THE WORLD OBSERVES WORLD ENVIRONMENT DAY, WITH THE THEME: ECOSYSTEM RESTORATION.
Globally, 5th June is a day slated for the observation of World Environment Day (WED), to promote awareness about protecting the environment and developing possible solutions and alternatives. The theme for this year’s World Environment Day is Ecosystem Restoration. Assisting in the recovery of ecosystems that have been degraded or destroyed, as well as conserving those that are still intact is very crucial for our existence and survival. Disturbing evidence that biodiversity that underpins our food systems is disappearing at an exponential rate, putting our food, livelihoods, health, and environment under severe threat is disheartening.
The importance of restoring the ecosystem for our survival is being increasingly recognised in the international policy agenda. However, this recognition must be translated into action. Presently about 40% of the world’s population suffer severely from the continued and persistent degradation of the ecosystems. This includes losing our fertile soil and cultivable lands to uncontrolled mining (galamsay) and erosion, pollution of our waters, and rendering them unsafe for consumption. From rising sea levels to agricultural shortfalls, urban floods, and pollutions, the world is feeling the effect of the degraded ecosystems, as we face multiple crises, including the COVID-19 pandemic and continued crisis of climate change and pollution. Balance between the food chain, mineral chain, and energy flow is the best, but the quest for development has damaged the ecosystem so much that our existence and survival are in danger.
This year’s World Environment Day marks the beginning of the United Nations official declaration of a decade of Ecosystem Restoration, which will last from 2021 to 2030, which is also the end of the sustainable development goals. According to scientists, it is the last chance for us to prevent the catastrophic effect of Climate Change. As the UN launches a Decade of Ecosystem Restoration, it is our collective responsibility, as individuals, celebrities, voluntary organisations, multinationals, and institutions such as the University of Environment and Sustainable Development, to secure the environment. It is refreshing some companies are demonstrating this by promoting food choices that support a sustainable food system, reducing their carbon emissions, and ensuring sustainable practices in the sourcing of ingredients and their supply chain impact in general.
Ecosystem restoration can happen by actively planting trees, removing pressures on them, and reducing the levels of pollutions, especially those from industries. Effective campaigns to publicise the seriousness and severity of the deplorable state of our ecosystem and smart and engendered resolutions drawn to create a change will be of great help. The impact of our degrading ecosystem is particularly acute for women who make up a large number that depends on the environment for their livelihood. Women have a strong connection with the environment, and so have the knowledge and skills to be key agents for ecosystem restoration initiatives. For a successful ecosystem restoration, engaging women as stakeholders and ensuring that both women and men are equally engaged in the process is crucial, since the degradation of the ecosystem affects them differently.
Women should not be seen as only victims of the degraded environment, but also the solution. Creating a platform where indigenous people, women, men, and youth are smartly engaged in the ecosystem restoration initiatives, focusing on best practices to restore the ecosystem and rebuilding the relationship between humans and nature, for healthier ecosystems, with richer biodiversity, will yield greater benefits such as more fertile soils, bigger yields of timber and fish, safe drinking water, vibrant economy and larger stores of greenhouse gases. We must take deliberate steps to move from crisis to healing.
This can be done by restoring the ecosystems we have damaged so much, it is important for the survival of the planet and the human race. To meet the sustainable development goals, we must STOP degrading our ecosystems, and undertake RESTORATION initiatives on a massive scale. In the case of Ghana, we must all condemn the ruthless and cruel mining practices that have destroyed a large proportion of our forest and cultivable lands and polluted almost all our water bodies, making water, an essential good unsafe and very expensive to consumers. This must STOP. Let us all, especially our leaders, think about the kind of environment legacy we inherited and what we are leaving for posterity.
Written by Dr. Rosemary Anderson Akolaa, Lecturer- University of Environment and Sustainable Development, Somanya.