In 1972, the UN General Assembly designated 5 June as World Environment Day (WED) and the first celebration took place in 1974. In the following years, WED has developed as a platform to raise awareness on the problems our environment is facing such as air pollution, plastic pollution, illegal wildlife trade, sustainable consumption, sea-level increase, and food security, among others. Furthermore, WED helps drive change in consumption patterns and in national and international environmental policy.
The theme for World Environment Day 2021 is “Ecosystem Restoration” and will see the launch of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. Ecosystem restoration can take many forms: Growing trees, greening cities, re-wilding gardens, changing diets or cleaning up rivers and coasts. This is the generation that can make peace with nature.
Ecosystem restoration means assisting in the recovery of ecosystems that have been degraded or destroyed, as well as conserving the ecosystems that are still intact. Healthier ecosystems, with richer biodiversity, yield greater benefits such as more fertile soils, bigger yields of timber and fish, and larger stores of greenhouse gases. Restoration can happen in many ways – for example through actively planting or by removing pressures so that nature can recover on its own. It is not always possible – or desirable – to return an ecosystem to its original state. We still need farmland and infrastructure on land that was once forest, for instance, and ecosystems, like societies, need to adapt to a changing climate.
All kinds of ecosystems can be restored and restoration initiatives can be launched by almost anyone, from governments and development agencies to businesses, communities and individuals.
UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021-2030):
The United Nations General Assembly has proclaimed the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, rallying call for the protection and revival of ecosystems all around the world, for the benefit of people and nature. It aims to halt the degradation of ecosystems, and restore them to achieve global goals. Only with healthy ecosystems can we enhance people’s livelihoods, counteract climate change, and stop the collapse of biodiversity.
The UN Decade runs from 2021 through 2030, which is also the deadline for the Sustainable Development Goals and the timeline scientists have identified as the last chance to prevent catastrophic climate change. Led by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the UN Decade is building a strong, broad-based global movement to ramp up restoration and put the world on track for a sustainable future. That will include building political momentum for restoration as well as thousands of initiatives on the ground.
Forests and trees provide us with clean air and water, capture vast amounts of climate-heating carbon and are home to most of Earth’s biodiversity. They supply food and fodder, fuel and materials, and support the livelihoods of billions of people. Action plan can include planting trees, assisting natural regeneration and forest landscape restoration
Freshwater ecosystems supply food, water and energy to billions of people, protect us from droughts and floods, and provide unique habitat for many plants and animals, including one-third of all vertebrate species. For restoration, one can take up clean it up, regulating access, restoring vegetation, planning sustainably and protecting and restoring nature
Towns and Cities or urban areas occupy less than 1 per cent of the Earth’s land surface but house more than half of its people. Despite their steel and concrete, crowds and traffic, cities and towns are still ecosystems whose condition profoundly marks the quality of our lives. Functioning urban ecosystems help clean our air and water, cool urban heat islands, shield us from hazards and provide opportunities for rest and play. They can also host a surprising amount of biodiversity. Action plan can include greening public spaces, preparing citizens for sustainability and taking up one micro-ecosystem at a time
Oceans and Coasts – Oceans and seas cover more than 70 per cent of the Earth. These ecosystems regulate our climate and generate most of the oxygen we breathe. They underpin key economic sectors, such as tourism and fisheries. And they harbor biodiversity from, whales to plankton, in habitats from sun-lit reefs to polar oceans. Restoration planning can include cleaning up, restoring vegetation above and below the water and using the ocean wisely
Farmlands and grasslands are perhaps our most vital ecosystems. As well as supplying food, fodder, and fibre, arable fields and grazing land host a bewildering variety of organisms from bats and birds to beetles and worms as well as considerable tree cover. Marked by centuries of human effort and ingenuity, these ecosystems are cultural treasures whose protection makes spiritual as well as economic sense. In order to restore, initiatives can include investing in nature and trust in diversity, keeping grasslands whole, adopting grazing sustainably and bringing back indigenous species
Mountains harbor most of Earth’s biodiversity hotspots and supply fresh water to an estimated half of humanity. They include a multitude of ecosystems providing a home to unique species, such as snow leopards and mountain gorillas, as well as great cultural diversity among people adapted to the challenges of mountain life. For their restoration, one can plan for restoring forest shields, limiting extraction and excavation, letting ecosystems migrate and farming for resilience
Peatlands cover only 3 per cent of the world’s land, but they store nearly 30 per cent of its soil carbon. They control water supplies and prevent floods and droughts and provide many people with food and fuel. They also house plants and animals unique to these watery environments. For their effective restoration action plan could include protecting peatlands, damming the drains, accelerating recovery and limiting pressures
Whatever you do, celebrate the moment and spread the word! Take pictures of your World Environment Day activities and post them on social media with the tag #VigyanSetuFoundation #GenerationRestoration and #WorldEnvironmentDay to maximize your contribution to the restoration movement.
(Information source: https://www.genevaenvironmentnetwork.org/world-environment-day/)