Only One Earth | Daily News

Only One Earth

In the universe are billions of galaxies. In our galaxy are billions of planets. But there is #OnlyOneEarth. Let’s take care of it.

This is the message of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) for the World Environment Day (WED) which falls tomorrow.

Led by the UNEP and held annually on June 5, the WED is the largest global platform for environmental public outreach and is celebrated by millions of people across the world. This year it is hosted by Sweden. “Only One Earth” was the slogan for the first United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, held in Stockholm in 1972.

This put sustainable development on the global agenda and led to the establishment of WED. Fifty years later, #OnlyOneEarth is the campaign for WED 2022. It calls for collective, transformative action on a global scale to celebrate, protect and restore our planet.

According to the UN, Earth faces a triple Planetary Emergency: The climate is heating up too quickly for people and Nature to adapt; habitat loss and other pressures mean an estimated one million species are threatened with extinction; pollution continues to poison our air, land and water.

The way out of this dilemma is to transform our economies and societies to make them inclusive, fair and more connected with Nature. We must shift from harming the planet to healing it. The good news is the solutions and the technology exist and are increasingly affordable, such as solar power.

According to the UN, we are using the equivalent of 1.6 Earths to maintain our current way of life, and ecosystems cannot keep up with our demands. Our lifestyles are associated with two thirds of all Greenhouse Gas emissions - studies show that sustainable lifestyles and behaviours could reduce our emissions by 40 to 70 per cent by 2050. Sustainable consumption and production can drive economic development, mitigate Climate Change, positively impact health and pollution, and help alleviate poverty.

Time is running out, and Nature is in emergency mode. To keep global warming below 1.5°C this century, we must halve annual Greenhouse Gas emissions by 2030. Without action, exposure to air pollution beyond safe guidelines will increase by 50 per cent within the decade and plastic waste flowing into aquatic ecosystems will nearly triple by 2040. We need urgent action to address these pressing issues, making “Only One Earth” and its focus on living sustainably in harmony with Nature, as pertinent as ever.

Truly transformative options towards sustainability need to be available, affordable and attractive for people to make better daily decisions. Key areas for transformation include how we build and live in our homes, cities and places of work and worship, how and where our money is invested, and what we do for fun. But others of greater magnitude also include: Energy, production systems, global trade and transport systems, and protection of biodiversity.

Most people believe that it is the Governments alone that can keep our environment and ecosystems clean. But we have to remember that they can only do so much to keep our cities and the environment clean. They are doing their part and we have to do ours as per the WED theme this year.

There are many other ways in which we can make a positive contribution to the environment around us. In this context, the 3R concept is worth mentioning. It means Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. Reducing consumption automatically leads to less waste and you save money too. For example, we should reduce the use of plastics and better still, give it up altogether.

The concept of reusing various materials is well entrenched in our society. Instead of using sili-sili bags at the supermarket, why not use a cloth bag which you can use many times over and over again? There are many things that we can re-use in our day-to-day lives, from clothes to cups. Re-using everyday things has many benefits, including, of course, saving our hard-earned money.

Recycling may be a relatively recent addition to the lexicon, but we have been practicing it for decades. Can you remember the days when you had to hand over an empty soft drink bottle to get a new one? That is recycling in action. Now, there is a sort of a renaissance in consumer recycling.

The problem with most commercial recycling programmes in Sri Lanka is that they begin with a lot of fanfare amidst the glare of TV lights but fade out without a trace a few months down the road. The relevant Local Bodies must immediately spring into action and reactivate these recycling initiatives.

Also, with the Government finding it difficult to supply power 24/7, those who can afford the initial outlay should opt for solar power. And once the ban on car imports is lifted, buyers should look for electric cars since we are experiencing the adverse effects of relying too much on fossil fuels. In fact, many of the steps that can be taken to save the environment won’t even cost a Rupee. Thus it is our duty to keep the environment clean and secure for posterity.


Add new comment