Environment: Where we all meet

The recent report by the Intergovernmental Science Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPPBES) created global headlines when it claimed the possible extinction of about one million species in few decades because of the reasons triggered by the anthropogenic activities alone. 

Compiled by experts from fifty nations, the report is one of the most comprehensive and scientific evaluations ever made, and highlights the darkest reality which our “beloved” environment is already facing and shall face in the near future.              

The biodiversity loss which the report claims isn’t happening for the first time, rather it has always been happening since the evolution of the mankind. However, the gravest loss has occurred only since the advent of the industrial revolution. The industrialisation coupled with increase in the human population, growing urbanisation, consumerism and the domestic and public waste have all led to the formation of a complex web.

According to the report’s estimates, since the early 1970’s there has been a whopping 105 percent increase in the human population across the globe though with national and regional variations. This ever increasing population has also increased the urbanisation process, nearly hundred percent surge in the cities since 1990.

These whopping urbanised and densely populated “modern human civilizations” have in turn lead to an increase in the overall food production and animal husbandry which has now been recognized as the sector with the largest carbon footprint. The problems would worsen with the doubling of population by next thirty years or so.

The harrowing revelations regarding biodiversity loss claiming forty percent loss of amphibians and thirty three percent of reef forming corals, sharks and other marine life threatened with extinction in less than a decade has created a deep sense of distress among the environmental activists across the globe.

The current human induced climate change has already started the era of destruction as visible through the annual rise in the global average sea level by three millimetres over the past two decades and about one degree Celsius average global temperature difference in 2017 compared to the pre industrial level.

The other “significant man made contribution” of plastic to the environment has led to the plastic pollution surging ten times due to the advent of consumerism and waste and throw culture. The plastic now being a part of the food chain, entering via the marine food chain is no myth today and is exemplified by the great Pacific garbage patch.

The gross mismanagement by humans in search of the “numbers economy” with least focus on the green economy has led to more than twenty five hundred conflicts over fossil fuels, water, food and land, globally. These issues are bound to increase and shall aggravate with change in the international political scenarios.

   The withdrawal of the United States from the Paris deal testifies the fact that despite of facing the worst ever environmental crisis, international treaties can be easily breached by adopting protectionist measures, keeping economy in the mind and leaving aside the environment and collective responsibility.

The current global scenario reminds me of Greta Thunberg, a sixteen years old Sweden climate activist who delivered a heartfelt speech during cop 21 in Katowice. She said “you cannot solve a crisis until you treat it as a crisis” Her message was clear; climate crisis needs to be seen as a crisis and that too  be placed on the top of the priority list of all the nations as part of their “developmental agendas”.

Greta’s revolutionary “Fridays for future” strikes need to be taken seriously by all the governments alike. A meticulously designed programme which brings about a structural change in working of the current institutions coupled with behavioural change among the masses who are motivated to do away with the waste and throw culture needs to be formulated. Active role of the indigenous people and the local communities also hold a great potential to solve the crisis, as suggested by the report.

The collective responsibility and the idea of shared but differentiated responsibility has to be imbedded in the international treaties with great vigour. After all, Lady Bird Johnson once famously proclaimed “The environment is where we all meet; where we all have a mutual interest; it is the one thing all of us share.”

The author is an environmental activist, engineering graduate and former Secretary of the Rotaract Club, Sankalp