We must “make peace with nature” and stop waging war on it to avoid an environmental cataclysm.
We must stop waging war on nature and “make peace” with it if we want to avoid cataclysmic environmental harm to the planet. We’ll need to tackle climate change, reduce appalling levels of air and water pollution, and protect and restore biodiversity.
This is according to the United Nations Environment Programme, which has released a new report advocating for urgent and transformative change in the way our societies are run.
“By transforming how we view nature, we can recognize its true value. By reflecting this value in policies, plans and economic systems, we can channel investments into activities that restore nature and are rewarded for it,” observes the UN’s secretary-general, António Guterres.
“By recognizing nature as an indispensable ally, we can unleash human ingenuity in the service of sustainability and secure our own health and well-being alongside that of the planet,” Guterres elucidates.
Much of economic growth worldwide has been in tandem with an unsustainable exploitation of nature, which has tripled the extraction of natural resources and created a planetary emergency. Forests have been felled, oceans have been overfished, rivers have been badly polluted.
“Despite a temporary decline in emissions due to the pandemic, Earth is heading for at least 3°C of global warming this century; more than 1 million of the estimated 8 million plant and animal species are at substantially increased risk of extinction; and diseases caused by pollution are currently killing some 9 million people prematurely every year,” the UNEP explains.
Solutions lie in reevaluating our relationship with nature by treating it not as a resource to be endlessly exploited but as a depository of inherent value that needs to be protected from further manmade depredations. Innovations in sustainable technologies and greener business models will also be essential to undo the harm we have inflicted on the planet.
“Massive private investment in electric mobility and alternative fuels show how whole industries recognize the potential gains from shifting quickly,” the UNEP says. “[W]hether we are talking about economic policy or personal choices – we can bring about a rapid and lasting shift toward sustainability for both people and the environment,” adds Inger Andersen, the UN agency’s executive director.
Time for action is of the essence as the planet is fast approaching a tipping point, UN experts warn.
“Our children and their children will inherit a world of extreme weather events, sea level rise, a drastic loss of plants and animals, food and water insecurity and increasing likelihood of future pandemics,” stresses Robert Watson, a prominent British scientist who is a lead author of the report.
“The emergency is in fact more profound than we thought only a few years ago,” he says.