Today marks World Environment Day 2020, an annual event which places a spotlight on a specific environmental issue. First launched in 1974, the occasion is hosted in a different country around the world on June 5th, in which celebrations are held and summits convened. First and foremost, however, World Environment Day is a chance to engage governments, corporations and everyday citizens with a particularly pressing hot potato.
This year’s incarnation is being hosted by Colombia in collaboration with Germany and focuses on biodiversity. Given the myriad challenges that have beset planet Earth, the human race and many other kinds of animals over the last 12 months, it’s both an appropriate and an existential topic which requires our immediate attention.
A fitting theme
With the world suffering some of its most turbulent climatological and medical events in living memory over the last year, biodiversity appears to be a most fitting selection for this year’s World Environment Day theme. The devastation to flora and fauna – not to mention the smoke and air pollution and the attendant effect of both on local communities – caused by bushfires in Australia, Brazil and the United States have been a strident reminder of the precariousness of our wildlife, and of the important role that rainforests play in sustaining all life on Earth.
Meanwhile, Africa, Asia and the Arabian Peninsula suffered a locust infestation of biblical proportions, throwing into jeopardy food security for some of the world’s most vulnerable peoples. For context, the incident was the most serious experienced by Kenya for 70 years, while it was the worst on record in Ethiopia, India and Somalia in the last quarter of a century.
Last, but certainly not least, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has disrupted economies and industries around the world, as well as holding significant environmental implications as well. The fact that the virus can likely be traced back to an animal market in China speaks volumes about how our relationship with the natural world can have monumental repercussions.
A time for action
With so many ecological and environmental catastrophes occurring in such a short space of time, it’s almost like Mother Earth is sending us a message that the time for reflection is over and the time for action has arrived. More than anything else, World Environment Day is intended to serve as a global platform upon which the seeds of real change can be sown.
In their manifesto, the architects of the event are calling upon everyone, no matter their background or status, to pull together and address the issue that affects all of us. Governments must put in place legislation that safeguards nature and prohibits practices which can jeopardise it. Corporations must reassess their business models to prioritise sustainability and ecology above profit margins and dividend pay-outs. Individuals must tailor their daily habits to reduce their consumption, reuse as many materials as they can and recycle what they cannot.
It’s not too late for us to make a change to the world upon which we live – but to do so, we must act collectively and we must act decisively. World Environment Day, celebrated this year by millions of participants in a digital format, provides the perfect opportunity to put those grand plans into motion.