|Orange Bellied Parrot - Tasmania's most critically endangered bird now has a brighter future|
Photo courtesty of JJ Harrison - CC BY-SA 3.0
There are at least a million reasons for taking action on World Environment Day. That’s how many species are currently endangered and at risk of extinction. Begun by the UN in 1974 it seems to me that not only haven’t the problems identified then been resolved, but they have continued to get worse. Pollution, habit loss, climate change - yet there still some things which we can do, both as individuals and as members of groups and the larger society. Before I go on to discuss some of these I want to share at least one good news story.
Back from the brink
Thanks to the efforts of scientists, environmentalists and volunteers, Tasmania’s most critically endangered bird, the Orange – Bellied Parrot is slowly increasing its numbers. Down to less than 23 pairs in the 1980’s the provision of nest boxes, a combination of wild and captive breeding and protection of breeding grounds and migration routes, has raised the population to over one hundred which shows what can be achieved when people put their mind to it.
Other species have not been so lucky. Since our own lives and livelihoods also depend on a variety species and intact ecosystems (remember the bees which we talked about previously) this should be a cause for concern, and no longer a matter of voluntary compliance when it suits us. This year's theme is about biodiversity. See the video from ed.TED below to see why it matters.
For a while there it seemed that the global pandemic would give nations pause and lead to better outcomes and it is true that the EU has tied economic aid to the creation of green jobs, but that has not stopped Germany from opening a new coal fired power station despite promising to transition away from coal by 2038 and some countries including Australia, are using the ensuing economic downturn to rip away existing protections and pushing for more mining, and gas extraction under an interim committee largely made up of mining interests. The USA has already removed protected status from parts of National Monuments so that gas and coal exploration and logging can proceed and generally enfeebled its Environmental Protection Agency by reducing funding and replacing scientists with business people. Nor have China or the USA ratified the now positively ancient Kyoto Protocol (1997) to reduce emissions, or the revised "Paris Agreement" of 2015, even though they are the world's largest emitters.
Things we can do
It's a crime that there aren't enforceable international laws, but there are still ways to do something positive on Environment Day. I'm sure by now most of us are taking short showers, not wasting food, composting, walking or cycling, turning the thermostat down and lights and electronics off when not in use and so on. There is also plenty of advice about rethinking what we eat and what we wear, mentioned recently in connection with water. [Increased meat consumption drives much land use change, since domestic animals occupy 26% of grazing land and 33% of arable land is used for livestock feed, while textiles use 10% of the terrestrial land]. Shop local if possible, avoid pesticides and chemicals and above stop using those plastics. Plant trees, join a Landcare or Bushcare group, help with or organise a beach clean -up. About the only one I haven’t written much about is invasive species, so I’ll include a snippet below about this.
Some new ideas
There is much more in the World Environment Day Toolkit. I can't hope to cover everything here, so take a look for yourself. Less familiar are how to involve religious communities (pp.11-13), more detailed ways in which business can move to more sustainable practices such as looking at their supply chains and financing (pp. 13 -17) plus a vast array of things which cities (pp. 17- 20) and governments (pp. 20-23) could be doing. I’m proud to say that at least our small city is doing its part being among the first to ban plastic bags and throw away cutlery and to do large scale composting. One nice suggestion which we don’t do yet, is to give citizens small packets of native seeds for planting on balconies or in gardens. It would help those bees, birds and butterflies. The Forest Challenge looks easy and there's even a page dedicated to the lazy activist.There is also a whole range of excellent educational material and things for young people and civic groups to do, again, far too many to mention here - you could for example take part in ed. TED's Earth School, or the UN's Nature For All series, or help scientists by monitoring species in your area, so please read the text for lots of links, lesson plans and other ideas. There will also be events on Social Media such as virtual art and photography contests and be sure to post your own activities on the UN’s World Environment Day Pages.
Here's wishing you a Happy and Productive Environment Day!