World Environment Day: We Must Work to Restore Our Ecosystems

By Bronagh Loughlin

Picture a world where all species on Earth are able to live free of any worries. Where pollution and climate change are not the reality of our lives. Our ecosystems would thrive and excel at what they do best, supporting life on Earth.

Today (June 5th) marks World Environment Day. This day is celebrated every year and is all about raising awareness of environmental issues. Each year looking at a different environmental issue that we should educate ourselves about.

The purpose of encouraging this education is to inspire people to take steps and act towards improving the current state of our planet. Each year a different country is given the responsibility to host the day and provide an event which discusses the Sustainable Development Goals.

Beyond that, the day is celebrated by millions of organisations and people around the world. This year Pakistan is hosting World Environment Day and the theme is Ecosystem Restoration. They are also focusing on creating a good relationship with nature. The timing could not be better to spread awareness of the current issues.

Ecosystems play a major role in supporting life on Earth. The bottomline is the healthier our ecosystems are, the healthier our planet is. In addition, the healthier its people are. 

The UN’s Decade on Ecosystem Restoration aspires to halt, reverse and prevent ecosystems degrading in every ocean and on every continent. This could help to combat climate change, end poverty and stop mass extinction from becoming a reality. However, this can only work if everyone contributes and plays their part.

Ecosystem restoration refers to helping ecosystems recover that which has been destroyed or degraded, in addition to conserving ecosystems that are still intact. Ecosystems that are healthy which have richer biodiversity provide greater benefits including more yields of fish and timber, increased fertile soils and greater stores of greenhouse gases.

The degradation of ecosystems is caused by many factors including pollution, climate change, resource exploitation, land clearing and population decline. Ecosystem restoration can happen in numerous ways. For example, by removing pressures and actively planting to help nature recover on its own course. However, this is not always a possibility to return ecosystems to their original state. 

We require infrastructure and farmland on the land that was once forest. Ecosystems are similar to societies in that they must adapt to the changing climate. From now until 2030, restoring 350 million hectares of ecosystems that have degraded could result in $9 trillion worth in ecosystem services. This could also remove a lot of greenhouse gases from the air. 

There are also economic benefits to restoring ecosystems. In other words, they are worth nine times the initial cost of investment. On the contrary, not acting could cost a minimum of three times the amount invested. 

This year also marks the unveiling of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021-2030. Over the next 10 years, the UN and countries, people and partners supporting them will put their energy into reversing and stopping the loss of degraded natural ecosystems to prevent the impacts of climate change becoming a reality.

The deadline for the Sustainable Development Goals is also the end of this decade. This is also the timeline scientists have confirmed is significant in avoiding the implications of climate change.

It is really important that we not only take this day as a time to educate ourselves but also to take action and encourage our governments to act also. Ecosystem services play a major role in our lives on Earth. We need to protect all species living on this planet and restore our natural spaces so that all living things can flourish on planet Earth. 

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