory has skyrocketed in the past 10 years, fuelled by demand from a growing middle class in Asia.

Dangerous international crime syndicates are often behind the trafficking of ivory and other illegal wildlife products, weakening governments and using corruption and coercion to move their goods.

Meanwhile, Asian elephants, also vulnerable to poaching at a smaller scale, struggle with shrinking habitat. This forces elephants into close quarters with humans—often raiding crops and sometimes injuring people, which leaves them vulnerable to retaliatory killings.

Import, export, re-export and introduction from the sea of species of flora and fauna should be made on the basis of special permits and certificates. Despite the many laws in force for their protection leopards are in trouble. The big spotted cats have been hunted to extinction in some areas, and their habitat is under pressure from growing human populations.

But while parks and preserves have helped save leopard and elephant habitat, the cat’s striking pelt and the pachyderm’s valuable ivory continue to make them attractive targets for poachers. While not as fashionable as they once were, a leopard fur can still fetch thousands of dollars on the black market.

Species diversity ensures ecosystem resilience, giving ecological communities the scope they need to withstand stress.

Since 1973 the annual event on June 5 is marked by campaigns in order to raise global awareness about the importance of the healthy and green environment in human lives, to solve the environmental issues by implementing some positive environmental actions as well as to make aware that everyone is responsible for saving the environment.

Wild life lovers hope to prevent such ecological catastrophes by learning more about leopard and elephant habits and answering key questions, such as how much territory the majestic pachyderms and big cats need to survive. And, eventually, they hope that people will see that a leopard’s skin or a pair of ivory tusks are m ore valuable on a living animal than they are as ornaments or in their living rooms.

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