✦ “In the universe are billions of galaxies. In our galaxy are billions of planets. But there is Only One Earth.” - World Environment Day
Say those three words again and really stop to think about their collective meaning.
It sounds really obvious right but do we take it for granted? Mutter the words again and it should, hopefully, resonate more effectively. In fact, there’s never been a statement that rings so true. There is, indeed, Only One Earth.
This was the theme for this year’s World Environment Day. Celebrated each year on June 5th, the occasion strives to highlight the need to live sustainably in harmony with nature by bringing transformative changes, through government policies and our own individual choices, towards cleaner, greener lifestyles.
Sweden hosted the occasion this year with their Minister for Environment and Climate and Deputy Prime Minister of Sweden Per Bolund saying: “As a proud host of 2022 World Environment Day, Sweden will highlight the most pressing environmental concerns, showcase our country’s initiatives and the global efforts of addressing the climate and nature crises. We invite the global community across the world to join in the important discussions and celebrations.”
World Environment Day was created in 1974 by the United Nations Environment Programme as a means to raise awareness and definitive action to protect the environment, focuing on issues as varied as global warming, marine pollution, human overpopulation, wildlife crimes and sustainable consumption. The theme in its inaugural year in Spokane, USA 48 years ago was ‘Only One Earth’.
Seems somewhat ironic bordering on worrying then that the very same theme drove this year’s occasion, close to half a century later. It motivates one to ask, what have we learnt in that time? What have we done to improve things? Are we in better or worse shape in our contemporary state and why are we still repeating the same mantra so many years later? Has the message not sunk in yet?
Given the increase around the world in recent years of natural disasters such as severe flooding, wild fires, droughts, rising sea levels and erratic temperature swings it would appear not. An estimated 7 million people die each year from causes related to air pollution, with a majority occurring in the Asia-Pacific region, states National Today.
The same source states that 90 billion tonnes of resources are extracted from the Earth every year and 70% of the world’s resources are currently being overused by a global population of 7.8 billion. There are an estimated 2.12 billion tonnes of waste dumped and 50 million tonnes of e-waste produced every year. Forecasts state that by the year 2050 the world’s population is expected to be too big to feed and by 2070 all coral reefs around the world are expected to be gone altogether.
Governments must take the lead
A research report by the Rhodium Group revealed that in 2019 China emitted 27% of the world’s greenhouse gases - more than the entire developed world combined. The USA was the second-largest emitter at 11% while India was third with 6.6% of emissions.
China’s emissions have more than tripled over the previous three decades, a statistic that will no doubt continue its worrying ascent in the years to come, driven by President Xi Jinping’s steadfast ambition to become the dominant global super power.
The country has been lauded for its efforts with electric powered vehicles and has vowed to reach net-zero emissions by 2060 with a peak no later than 2030. However, this from a country that tried to cover up the COVID-19 outbreak, later claiming zero responsibility by stating the virus originated elsewhere; a political party seemingly hell-bent on claiming territories it simply has no right to, agitating neighbours with overly-aggressive posturing, turning the once vibrant financial hub of Hong Kong into just another communist Chinese city and intimating that a full scale military invasion of Taiwan is a mere inevitability. Let’s not forget the 1 million plus Ughyur and Muslim people that have been forcibly detained in workers camps in a blatant violation of human rights that the government outright denies.
The point, you may ask? Well, can we trust the mere words of a government renowned for deception and lies? Will they follow through on their pledge with tangible and sustainable action? Can a leopard change its spots after all? We will wait and hope that they do as China’s influence and imprint on the world, its resources and its future is immense and will significantly shape how we fair as a planet and a people moving forward.
Small steps can yield big results...
On an individual basis, we can all adopt approaches to becoming more environmentally responsible and sustainable and play our part, however seemingly small, in contributing to a healthier tomorrow. Invest in renewable energy sources such as solar power that harvest the natural energy of the sun to power electricity. By using less energy, we can help to reduce carbon emissions. Likewise replace older vehicles powered by petrol or diesel with more sustainable options such as electric powered cars.
We can eat less meat and thus reduce the alarming number of greenhouse gas emissions in the agriculture industry. Switching to a more plant-based diet can work wonders for the environment, plus it leaves you feeling and looking a darn sight healthier!
Recycle and reuse goods, stop using single-use plastics such as containers, carry bags and straws and lower the number of plastic-based products we purchase and use. Use a reusable shopping bag each time you go to the store instead of using an endless supply of plastic bags and try to buy more eco-friendly and sustainable products from trusted suppliers. Likewise, limit the use of paper. Nowadays, with working from home much more prevalent, we don’t need the endless paper print outs in the office and do most of our work online so there’s no excuse. Adopt a robust waste management policy by using recycling bins for paper, plastic, and soft drink cans, rather than throwing everything out in one bin.
These are just some of the small steps we can all take a conscious effort to make. Most of us know these fundamentals but exactly how many of us are honestly pursuing them on a consistent basis? Even just one small change can make a big difference and if World Environment Day serves to only remind us of this and nudge us to action then it is more than worthwhile.
As the World Environment Day website says: “We must go from harming the planet to healing it.”
Why not check out their website to see how you can get involved with their initiatives and help build towards a greener, healthier tomorrow.
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