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Invest ourselves to preserve life

Wayne Campbell

Thursday, April 22, 2021

The environment is where we all meet; where we all have a mutual interest. It is the one thing all of us share. — Lady Bird Johnson, former first lady of the United States

We are all guilty of not paying enough attention to our environment. The polluted state of our environment continues to be ignored by many in the society. The extent to which we ignore environmental matters will, in fact, determine the quality of our lives in the near future.

Earth Day is observed today, April 22. The theme 'Restore Our Earth' focuses on natural processes, emerging green technologies, and innovative thinking that can restore the world's ecosystems. Earth Day can also provide us with a platform to learn about the impact of climate change, environmental racism, and ecology on people of colour.

Greenaction.org defines environmental racism as the institutional rules, regulations, policies, or government and/or corporate decisions that deliberately target certain communities for locally undesirable land uses and lax environment of zoning and environmental laws, resulting in communities being disproportionately exposed to toxic and hazardous waste.

We have seen time and time again where poorer communities are treated differently than richer ones. This is a calculated and deliberate attempt and should cease and desist. We are all one, regardless of skin colour. Some will argue that the Riverton City landfill is an example of environmental racism or, perhaps, colourism.

It is an understatement to mention that we need to restore Mother Earth. There is an urgent need for humanity to realise that there is an association between how we treat our environment and the manner in which Mother Earth reciprocates.

According to the online source earthday.org there will be three days of climate action leading up to Earth Day. On April 20, a global youth summit of panels, speeches, discussions, and special messages with today's youth climate activists, including Greta Thunberg, Alexandria Villaseņor, and Licypriya Kangujam. On April 21, there was scheduled the Global Education Summit. The multilingual virtual summit featured prominent activists from every continent. The activities to commemorate Earth Day are numerous and varied, we all need to spend some time to learn more about how we can restore planet Earth as our survival is linked to Earth's restoration.

Pillars of restoration

How can we restore our Earth? The website earthday.org has identified five pillars for restoring our Earth. These are:

1) Canopy Project

2) Food and environment

3) Great Global Clean-up

4) Climate literacy

5) Global Earth Challenge

The Canopy Project improves our shared environment by planting trees across the globe. Earthday.org states there is an urgent need to reforest areas in dire need of rehabilitation, including areas with some of the world's communities most at risk from climate change and environmental degradation.

Food and the environment addresses foodprint. A foodprint measures the environmental impacts associated with the growing, producing, transporting, and storing of our food; from the natural resources consumed to the pollution produced to the greenhouse gases emitted. While we should all be working to reduce our foodprints, there are many factors, including access, affordability, health, and culture that help shape our decisions about what we eat. We must restore our Earth, not just because we care about the natural world, but because we live on it. Every one of us needs a healthy Earth to support our jobs, livelihoods, health, survival, and happiness. A healthy planet is not an option; it is a necessity.

When it comes to individual action for the common good, one of the best ways that people can make an impact for our planet is by cleaning up our public spaces. Our pollution problem is getting out of hand and our environment is suffering for it. Open landfills emit dangerous greenhouse gases, waste, and pollution that enter our oceans and freshwater. Additionally microplastics even make it into our food and the air we breathe.

The third pillar of restoring Earth utilises various social media platforms in order to include the youth to organise campaigns to begin a global clean-up of the space they occupy.

The fourth pillar of climate literacy involves a global campaign. We will ensure that students across the world benefit from high-quality education to develop into informed and engaged environmental stewards.

Then the fifth pillar regarding the restoration of Earth seeks to engage people from all over the globe with ongoing science projects.

Having listed all five pillars of restoration there must be at least one pillar of restoration which has got your attention. The time to get involved is now.

COVID-19 and the environment

The environment has always taken a back seat regarding the urgency with which we act. This problem has been compounded by the ongoing pandemic which, according to data from the Johns Hopkins University, has killed over three million people to date. In many instances, funding which had been earmarked for environmental issues has been transferred to health care in order to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The United Nations states the fight against plastic pollution is being hit by the pandemic as the use of disposable masks, gloves, and other protective equipment increases. Unfortunately, in some instances, many of the life-saving measures we are currently observing to prevent us from contracting the novel coronavirus are leading to problems surrounding pollution.

We often forget that the sea is also part of the planet and when we dispose of our garbage in the sea we are not only polluting the oceans, but we are sabotaging the future of the next generation.

UN SDGs

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), also known as the global goals, were adopted by all UN member states in 2015 as a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity by 2030. The ongoing work to restore Earth must not be viewed in a vacuum; rather, the activities must be seen as a collaborative effort involving all stakeholders.

One such major stakeholder is the UN through its SDGs, especially goals #13, 14 and 15. Goal #13 addresses climate action. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) declares there is no country that is not experiencing the drastic effects of climate change. Global warming is causing long-lasting changes to our climate system, which threatens irreversible consequences if we do not act.

Sustainable Development Goal #14 addresses life below water. Fishing is an important source of income for Jamaicans. A recent report by the Food and Agriculture Organization indicates Jamaica's fisheries contribute directly and indirectly to the livelihoods of more than 100,000 people, or nearly five per cent of the population. The UNDP states that the world's oceans, their temperature, chemistry, currents and life drive global system, which makes the Earth habitable for humankind. The extent to which we manage this important resource will have long-term implications for humanity as a whole, and to counterbalance the effects of climate change.

Sustainable Development Goal #15 speaks to life on land. Human life depends on the land as well as the oceans for our sustenance and livelihood. Plant life provides 80 per cent of the human diet and we rely on agriculture as an important economic resource. Additionally, the UNDP states forests cover 30 per cent of the Earth's surface and serves as an important source for clean air and water, as well as being crucial for combating climate change. Undeniably, we have seen the connection between our survival and the state of Earth and must act accordingly.

Urgent call to action

More than one billion people in 192 countries now participate in Earth Day activities each year, making it the largest civic observance in the world. The time to mobilise ourselves is now. We must lobby our governments to invest in clean renewable energy. Our governments must develop environment sustainability policies in which the concept of environmental justice is at the centre.

We need to teach transformative environmental education in our schools in order to stir the consciousness of the next generation of Jamaicans. We need to do more recycling of our waste, especially plastic. We must pay more attention to our watershed areas. The reality of climate change is being felt and now is the time to act.

In as much as the Government has a key role to play in protecting the environment, we, too, as citizens, have a role to play in safeguarding the environment. We need to become passionate regarding all issues concerning the environment. As global citizens we must become more vigilant in matters regarding the environment. We must revive and enact environment clubs in our schools, both at the primary and secondary levels, as a means of raising the awareness of environment issues among the younger generation. We must invest more in order to protect our environment for future generations.

Happy Earth Day!

Wayne Campbell is an educator and social commentator with an interest in development policies as they affect culture and or gender issues. send comments to the Jamaica Observer or waykam@yahoo.com.