Celebrating World Environment Day amid COVID-19


THROUGHOUT the world, nations and environmentalists observed and celebrated the World Environment Day (WED) on June 5 2020. This day is an important event on the world environmental calendar. The year 2020 witnessed the event being celebrated not only in the background of climate change impacts, but also in the midst of COVID-19, a deadly pandemic that has caused massive human casualties around the world.

This meant that when this occasion was celebrated, citizens around the world were preoccupied with three main worries in common, which are environmental awareness, protection and human well-being. These became the triple tragedies that compounded COVID-19 into a global humanitarian crisis.

Biodiversity is known as the foundation that supports life on land and water. It affects every aspect of human health, providing clean air, water, nutritious foods, scientific understanding and medicinal sources, natural disease resistance and climate change mitigation. All these have a strong bearing on the majority of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with regard to their integrative and complementing nature.

As it stands, it is not only the environment on the sick-bed, but humanity as well and the situation is threatening to tear the whole world apart.

According to the United Nations, “the celebration of this day provides us with an opportunity to broaden the basis for an enlightened opinion and responsible conduct by individuals, enterprises and communities in preserving and enhancing the environment”.

This year’s commemorations were guided by the theme Celebrating Biodiversity — a concern that is both urgent and existential. This is about making relevant lifelong decisions critical for human survival.

As nations reflected on their relationship with the living world and natural ecosystems, adding up to biodiversity, they were more than worried this time about the coronavirus, a pandemic that has locked people indoors, restricted their movement as well as regulating their physical and social distances. Above all, everybody has to put on a mask.

With a wide range of ecosystems, plant and animal species being threatened by climate change, human beings, who are supposed to be environmental stewards, are threatened by the COVID-19 scourge.

In this regard, who will guard the environment and who will preserve nature while the hidden hand of the environmental injustices may be prevailing in the background of the current lockdowns.

During these dire situations, while human beings are urged to be climate conscious, they are also supposed to be human conscious as well, with regard to their well-being in the background of the coronavirus.

In respect of biodiversity preservation, it is the developing countries that are in a dire situation, not in terms of human casualties, but due to their vulnerability and lack of capacity to sufficiently cope.

As developing countries are most vulnerable to climate change, they require support from developed countries to enhance their national adaptation plans in order to realise resilience.

The problem is that the developed countries, inasmuch as they would want to lend a hand, they are preoccupied with human casualties in their backgrounds as a result of COVID-19.

As such, the realisation of SDGs has been slowed down, hence the need for revision. This is due to the absence of meaningful climate action and biodiversity protection taking place on the ground during the current lockdowns. As the nations around the world are urged to guard against biodiversity losses with severe implications on human well-being, collapse of the food and health systems, culminating into global food insecurity and health scares as in the case of the coronavirus. Everything doesn’t seem to be looking good at the moment.

The Convention on Biological Diversity recognises that biological diversity is critical to a health planet. For this reason, the whole world had to observe WED to reflect and take ecological stock. The occasion also came as a reminder to the community of nations to protect wildlife, forests.

The emergence of COVID-19 means that the need to protect the wildlife, forests, reducing all forms of pollution, land degradations, water conservation and enhancing food security has been affected.

This also includes human preparedness to confront severe weather impacts and natural disasters like floods, cyclones and strong winds. For these reasons, the systems that support human livelihoods have been compromised by the ravaging COVID-19, creating ideal conditions for spreading the coronavirus among human populations.

Staying indoors due to COVID-19 has also witnessed unsustainable food consumption habits against the background of less production on the ground. For those in the informal sector who survive largely on forests, this is a wake-up call.

 Peter Makwanya is a climate change communicator. He writes in his personal capacity and can be contacted on: petrovmoyt@gmail.com


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