The World Environment Day has been celebrated on June 5th since 1974 (https://www.un.org/en/observances/environment-day). It has been an effective tool for the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and part of its strategy to engage all stakeholders – governments, businesses, civil society, etc. – to achieve this overarching goal: raise awareness and create action to protect the environment. This year´s theme is biodiversity which is critical for all life on land and below water. It is a highly sensitive and interconnected system that, if affected, could have negative effects on all its members.
As we all have been witnessing repeatedly in the past decades, the detrimental consequences of a harmed biodiversity are felt by all human society with visible signs from our surrounding nature. Therefore, as much as COVID-19 has been painful, troublesome and life-changing for all of us, there is a glimpse of hope in its midst. Both climate scientists and activists have continuously been warning the whole world that the direction we are heading in is neither sustainable nor in any way smart on the long run. Gladly, nature has made it clear to us during COVID-19 that there is still, even though little, room for sustainable change and a healthy future for the generations to come.
The amount of stories that animals have been showing up in places where they haven´t in a long time like dolphins in the Bosporus strait, or rivers cleaning itself like the Ganges in India – something that human beings failed to achieve despite investing millions of dollars. Those are only two examples of nature proving to us that in a fairly small amount of time of human self-isolation, it can successfully achieve what humanity only was about to destroy in the past decades. Even though those are only little steps, they should send a loud and clear message to all of us: Nature isn´t done yet!
Yes, we are and will be experiencing a major economic crisis that will not halt in front of any human being. Yes, millions of people have and will have lost their jobs. Yes, the importance of getting back into a healthy routine is lacking and strenuous for the mental health of all human beings. However, and this however should not be diminished, the potential to change the future course of humanity is as big as rarely before. The opportunity to take action for sustainable changes so that future generations won´t have to worry about our present concerns anymore.
Looking at the SDGs, there is only one way to address COVID-19 – together! As encompassing as those goals are, they are only a starting point for humanity to live in harmony with each other and nature. Disturbing racial tensions in the US must be taken seriously in order to move forward together. The most vulnerable and excluded by society – the invisible victims like homeless people, but also women, girls and minorities – need to be heard in order to protect our environment. If humanity keeps fighting each other, we will never be able to live sustainably and in harmony with the environment.
We need to realize that money won´t solve the environmental problems which we face. It is the shared willingness to listen to each other and, of course, nature itself. Watch and learn how its mechanisms are trying to protect this world´s biodiversity. Of course, in the short-term some nations and human beings will be required to invest more resources than others. However, the long-term gain is exceedingly more precious for everybody.
Today, we celebrate World Environment Day and hopefully, raise awareness that nature isn´t done yet. COVID-19 gave us a glimpse of hope in this regard that humanity can change its course with a recovering nature. Let´s celebrate loudly so that we as humanity come together to build a sustainable future for all. How will you celebrate World Environment Day? Will you celebrate it in fear of others? Will you celebrate it by enjoying short-term pleasure? Or will you celebrate it by lifting your voice, amplifying the message that needs to be heard and repeated until it has reached every heart, soul and mind that we are all in this together?
Whether you like it or not, we are all in this together and sustainable change, protecting nature and biodiversity starts with you and me right now. We have no more time to waste. Too many people are suffering, and nature is still on the brink of more detrimental consequences for all of us. Let´s stand up for what is right, for justice in every regard and support our shared future, so that we all can enjoy it together!