The world is striving to overcomethe COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s World Environment Day brings into sharp focus on the importance of fundamentally shifting humanity’s relationship with nature to preserve our societies and prevent future pandemics.
Celebrated annually on 5 June, World Environment Day is the United Nations’ biggest event advocating for environmental action and the need to protect our planet. Since it was first observed in 1974, the event has grown to become a global platform for public outreach on the environment in over 100 countries.
This year – despite the ongoing pandemic that has devastated the global community – Colombia and Germany co-hosted the main World Environment Day celebrations, streamed live online from Bogota. The UN Environment Programme (UNEP), led global calls to declare it “Time #For Nature,” a call to action to combat the accelerating species loss and degradation of the natural world.
With our ever-increasing demands, humans have pushed nature beyond its limits. In the last 50 years, the human population has doubled; the global economy and trade have grown nearly fourfold and tenfold, respectively. The emergence of COVID-19 has underscored the fact that, when we destroy biodiversity, we destroy the very system that supports human life. By upsetting the delicate balance of nature, we have created conditions for pathogens–including coronaviruses–to spread.
Around half the world’s GDP depends on nature. Our oceans and forests sustain billions of people and provide green jobs – 86 million green jobs from forests alone. Four billion people rely primarily on natural medicines. Nature-based solutions – such as afforestation and using greenery to cool our cities and buildings – can provide around one-third of the emissions reductions needed to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement.
In India, the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change and UNEP’s India Office announced an urban forest programme in 200 cities, while UNEP and TED-Ed’s “Earth School” was incorporated into the Ministry of Human Resources’ digital platform for teachers, DIKSHA.