By Jazmin Hernandez, Community Health Educator
The solar system reminds us that, just as the Earth is not at the center of the Universe, neither are we humans the center of the Earth. We, along with the rest of the natural world, are all interconnected within the larger web of life. -Harmony with Nature, United Nations
In 1970, the United Nations proclaimed the 22nd of April as International Mother Earth Day, more commonly referred to as “Earth Day”. Member countries acknowledged that the Earth and its ecosystems are our common home and expressed their conviction that it is necessary to promote “harmony with nature” in order to achieve balance among the economic, social and environmental needs of present and future generations.
April 22, 2020 will mark 50 years of Earth Day.
The theme for Earth Day 2020 is climate action, which represents the biggest challenge to the future of humanity and the life-support systems that make our world habitable. In order to meet the basic needs of a growing population within the limits of the Earth’s finite resources, there is a need to devise a more sustainable model for production, consumption and the economy.
Our Mother Earth is a delicate living system of complex relationships, of ecosystems, animals, plants, insects and other life forms that have evolved in unison and interact in a myriad of ways.
Biodiversity plays a fundamental role in sustaining life as we know it. Biodiversity is deteriorating worldwide at rates unprecedented in human history. It is estimated that around one million animal and plant species are now threatened with extinction. This decline is projected to continue or worsen under current economic, social and environmental conditions.
Mother Earth is clearly urging a call to action. Nature is suffering. Fires in Australia, new heat records around the world, and locust invasions in Kenya, it is clear that action must be taken. Now, the world faces COVID -19, a worldwide health pandemic linked to the health of our ecosystem.
Looking at the big picture, our immediate priority is to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but long-term, it is important to tackle habitat and biodiversity loss to assist in preventing future outbreaks.
The “wild” must be kept “wild.” It is time to restore our forests, stop deforestation, invest in the management of protected areas, and propel markets for deforestation-free products. Where the legal wildlife trade chain exists, we need to do a far better job of improving hygiene conditions. And of course, there is the urgent need to tackle the illegal wildlife trade, the fourth most common crime committed worldwide.
Climate change, man-made changes to nature as well as crimes that disrupt biodiversity, such as deforestation, land-use change, intensified agriculture and livestock production or the growing illegal wildlife trade, can increase contact and the transmission of infectious diseases from animals to humans (zoonotic diseases) like COVID-19.
Every four months a new infectious disease emerges in humans, 75% of which come from animals, according to UN Environment. The coronavirus outbreak poses huge public health and global economy at risk, but biological diversity as well. However, biodiversity can be part of the solution since this diversity of species would make difficult to pathogens to spread rapidly.
Any positive environmental impact in the wake of this abhorrent pandemic must therefore be directed to changing of our production and consumption habits towards cleaner and greener. So, in the aftermath of the crisis, when economic stimulus packages composed of infrastructure are designed, there is a real opportunity to meet that demand with green packages of renewable energy investments, smart buildings, green and public transport, etc.
Let’s remind ourselves more than ever this Earth Day that we need a shift to a more sustainable economy that works for both people and the planet. Let’s promote harmony with nature and the Earth.
We recognize that planet Earth and its ecosystems are our home and that “Mother Earth” is a common expression in a number of countries and regions, and we note that some countries recognize the rights of nature in the context of the promotion of sustainable development. -Harmony with Nature, United Nations
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