Nature Is Sending Us A Message
The Year 2020 Fraught With Major Fires, Floods And A Global Pandemic Has Shaken The World To The Core. It Seems Like Nature Is Calling On The Human Beings. In Keeping With Times, This Year’s Theme For The World Environment Day Was ‘Biodiversity’.
By: Leandra Monteiro
Year 2020 didn’t start off too well. From bush fire in Australia, Cyclone in India and Earthquake in Puerto Rico to the novel form of virus currently rampaging around the planet, there is now a deepening worry about the environmental degradation being the root cause of all these problems. In addition to the climatic effects, product of the consequences of climate change and therefore a proof that this is real, nature seems to give no respite and as if it were revenge, natural disasters are increasingly present occurring. With, earthquakes, volcano eruptions, and even droughts, the beginning of the year has not been easy at all.
NATURE AND HUMAN
Citing a number of recent catastrophic natural events, including the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, UN says that these events highlight the interdependence of the natural world and human life. UN has also stated that if humanity continues down this path, the loss of biodiversity will have severe consequences, including the collapse of food chains and health systems.
With a population of 7.5 billion on Earth and growing, all depend upon healthy, functioning ecosystems. The vast illegal wildlife trade and humanity’s excessive intrusion into nature is to blame for situations we now face. Scientists warn that deforestation and other forms of land conversion are driving exotic species out of their evolutionary niches and into manmade environments, where they interact and breed new strains of diseases.
Three-quarters of new or emerging diseases that infect humans originate in animals, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but it is human activity that multiplies the risks of contagion.
TIME FOR NATURE
This year, the World Environment Day theme of biodiversity rightly expresses a concern that is both urgent and existential. Recent events, from bushfires and locust infestations to floods demonstrate human’s dependence on nature.
Biodiversity 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. Changing, or removing one element of this web affects the entire life system and can produce negative consequences.
The emergence of COVID-19 has underscored the fact that, when we destroy biodiversity, we destroy the system that supports human life. Today, it is estimated that, globally, about one billion cases of illness and millions of deaths occur every year from diseases caused by coronaviruses; and about 75 per cent of all emerging infectious diseases in humans are zoonotic, meaning that they are transmitted to people by animals.
LOCKDOWN HELPED ENVIRONMENT
With many factories and businesses closed, combined with fewer cars on the road and fewer planes in the sky, our natural environment is recovering slowly. “There is a large improvement in air quality, especially in urban areas — from alarming or poor to satisfactory or good. The main reason is reduced human activities,” said S k Satheesh, Professor at Centre for Atmospheric & Oceanic Sciences, Indian Institute of Science (IISc) Bangalore.
During late January and early February 2020, levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO₂) over cities and industrial areas in Asia and Europe were lower than in the same period in 2019, by as much as 40%.
Visuals of a cleaner River Ganga have emerged from Uttar Pradesh’s Kanpur as well as Varanasi. Yamuna flowing through Delhi is cleaner and Delhiites can see the Himalayas for the first time due to the veil of air pollution lifting.
Similarly, across, the world reduced tourism in Venice has allowed nature to take control and the water in the canals have self-cleansed to reveal the floating fish inside. New York registered a 50 per cent decline in carbon monoxide levels and China’s 40% drop in NO₂ on 2019 levels for January and February equal to removing a whopping 192,000 cars. What’s more with city streets more or less empty, nature is pushing back. Wild boar have descended onto the streets of Barcelona. Mountain goats have overtaken a town in Wales. Whales are chugging into Mediterranean shipping lanes.
IT’S TIME TO CHANGE
Global environmental risks caused by human activities are becoming increasingly complex and interconnected, with far-reaching consequences for people, economies and ecosystems. This hyper interconnectivity and pace of change demands that we reconceptualise risk. “I’m absolutely sure that there are going to be more diseases like this in future if we continue with our practices of destroying the natural world,” said marine ecologist Dr Enric Sala.
The wealth and power that a lot of organizations and other people have accrued while emitting significant amounts of carbon should be mobilized, in significant part, to start out addressing the pronounced environmental and social injustices.
“The environment improvement during worldwide lockdown has shown us the size of the task. How people react to the return of normalcy after the pandemic will help define the crises racking the environment,” according to Michael gerrard, an environmental law expert at Columbia University.
Indeed, humanity has never faced the kinds of changes that we face today and can still face within the decades to return. Conservationists warn that returning the world to its pre-pandemic settings will quickly wipe out any environmental benefits of the shutdown. “It’s a serious wake-up call,” said Thomas lovejoy, an ecologist who coined the term “biological diversity”.