Our Ecosystems have sustained Humans for long. At times, Humans have managed to alter their ecosystems for their respective needs, we tampered our habitats as well as of the others to prosper, achieve and compound our resources.
However, the other times, Nature might have ravaged our dreams to come at the forefront. Nevertheless, we have managed to thrive on this Earth, with or without battling our Nature.
Its time we understand that things cannot continue in the same manner they used to. The healthier our ecosystems become, the healthier will be the planet – and its people.
Considering its due importance, the upcoming decade 2021-30 has been named the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration which aims to prevent, halt and possibly reverse the degradation of ecosystems on land as well as oceans.
We have stepped into the sixth mass extinction phase. It can only be stopped if we make concerted and consistent efforts to bring our planet back to its days of Glory.
The World has an ambition to fulfil: to restore what has been degraded on the face of Earth by 2030.
The birth of this necessity:
El Salvador, an inwardly country in Central America, proposed the United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021–2030 while supporting the Bonn Challenge that aims to restore 350 million hectares of degraded ecosystems globally by 2030.
As one of the pilot countries to Bonn Challenge and its vocal member, El Salvador pledged to restore 1 million hectares on its own, equivalent to half of the country’s territory.
At the 73rd session of UNGA, 71 member countries supported its cause and hence adopted the resolution declaring 2021–2030 the UN Decade of Ecosystem Restoration.
“Ecosystem restoration promoted through this UN Decade takes a multi-functional landscape approach, looking at the mosaic of interdependent land uses in which ecological, economic, social, and development-based priorities can find convergence, balance, and complementarity”, according to Lina Pohl of El Salvador.
What does it aim to achieve?
- A common vision to prioritize Environment restoration, encompassing all efforts from local to global level.
2. To incorporate such necessity into the mainstream policy framing and oversee its implementation.
3. Foster a holistic approach to achieve all concerned international commitments and national priorities, including the Sustainable Development goals, being harbinger of prosperity.
4. To encourage businesses, industries or flow of financial resources, investments and resource diversion for greater good of Ecosystem.
5. To promote a resilient economy by mustering support for smallholders’ generation of value from land use products.
Nothing can be achieved without spreading awareness regarding Nature preservation, an urgent need of such indispensable and perennial resource.
Why shall we adopt such a resolution?
Human is indeed a social animal. Our interactions with other beings, human and non-humans as well as with our surroundings play a great role in growth of any ecosystem. All ecosystems are strictly linked and interdependent on each other. Therefore, a a simple change to one pf it may destabilize the entire system, maybe the entire Biosphere.
Ecosystem provides amazing services to us all:
Provisioning services (food, freshwater, wood and fibre, and fuel),
Regulating services (modulating climate, disease, food supply, and water purity), and
cultural services (serving aesthetic, spiritual, and educational needs) which can all be restricted if the ecosystem cannot thrive itself.
Therefore, we need to work for its revival and growth simply to sustain our human race and all the things we care about.
Money matters and ecosystem:
Exploitation of land and marine ecosystems leads to the threat of mass species extinction, and even degrade the livelihoods of 3.2 billion people. This alone can cost around 10% of the annual global gross domestic product ($6.3 trillion) in loss of species and ecosystem services.
If even a meagre portion of ecosystem is restored i.e. 350 million hectares of degraded terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems by 2030, it can potentially generate US$9 trillion in ecosystem services and subsequently remove 13 to 26 gigatons of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.
Is the target achievable?
Around 2 billion hectares of well-degraded lands across the world, has the potential for ecosystem restoration. This can be done by consolidation of different ecosystems like forest land with protected areas, wetlands, agriculture, waterbodies, and human civilization to the very core.
Since the Ecosystem Restoration is central to the objectives of all Institutions dealing with stopping Climate change and its aftereffects, IUCN, FAO, UNEP, UNDP all find relevance and inclination to fulfil the demands of such effort.
But have we stopped the activities which lead to such crisis?
Deforestation, one of the evils, alone is said to have increased sharply in 2020, the pandemic year, the year that shook millions of souls, the year that yearned for revival of Nature. But our memories are not long-lived.
According to Global Forest Watch, the rate of forest loss, is found to be above the average for the last 20 years, with 2020 being the third worst year for forest destruction since 2002.
At least 42,000 sq km of tree cover has been lost in key tropical regions recording a 12% increase from the previous year.
According to World Resource Institute, the loss to irreplaceable forests alone amounted to 4.2m hectares (10.4m acres) which is simply equivalent to the annual carbon dioxide emissions of more than 575m cars.
Pandemic may have seen the rising of an awakened citizenry, but the current data does not depict a shift of Human ways.
According to a fellow at WRI, “Unless we offer alternatives, it is likely that governments will try to recover on the back of forest loss, [particularly] governments facing high levels of debt. The longer we wait to tackle deforestation, the more likely it is that these carbon sinks will go up in smoke.”
Therefore, upcoming COP26 has the ability to provide an impetus to such restoration for which forests are a great asset.
Ecosystems under threat: what can we do about it?
According to another UN report, Indigenous people are by far the best guardians of their ecosystems.
Its been widely known that any local community knows what is best for its ecosystem, for instance there are several SDGs those may be required for an area: proper health system, clean air or water and sanitation, may be education or an urge to address inequality.
But out of these blanket necessities, there must be a need that needs to be addressed instantly. A community knows its strength and weaknesses. It even knows at times, with proper guidance, how to address and correct those prevailing issues.
Paying indigenous and tribal communities for their rendered environmental services of their territories has reduced deforestation in countries including Ecuador, Mexico, and Peru. We can seemingly adopt the same throughout the world.
Adaptation or Mitigation?
Climate change implications are openly visible now and there is no way to survive without a feasible adaptation to such changes. Adaptation without mitigation means committing to likely greater impacts in the long term.
Therefore, adaptation and mitigation are not in competition for priority to implementation. They are not contrasting rather complementary responses to climate change that may be operating at different spatial, temporal and institutional scales altogether.
Build Back Better: A resilient, sustainable and existent future!
When we need to resurge in terms of societal, economic responsibilities, why not follow the policy where we can adopt ways giving due importance to Nature. Its known that whatever Covid got us into, it cleared the dilemma that we need to prioritize Environmental issues, it can anyday hurt us more.
“Builds back better” means not only getting economies and livelihoods back on track, but also safeguarding prosperity for the longer term.
Addressing the biggest threat of all, can help us to solve other puzzles, root out other evils: wildlife trafficking, deforestation, unemployment, sanitation services, increasing Urbanization etc.
Returning to “business as usual” will not deliver a prosperous, sustained, long-term economic recovery that also improves well-being and reduces inequality in society. We need to return with our defenses on and efforts heightened.
Unquestionably, this Decade decides it all. To give all in for saving the ecosystems, Human lives stand a better chance surviving the looming crisis of climate change.