Restore Our Earth | Daily News

Restore Our Earth

Earth is our only home, at least until we find other habitable planets in the Milky Way and beyond. But that won’t happen for thousands more years, until we gain the capability for interstellar journeys. Until then, we have to look after our only habitat. But on the face of it, we have failed in this endeavour.

Nature is suffering. Oceans are filled with plastic and turning more acidic. Extreme heat, wildfires and floods, as well as a record-breaking hurricane season, have affected millions of people. Now we are in the midst of COVID-19, a worldwide health pandemic linked to the very health of our ecosystems.

Indeed, Climate Change, man-made changes to Nature as well as crimes that disrupt biodiversity, such as deforestation, land-use change, intensified agriculture and livestock production or the growing illegal wildlife trade, can increase the transmission of infectious diseases from animals to humans (Zoonotic diseases) such as COVID-19.

Of the new infections that emerge in humans, 75 percent emerges from animals, according to UN Environment. This shows the close relationships between human, animal and environmental health. Ecosystems support all life on Earth. The healthier our ecosystems are, the healthier the planet – and its people. Restoring our damaged ecosystems will help to end poverty, combat Climate Change and prevent mass extinction of both flora and fauna. In fact, this is the very theme of Earth Day 2021, which was celebrated around the world yesterday – Restore Our Earth.

“Recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic is a chance to set the world on a cleaner, greener, more sustainable path,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres in a statement issued on the eve of Earth Day, which stepped into its 51st year. Earth Day was first observed in 1970, when 20 million people took to the streets to protest against environmental degradation. The event was triggered by the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill, as well as other issues such as smog and polluted rivers.

The UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, which will officially launch with World Environment Day 2021 (5 June), will help us stop, halt, and reverse the degradation of ecosystems on every continent and every ocean. But we will only succeed if everyone plays a part. This is why it is important more than ever to shift to a more sustainable economy that works for both people and the planet, that promotes harmony with Nature.

This year’s theme “Restore Our Earth” focuses on natural processes, emerging green technologies, and innovative thinking that can restore the world’s ecosystems. In this way, the theme rejects the notion that mitigation or adaptation are the only ways to address climate change. It is up to each and every one of us to Restore Our Earth not just because we care about the natural world, but because we live on it.

We all need a healthy Earth to support our jobs, livelihoods, health and survival, and happiness. A healthy planet is not an option – it is a necessity. Hence this year, seven major climate-related events are taking place in parallel on or around April 22, including the Leaders’ Summit on Climate hosted by the United States (40 world leaders will address this Summit virtually), and the Exponential Climate action Summit on Financing the Race to Zero emissions.

The pandemic has given us food for thought. As virtually the entire world shut down for much of 2020, we witnessed a dramatic change in the Earth itself. We experienced the skies without planes, we marvelled at our local wildlife as they reclaimed empty cities, we watched trees as they gained an altogether new vibrant shade of green, discovered new eco-friendly habits, got our hands dirty growing vegetables and reconnected with the things that are important on a more personal level. We realised that Earth can bounce back if given a chance. COVID-19 may become a distant memory say, after 2025, but we should continue the habit of reconnecting with the Earth. The power to heal the Earth lies with each one of us.

Here in Sri Lanka, there certainly is a resurgence in the environmental movement, given the prominence given to reforestation, recycling, ending food and other waste and gradually moving away from polythene and plastic. Millions of saplings are being planted under the Husma Dena Thuru (Trees Giving Life) project. The Government is looking seriously at minimizing Post Harvest Losses (PHL) of Crops. Tough new laws are being introduced to minimise the use of polythene and plastics. There is also a realization that we have to move rapidly to electrified transport and renewable energy, which are environmentally more sustainable. There are plans to increase the renewables’ share of the National Grid up to 80 percent by 2030. These are all worthy initiatives that will help us achieve the goals of Paris Accords by 2030.

It is vital that we inculcate a love for Mother Earth in our younger generation. That is the only way in which we can save our biodiversity and Nature for posterity. Restoring Our Earth should begin from the youngest members of our community, who will inherit it one day.