We are marking June 5 at a time when most countries are struggling to overcome the blow that the COVID-19 disease and its consequences are delivering on healthcare systems, transportation, manufacturing and a wide range of services. On World Environment Day, people, organizations, institutions and companies are taking the opportunity to act or enhance their efforts to get civilization back into harmony with the planet. As the pandemic is likely the result of the damage done to nature, the economic rebound must be based on green solutions.
This year’s World Environment Day is dedicated to biodiversity, with the slogan “It’s Time for Nature.” It is hosted by Colombia, in partnership with Germany, but public events were canceled due to the measures of protection from the coronavirus. Human activity is the main cause of the risk of extinction of most of the million endangered plant and animal species, which in turn imperils people.
For instance, pollution and droughts weaken forests and vegetation, so more devastating wildfires aren’t a surprise. Some parts of the planet are facing the worst locust invasion in decades. The most direct hit on human society everywhere came from the coronavirus pandemic. Many scientists suspect it was caused by the trade in wild animals and other damage inflicted on ecosystems.
All the latest disruptions highlight the need to preserve balance in nature so that it can keep developing its own defense mechanisms. Biodiversity is the system of an uncountable number of elements, including microorganisms, herbs, permafrost and even deserts. They all provide us with the basics for survival and the cost of losing them is immeasurable.
Last year’s theme for World Environment Day was air pollution.
The United Nations urged us to learn about biodiversity, to discuss nature and to do our part to save the planet and mankind. Here are some of the suggestions for people and organizations in all three segments.
Let’s be mindful of what we buy and consume. Everyone can seek information on the impact of cosmetics and other products, but also on plastic pollution, land use and land rights. Individuals can lower the environmental footprint by lowering the share of meat and dairy in their diets.
- Join Earth School and take part in the 30 lessons on the environment hosted by TED-Ed and curated by some of the best nature teachers in the world
- Be accurate in the information you share by ensuring you use reputable sources to counter misinformation
- Create a compost in your garden or windowsill and grow some of your own produce
Faith leaders can inspire their communities to adapt their lifestyles to protect the environment. There are opportunities for sustainability and energy efficiency measures in millions of houses of worship. UNEP’s Faith for Earth Initiative aims to encourage and engage with faith-based organizations toward achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and fulfilling the 2030 agenda.
- The Yale Forum on religion and ecology provides a library of resources regarding different religions and their teachings on the environment
- Share faith passages on environmental protection on your social media accounts and tag other faith groups to do the same
- As faith-based organizations and religious institutions own 5% of commercial forests on Earth, encourage sustainable practices to protect and regenerate forests
Companies and entrepreneurs
Businesses rely on their host environments and ecosystems for inputs into production and manufacturing processes. They can incorporate bold, sustainable practices in their supply chains and financing.
- The One Planet Network is a global commitment to accelerate the shift towards sustainable consumption and production in both developed and developing countries
- Green your firm’s roofs or facades by planting trees or flowers to improve thermal comfort and increase biodiversity
- Look at how to produce, distribute, consume and dispose of resources in ways that optimize resource use, minimize greenhouse gas emissions and avoid harmful chemicals that hurt biodiversity
Officials in urban areas have the responsibility to center policy on the quality of life of citizens, which predominantly depends on healthy environment, mobility and energy security. There are associations and coalitions of municipalities and cities with green agendas and commitments, while communication with locals is essential for the matter.
- The Cities and Biodiversity Outlook summarizes how urbanization affects biodiversity and examines 10 ways cities can strengthen conservation and use natural resources more sustainably
- Announce a green area to be created in your city
- Develop combined transport and ecosystem corridors, naturally shading pedestrians and cyclists while connecting key green spaces in and around the city
Strong and committed environmental policy is key to ending biodiversity loss and preserving nature for human wellbeing. The rights to life, health, food, water and culture are all dependent on biodiversity.
- The Convention for Biological Diversity website outlines the biodiversity policies of countries
- Ban single-use plastics
- Invest in sustainable farming and landscape restoration to protect nature and enhance healthy food production
We become aware of the basics of environmental protection and sustainability mostly in primary school. Teachers have an essential role in forming a kid’s mindset.
- The World Wildlife Fund offers primary, secondary and university level educational resources on biodiversity
- Find the Earth School lesson you love the most and share it with your friends by using #EarthSchool and #ForNature as the hashtag
- Host a tree-planting event at school
The decisions made now will determine the kind of world young people and future generations will inherit. They are increasingly making their voices heard with real impact.
- GEO 6 for Youth boils down high-level, scientific messages on the state of the environment in terms young people will understand
- Use art as a way to spread the message. Produce a podcast, video, virtual painting competition or a music challenge.
- Organize events, street actions or marches to advocate for governments to reduce nature loss, and demand bold decisions and concrete actions from decision makers
Civil society organizations
The nongovernmental sector is an important factor in shaping opinions and influencing political leaders. As the world is experiencing an unprecedented health and economic crisis, the concept of the recovery will determine our way of life.
- Learn about how you can help fight climate change through the United Nations’ Act Now campaign
- Tag a couple of people, organizations or companies in your reply and ask them to join the conversation
- Emphasize a need to “build back better” following COVID-19 with environment at the heart of decision making