ENVIRONMENTAL MONTH 2020

World Environment Day is the biggest, most celebrated day for positive environmental action and it is held each year on June 5 to focus the world’s attention on a pressing environmental issue. This year’s focus on biodiversity highlights the important role that Verloren Valei plays in conserving biodiversity.

It is one of the principal vehicles through which the United Nations (UN) stimulates worldwide awareness of the environment and enhances political attention and encourages action. Held annually since 1974, World Environment Day is a vital platform for promoting progress on the environmental dimensions of the Sustainable Development Goals.

National Environment month is celebrated in June, with the South African government and captains of industry leading the way by stimulating awareness on environmental issues and challenging all to become agents for change.

The 2020 World Environment Day global campaign aims at highlighting how we as humans are inextricably linked to and depends on nature for our existence and quality of life. Recent events, from bushfires in Brazil, United States and Australia – to locust swarms – to the COVID-19 outbreak, highlights how meddling with ecosystems and biodiversity from its natural state is creating unprecedented challenges for humankind on a global scale.

The World Environment Day 2020 theme is: “BIODIVERSITY” and the slogan: “IT’S TIME FOR NATURE”.

Biodiversity describes the variety of life on Earth, including the 8 million plant and animal species on the planet, the ecosystems that house them, and the genetic diversity among them. 

Biodiversity is a complex, interdependent web, in which each member plays an important role, drawing and contributing in ways that may not even be visible to the eye. Changing or removing one element of this web affects the entire life system and can produce negative consequences. Without nature, life on earth would not be possible.

Biodiversity is the foundation that supports all life on land and below water. It affects every aspect of human health, providing clean air and water, nutritious foods, scientific understanding and medicine sources, natural disease resistance, and climate change mitigation.

The five main drivers of biodiversity loss, as identified by the latest Regional Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services for Africa and the Global Environment Outlook 6 (GEO-6), stem from our activity. Biodiversity loss can be prevented through changing what we consume, how we produce and where we protect nature. Stronger environmental policies and accountability measures will help drive these changes in behaviour. The drivers are; Land-Use Change, Overexploitation of Plants and Animals, Climate Emergency, Pollution and Invasive Alien Species

BIODIVERSITY LOSS AND COVID19 – This World Environment Day, as many are isolated at home, let us reflect on what got us here. The coronavirus pandemic is reminding us that we live in a connected world and that human health is linked to the planet’s health. It’s an opportunity to revisit our relationship with nature and rebuild a more environmentally responsible world.

The emergence of COVID-19 has underscored the fact that when we destroy biodiversity, we destroy the system that supports human life. The more biodiverse an ecosystem is, the more difficult it is for one pathogen to spread rapidly or dominate; whereas, biodiversity loss provides opportunity for pathogens to pass between animals and people. 

Coronaviruses are zoonotic, meaning they are transmitted between animals and people and research shows that these diseases are on the rise. Zoonoses that emerged or re-emerged recently are Ebola, bird flu, Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), the Nipah virus, Rift Valley fever, sudden acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), West Nile virus, Zika virus disease, and, now, the coronavirus. They are all linked to human activity. The Ebola outbreak in West Africa was the result of forest losses leading to closer contacts between wildlife and human settlements; the emergence of avian influenza was linked to intensive poultry farming; and the Nipah virus was linked to the intensification of pig farming and fruit production in Malaysia.  

The World Health Organization reports that an animal is the likely source of the 2019 coronavirus (COVID-19), which has infected tens of thousands of people worldwide and placed a strain on the global economy. According to the World Health Organization, bats are the most probable carrier of the COVID-19 but added that it is possible that the virus was transmitted to humans from another intermediate host, either a domestic or a wild animal like the pangolin.

UNEP’s Frontiers 2016 Report on Emerging Issues of Environment Concern shows zoonoses threaten economic development, animal and human well-being, and ecosystem integrity. Scientists predict that if we do not change our behaviour towards wild habitats, we are in danger of more virus outbreaks. To prevent future zoonoses, we must address the multiple threats to ecosystems and wildlife, including habitat loss and fragmentation, pollution, invasive species and, increasingly, climate change.

Drivers of zoonotic diseases are, amongst other, the trafficking of wild animals and their body parts around the world, the shocking pet trade in wild animals, the slow destruction of wild spaces, the reducing of genetic diversity and humans’ role in causing climate change and extreme weather events. We have created ideal conditions for the spread of viruses between animal and human populations.  It is impossible to predict where the next outbreak will come from or when it will be. Growing evidence suggests that outbreaks or epidemic diseases may become more frequent as climate continues to change and if we continue to ignore the causes of these zoonotic diseases, we may be infected with viruses that cause pandemics even more disruptive than Covid-19.

These are exceptional times in which nature is sending us a message. Bushfires are ablaze driving pollution. Dislodging us from our homes. Threatening global food security. Accelerating the extinction of species. Glacial ice is melting at alarming rates while ocean acidification threatens the ocean’s productivity. Locust invasions are bringing our harvests to the ground. Contagions are causing loss of lives and livelihoods including the Covid-19 crisis; forcing our lives to come to a stand-still. Nature is showing us that life as we know it is on the verge of a breakdown.

It’s Time to wake up. To take notice.

This World Environment Day, It’s Time for Nature.

It’s Time for individuals – to rethink what we buy and use. 

It’s Time for entrepreneurs – to build and change businesses to sustainable models.

It’s Time for farmers and food producers – to restore overworked fields and stop the assault on pristine habitats, from wetlands to forests.

It’s Time for civil society – to increase efforts to revitalize and protect our earth’s fragile ecosystems.

It’s Time for public sector – to incorporate bold sustainable practices in their supply chains and financing.

It’s Time for governments – to protect wild spaces with ambition and accountability.

It’s Time for educators – at every level to inspire students to live harmoniously with the earth.

It’s Time for youth – to become fierce gatekeepers of a green future.

It’s Time to re-imagine our relationship with nature; and put it at the heart of our decision making. It will take not just one, not just a village, but an entire global community. To rise together.

All living things on Earth are connected in the web of life. These connections make up the fabric of nature—weakening or removing one form of life impacts the entire biodiversity ecosystem, making species vulnerable to extinction and natural systems less resilient. If we continue on this path unabated, the loss in biodiversity will have severe implications for humanity, from the collapse of food and health systems to the disruption of entire supply chains. Our unsustainable use of nature is largely to blame for this dramatic situation.

  • We need to halt deforestation and the destruction of natural habitats.
  • We need to make use of existing nature-friendly, organic alternatives, and develop new ones, to feed ourselves and to maintain our health.
  • We need to eliminate poverty so that people can find alternative ways to make a living other than by hunting and selling wild animals and destroying the environment. 
  • We need to “build back better” following COVID-19 with environment at the heart of decision making
  • We need to connect our brains with our hearts and appropriately use our indigenous knowledge, science and innovative technologies to make wiser decisions about people, animals and our shared environment.

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