Earth day: Systemic solutions, not piecemeal approaches, needed for saving planet : The Tribune India

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Earth day: Systemic solutions, not piecemeal approaches, needed for saving planet

Earth day: Systemic solutions, not piecemeal approaches, needed for saving planet

Tikender Panwar

The theme for World Earth Day, celebrated on April 22, was “Planet versus plastic.” It was estimated that over a billion people across the globe would participate in the events to demonstrate their commitment to protecting our planet.

Campaigners are calling for a 60 per cent reduction in plastic production by 2040. According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report 2024, environmental risks account for half of the top 10 dangers facing the world in the next decade. Climate change and conflict are increasing due to technological advancements and economic instability.

An internationally binding “Plastic Treaty” is being negotiated this week in Ottawa, Canada. The treaty focuses on three major areas: “Plastic Pollution in the Marine Environment; Approaches to Capacity Building, Financing, and Financial Mechanisms; and Enabling Just Transition.” We await the outcome of these crucial discussions.

Beyond restoration: The need for restitution

The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report advocates systemic solutions, not just piecemeal approaches. Earth is about 4.5 billion years old, with the earliest life forms appearing around 3.7 billion years ago. The evolution of Homo sapiens occurred between 200,000 and 300,000 years ago. Despite being a relatively new species, humans have caused significant environmental harm, especially since the Industrial Revolution, leading to an existential crisis for many life forms.

Environmental challenges

Climate change, primarily driven by carbon emissions, presents a significant challenge. An alarming statistic reveals that half of all human-made atmospheric carbon dioxide was emitted in the last 30 to 40 years. Moreover, just 20 large companies are responsible for about one-third of historic global emissions, yet they continue to receive subsidies for fossil fuels. Between 1758 and 2020, CO2 emissions surged from 0.01 billion metric tonnes to 34.07 billion metric tonnes.

Biodiversity loss is occurring at an unprecedented rate, comparable to the Cretaceous extinction event 66 million years ago. This loss is concerning as humans rely heavily on biodiversity. For example, if honeybees were to go extinct, the consequences for our food systems would be severe. However, some optimists suggest that robotic bees could replace real ones—utterly ridiculous!

Changes in land use patterns significantly impact biodiversity and water availability. The relentless pursuit of profit by predatory capitalists leads to environmental degradation. Developments in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, the Himalayas and Lakshadweep illustrate how land use changes for industrial and real estate purposes can trigger environmental harm.

Excess nitrogen from fertilisers contributes to water and soil pollution, risking anoxic extinctions in marine ecosystems. As large areas of the earth’s oceans lose dissolved oxygen, this can lead to toxic conditions that threaten various species.

Lessons for the Himalayan states

Himalayan states, especially Himachal Pradesh, are among the most vulnerable to environmental disasters. Adaptability to these risks is crucial to securing lives and livelihoods.

Recent events have exposed gaps in preparedness and response. The state must reconsider its developmental trajectory, focusing less on exploiting nature and more on sustainable practices. A disaster atlas for both rural and urban areas, along with capacity-building initiatives, is essential.

Behavioural changes are also needed. Continuous engagement with communities, emphasising the importance of nature and climate change, is critical. We must treat environmental issues not as secondary concerns but as vital aspects of our existence.

— The writer is a former Deputy Mayor of Shimla

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