Ever since its inception in 1972, the World Environment Day is being observed and celebrated by more and more people. Big corporate houses and small businesses all around the world celebrate this day by organizing various events and programs. We, too, celebrate this day with rally, cleanup campaigns, seminars and other similar events – with some extending over a week or so. But despite this ever increasing participation, our environment continues to degrade. Why? Because, once the event is over, we go back to business as usual.
Maybe that’s why we have over 15 environmental-themed days in a year – averaging one every month – to remind ourselves that we need to change our “business as usual” mentality and reduce our negative impacts on the environment. Take a look at this: February 2 is World Wetlands Day; March 22 is World Water Day; April 22 is Earth Day, May 22 is International Day for Biological Diversity and the list extends till December. Now, these are some of the internationally recognized days. Many countries – including ours – have their own “nationally” recognized environment-themed days to remind themselves of their follies. However, despite the ever increased participation and frequent reminders, it’s a fact that our environment is in a worst state than ever. And the blame goes to our increasing numbers and our greed to become superior among ourselves.
LOCAL TO GLOBAL
In this race for superiority, we not only created political boundaries but also took the pollution to a global scale that was once confined locally. In ancient times, our forefathers used and consumed locally available resources – hence limiting the impacts, if any, to the local level. But ever since the last century, we have technologically advanced so much that today anybody capable and willing to pay money for any rare resource from anywhere around the world is hours away from getting it. These “capable” individuals represent 20 percent of the global population but consume more than 80 percent of the global resources. According to Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, the global economic activity increased nearly sevenfold between 1950 and 2000 – meaning more and more people are becoming “capable” to afford the resources. And in today’s consumer-driven market what this means is: If you can afford it, you can have it – even if it means overexploitation of resources beyond the carrying capacity of the ecosystem.
We need to understand one thing: Whatever we consume comes from the environment. And when the number of people increases, it directly results in the overexploitation of resources. Statistics show that the global population doubled from 3 billion in 1959 to 6 billion in 1999 and it is projected that there will be around 9 billion people by 2050. To meet the need of ever increasing human population, we developed agricultural tools and machines; we synthesized chemicals that not only increased the crop yields but also reduced pests; we cleared forests and transformed wetlands into agricultural lands; we mined and bored the earth and the list goes on.
We have to change our lifestyle and consuming habits to conserve the resources for future generations because, as the Native American proverb says, we do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.
ENVIRONMENTAL DEGRADATION AND SPECIES DIVERSITY
Our reckless behavior to meet the needs of our increasing numbers without any regard to the other living beings who equally share the planet has resulted in environmental degradation. Water bodies and soil all around the world are increasingly polluted with man-made chemicals; air pollution is on the rise; even some of the inaccessible ecosystems that were once considered pristine are now contaminated with these chemicals. This has resulted in loss of biodiversity – at genetic, ecosystem and species levels. Scientists estimate that there are about 100 million species in this planet but only about two million have been identified and named so far and about three, on average, go extinct every hour. And according to 2009 The World Conservation Union’s (IUCN) report, of the 47,677 species in their Red List of Threatened Species list, 17, 291 are deemed to be at serious risk.
Despite efforts from local, national and international organizations, our environment continues to degrade and species continue to become threatened. Part of the problem lies in the level of awareness among the resource rich people and also on the effective implementation and enforcement of environmental laws and regulations. Studies show that 70 percent of the world’s poor live in rural areas and depend directly on the natural resources to meet their daily needs. But it’s not these 70 percent poor people that are threatening the earth’s resources but the remaining 30 percent or so who consume more than 80 percent of the world’s resources and are willing to pay exorbitant price for some of the rare resource.
Despite international multilateral agreements, the trade in wildlife and their derivatives – grossing US$160 billion as per the estimate of TRAFFIC, a wildlife trade monitoring network – remains one of the biggest challenges in species conservation. One of the main reasons for the dwindling number of flagship species like rhino, tigers, and elephants is poaching. Despite being on top of the food chain, the number of tigers that was 100,000 a century ago now remains at around 3,200 in the wild. The number of rhinos in our own Chitwan National Park has now reduced to 408 from 544 rhinos few years ago. Wildlife contraband seizures are frequently reported from across the country.
And lately the over exploitation of fossil fuels resulting in increased concentrations of carbondioxide in the atmosphere has triggered unusual warming of earth and weather patterns. Scientists estimate that 1.5 to 2.5 degrees Centigrade increase in average temperature would put 20 percent to 30 percent species at risk of extinction.
There is no denying that all the species – and we are one of the species – share this planet and are interconnected to one another is some ways. Hence, loss of one species may directly or indirectly threaten our own survival. It is mainly our increasing numbers and our greed to prove ourselves superior that is resulting in environmental degradation. We have to change our lifestyle and consuming habits to conserve the resources for future generations because, as the Native American proverb says, we do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children. Hence, it is our duty to present our future generation the Earth at least at the same state – if not better – that we came in.
Most of us are environmentally aware but are too complacent to change our ways of doing things. A good example is Bagmati River: Isn’t it baffling that the people who treat Bagmati River as god and perform holy ablution don’t hesitate to empty their sewage pipes in Bagmati? For those who have participated in Dunga Daud, organized by Nepal River Conservation Trust to mark Environment Day, or the ones who live near Sundarijal, must have seen or taken a dip in the pristine waters of Bagmati. But once it enters the city, it no longer carries water, it carries wastewater from industries, hospitals and households.
The main reason of environmental degradation is that most of us choose to continue business as usual. A large number of the fired-up individuals who participate in today’s Environment Day programs and events will go home, clean themselves up and forget about it for the next 364 days. Cycling a day to work, planting a tree or cleaning up the streets and rivers for a day won’t reverse environmental degradation. We have to continue this attitude all the 365 days a year to make a positive change.
I liked the whole content, the heart touching is "Native American proverb says, we do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children". If at least 20% people who are contributing 80% of pollution in the globe understand it and take it seriously, we can preserve the Earth for betterment of our offspring.
I hold the Republica in high esteem. But the copy editors need to be more observant to help me keep it that way. The very first sentence of this article has grammatical error.
"Ever since its inception in 1972, the World Environment Day is being observed and celebrated by more and more people."
The above sentence should have read:
Ever since its inception in 1972, the World Environment Day has been observed and cele