Published:  09:40 AM, 23 June 2021 Last Update: 09:42 AM, 23 June 2021

A battle for saving nature

A battle for saving nature
Nature is our life-support system. It provides essential resources for our survival and enjoyment. Weather, mountains, oceans, and landscapes even city-dwellers living in modern skyscrapers need air to breathe, water to drink, and food to eat, all of which are provided by nature.

Some of the deadliest new diseases-including COVID-19, Ebola, SARS, and HIV-have arisen when the natural barriers between human and animal populations are breached. Dangerous close contact and prolonged exposure occurs when people encroach on wildlife habitat or bring wild animals into human communities. Both are routine in the global trade and overconsumption of wildlife, which is at the root of all four diseases.

During the 50-year period between 1970 and 2020, the global economy and trade have grown by nearly five and ten folds respectively. But side by side, the greenhouse gas emissions have doubled, and chemical production, wastes and pollutions have increased significantly. At the same time, use of resources has tripled and humans have severely affected three-fourths of ice-free land and two-thirds of oceans, putting at risk livelihoods, health, economic growth, food, water, sanitation and settlements.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) published a ground-breaking report titled Making Peace with Nature: A Scientific Blueprint to Tackle the Climate, Biodiversity and Pollution Emergencies. The UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres commented in the foreword: "Humanity is waging war on nature. This is senseless and suicidal

The first part of the report narrates how the current trend of extensive development exceeds and degrades the earth's limited capacity to sustain human wellbeing, and threatens the achievement of sustainable development goals (SDGs). It asserts that human societies are failing to meet most of their commitments to limit environmental damages, because the earth's climate is changing and the web of living beings unravelling as land and oceans degrade, and chemicals and wastes accumulate beyond agreed limits. Many of the targets for conservation, restoration and sustainable use of oceans, coasts, and resources are unlikely to be met as marine and coastal ecosystems are waning with concomitant loss of biodiversity. But damaging and long-lasting environmental changes impede progress towards ending poverty, reducing inequalities, and promoting sustainable growth, decent work and peaceful cum inclusive societies. Besides, earth's capacity to cater to rising human needs for nutritious food, safe water and sanitation will weaken due to sustained environmental decay. Ultimately, the worsening health of earth undermines human endeavour for healthy living and wellbeing of all (SDG-3), as well as efforts for making settlements and cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.

A shift towards sustainability would also necessitate transformation of the economic and financial systems. Therefore, economic performance measures should include the value of nature's contribution towards human wellbeing. Besides, food, water and energy systems ought to be transformed for meeting the rising human needs in an equitable, resilient and environment-friendly fashion, as feeding people, ensuring water security, and improving the conservation, restoration and sustainable use of nature have complementary and inter-dependent goals. Sustaining sufficient and quality fresh water would require improved efficiency and pragmatic growth in storage as well as restoration of natural habitats and flow regimes.

Reductions in emissions require rapid and far-reaching changes in energy, land, industrial production, urban and infrastructure sectors. Adaptation to impacts of climate change entails preparations as well as nature-based responses and solutions. Conservation and restoration of biodiversity should be integral to the uses of terrestrial, freshwater and marine ecosystems. Reforming the fisheries sector, integrated spatial planning, conservation, climate mitigation and curtailed pollution are all critical in restoring marine life. Implementation of international chemical conventions, strengthening of policy-science interface, and further legal cum regulatory reforms can substantially diminish the impact of chemicals and wastes on human health and environment.

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