World Environment Day

Amy Perold
5 June 2020

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World Environment Day is celebrated every year on 5 June. It was established in 1972 by the UN General Assembly to encourage worldwide awareness and action to protect the environment. This year’s theme is biodiversity. Biodiversity is of concern urgent and existential as per the United Nations official website. Recent events across the world such as bushfires in Brazil, the United States, and Australia, locust infestations across East Africa and now COVID-19, a global disease pandemic, demonstrate the interdependence of humans and the webs of life in which they exist.

A recent study compiled by over 550 UN researchers re-emphasized a dire finding about the state of life on Earth: plant and animal species around the globe are disappearing at alarming rates. If not prevented, this loss could amount to a sixth mass global extinction in our lifetime. According to the report, the main drivers of this trajectory toward global disaster are, in order of impact:

  1. changes in land and sea use
  2. the direct exploitation of organisms
  3. climate change
  4. pollution of the land, sea, and freshwater biomes
  5. the invasion of alien species

The theme of Biodiversity focuses on 'time for nature' and providing the essential infrastructure that supports life on Earth and human development. Biodiversity is the collective term that encompasses the full variety of life on Earth. This diversity of life is what provides clean water, oxygen, and all other things that end up being part of our diet, as well as clothing and shelter. Every ecosystem performs certain functions that are critically important for organisms.

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There are still ways to reduce the negative impacts of biodiversity loss and to slow the rate of species disappearance, but it will require a truly transformative effort. A few ways this can be achieved is through:

  • Reducing the amount of alien species in your community
  • Habitat restoration after an area is damaged by human impacts. We can try to return habitats to their natural state by bringing back the plants and animals that are naturally found there. This has been shown to be a promising way of returning biodiversity to a region.
  • Creating seed banks. These are areas where huge varieties of plant seeds are stored, providing a failsafe if a species goes extinct in nature. The plant can be grown from a saved seed and reintroduced back into its habitat.
  • Research to understand how species interact within their environment is crucial to protect them. As humans further understand species interactions we find new and more direct ways to help protect organisms and maintain biodiversity.

Each one of us has a role to play in ending biodiversity loss and preserving nature for human wellbeing. As individuals we must rethink what we buy and use and become conscious consumers. You can get involved by:

  • Joining Earth School and taking part in the 30 lessons on the environment hosted by TED-Ed and curated by some of the best nature teachers in the world
  • Learn about how you can help fight climate change through the United Nations’ Act Now
  • Learn about plastic pollution and how it affects marine species through UNEP’s Clean Seas campaign
  • Find out about the endangered species that are trafficked in the illegal wildlife trade
  • Sign-up to iNaturalist, an online community of naturalists, where you can record your observations of plants and animals, meet other nature-lovers, and explore the natural world

Please tag #NVT in your photos so that we can see how you are celebrating World Environment Day and all the wonderful biodiversity in your area. #fornature #worldenvironmentday2020 #UNEP

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