The pandemic that the world has been dealing with for almost 1.5 years now has shown how disastrous the consequences of ecosystem loss can be. By shrinking the area of natural habitat for animals, we have created ideal conditions for pathogens – including coronaviruses – to spread. The fact remains that only with healthy ecosystems can we enhance people’s livelihoods, counteract climate change and stop the collapse of biodiversity.
The theme for World Environment Day 2021 is ‘Ecosystem Restoration’ and Pakistan will be the global host for the day. This World Environment Day will kick off the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021-2030), a global mission to revive billions of hectares, from forests to farmlands, from the top of mountains to the depth of the sea.
For too long, humans have been exploiting and destroying the planet’s ecosystems. Every three seconds, the world loses enough forest to cover a football pitch and over the last century, we have destroyed half of the wetlands.
As much as 50 per cent of the world’s coral reefs have already been lost and up to 90 per cent of coral reefs could be lost by 2050, even if global warming is limited to an increase of 1.5 degrees Celcius.
Ecosystem loss is depriving the world of carbon sinks, like forests and wetlands, at a time when humanity can least afford it. Global greenhouse gas emissions have grown for three consecutive years and the planet is one place for potentially catastrophic climate change. We must now fundamentally rethink our relationship with the living world, with natural ecosystems and their biodiversity and work towards its restoration.
What is an ecosystem?
An ecosystem is a community of plants and animals interacting with each other in a given area, and also with their non-living environments. The non-living environments include weather, earth, sun, soil, climate and atmosphere.
The ecosystem relates to the way that all these different organisms live in close proximity to each other and how they interact with each other.
What is ecosystem restoration?
Ecosystem restoration means preventing, halting, and reversing this damage – to go from exploiting nature to healing it. Ecosystem restoration means assisting in the recovery of ecosystems that have been degraded or destroyed, as well as conserving the ecosystems that are still intact. Restoration can happen in many ways – for example through actively planting or by removing pressures so that nature can recover on its own.
How can the ecosystem be restored?
All kinds of ecosystems can be restored, including forests, farmlands, cities, wetlands, and oceans. Restoration initiatives can be launched by almost anyone, from governments and development agencies to businesses, communities, and individuals. That is because the causes of degradation are many and varied, and can have an impact at different scales.
For instance, degradation may result from harmful policies such as subsidies for intensive farming or weak tenure laws that encourage deforestation. Lakes and coastlines can become polluted because of poor waste management or an industrial accident. Commercial pressures can leave towns and cities with too much asphalt and too few green spaces.
About World Environment Day
World Environment Day is celebrated on June 5, annually to encourage awareness and environmental protection. According to the United Nations, “the celebration of this day provides us with an opportunity to broaden the basis for an enlightened opinion and responsible conduct by individuals, enterprises, and communities in preserving and enhancing the environment.”
The day is celebrated by engaging governments, businesses, celebrities and citizens to focus their efforts on a pressing environmental issue.