The World Environment Day is celebrated every year on June 5 across the world to inspire the people and the communities to take action to prevent the growing strain on planet Earth’s natural systems from reaching its saturation points.
This year the World Environment Day is themed on ‘ecosystem restoration’ and calls for urgent action to revive the damaged ecosystems, with Pakistan being the host country for the day.
Restoration of ecosystem holds significance in a globalised world that has been witnessing rapid development at blinding speed. According to the United Nations, the world loses enough forest every three seconds to cover a football pitch and over the last century over half of our wetlands have been destroyed. “As much as 50% of our coral reefs have already been lost and up to 90% of coral reefs could be lost by 2050, even if global warming is limited to an increase of 1.5°C,” the UN has warned.
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The loss of ecosystem deprives the world of carbon sinks, like forests and peatlands, at a time humanity can least afford it. Emission of global greenhouse gasses have grown exponentially for three years in a row and the blue planet is a step ahead in its path to potentially catastrophic climate change.
Moreover, the raging coronavirus disease pandemic has held a mirror for us on how debilitating the consequences of ecosystem loss can be. The shrinking area of natural habitat for animals has led to ideal conditions for pathogens – including coronaviruses – to spread.
The World Environment Day 2021 focusses on ecosystem restoration and its theme is “Reimagine. Recreate. Restore.” The day will kick off the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021-2030), a global mission to revive billions of hectares, from forests to farmlands, from the top of mountains to the depth of the sea.
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Ecosystem restoration means preventing, halting, and reversing this damage – to go from exploiting nature to healing it. It also calls for assisting in the recovery of ecosystems that have been degraded or destroyed, as well as conserving the ecosystems that are still intact. Restoration can happen in many ways, such as through actively planting or by removing pressures so that nature can recover on its own.
Ecosystem restoration at a global scale is important if we are to mitigate the extent of the ecological crisis that we are currently facing, and protect the biodiversity for future generations.
Our food systems and the revival of forest and agrarian crops depend on healthy soils. But soil degradation not only compromises the essential value of the ecosystems but also its ability to produce healthy and sustainable foods. Therefore, the restoration of soil is important to sustain life on earth.
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Indigenous culture is pivotal for the community and the society. However, the ecological erosion has the potential for erosion of culture, including that of knowledge and language. This knowledge is often hyper-localised and has evolved over thousands of years and is crucial for the health of many ecosystems and the livelihoods of communities across the globe. Therefore, ecological restoration can help to sustain the diversity of human cultures by supporting mutually advantageous relationships between human beings and the nature.
Restoring ecosystems carries substantial benefits for people. It also creates jobs in rural areas where they are most needed.
Some countries have already invested in restoration as part of their strategies to bounce back from coronavirus disease while others are turning to restoration to help them adapt to a climate that is already changing.