Every June 5, World Environment Day is commemorated, established by the United Nations in a resolution of 1977. Facing this day, designed to raise awareness about the protection of the environment, the organization warns of the urgency of preventing, stopping and reverse the degradation of ecosystems around the world.
“The world is a wonderful place, but we humans are causing its decline,” famous British scientist and popularizer David Attenborough once said in one of his documentaries.
A statement that in another time would have generated controversy but that, today, is increasingly consensual. This is indicated by the figures of numerous studies: the world is losing a forest area equivalent to a football field every three seconds, while more than half of the coral reefs have already been removed.
A problem that the United Nations Organization warns will only get worse by 2050, even if the global temperature is achieved by 1.5 degrees. A goal for which many developed countries, which are the major contributors to climate change, have committed to reducing their emissions in the coming years.
Although the problem does not focus exclusively on global warming. In this context of the Covid-19 pandemic, the loss of biodiversity in the world – due to various causes, such as pollution – is a great threat. With the reduction of ecosystems, pathogens – such as the Covid-19 virus – spread much more easily. In addition, this phenomenon could also cause a decrease in crops and aggravate the problem of food security globally.
However, action can still be taken to curb this climate crisis. “If we act now, we can still make amends,” Attenborough himself claimed in the documentary ‘A life on our planet’. A change in practices that experts point out that it must first go through the Governments, companies and, lastly, by individual citizens.
Under this premise, the UN annually celebrates World Environment Day by launching a conservation message: “Reimagine, recreate, restore.” This 2021, Pakistan will host the event and hold various activities to raise awareness about the preservation of the environment and biodiversity. In addition, this nation has proposed to reforest more than one million hectares of forests, in one of the most ambitious reforestation projects on the planet.
An action to alleviate one of the multiple climate challenges that humanity faces.
Deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon
The Amazon, which covers up to nine countries, has the largest tropical forest in the world, so its biodiversity is invaluable. A fact that has not prevented that, year after year, its territory is reduced due to massive deforestation and, on many occasions, illegal.
In this last year, looking at April 2021, the level of deforestation of this great ecosystem was 42.8% higher compared to the same period of the previous year. A fact that greatly worries experts in the region and around the world.
The head of the Climate Observatory, Marcio Astrini, said in 2020 that the “worrying” increase in these practices is the “result of a project that is being implemented by the Government.” And, although this increase in land loss has been registered for more than ten years, since 2019 – when the far-right Jair Bolsonaro assumed the presidency of Brazil – this problem has been exacerbated.
Despite having pledged to halve illegal mining and logging in these Brazilian forest territories by 2030, Bolsonaro has repeatedly lashed out at environmental organizations, calling them even “cancer”.
Specialists and workers in the environmental sector accuse the Executive of the “dismantling” of public entities such as IBAMA (the Brazilian Institute of the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources) that has made it more difficult to combat Amazonian deforestation, already complicated in itself due to the difficult access that some of these areas have.
“The consequence of the dismantling of federal environmental agencies: the number of infringement notifications applied by IBAMA in April and May is by far the lowest in the historical series. The inspection was stopped while deforestation soared,” he said in social networks Tasso Azevedo, forest ranger and coordinator of the MapBiomas and SEEG initiatives.
As a result of the dismantling of two federal environmental bodies: The number of infringement proceedings applied by IBAMA in April and May, of longevity, the smallest of the historical series. A fiscalization for enquanto or dismantlement disparou. #ibama @rsallesmma pic.twitter.com/OEvWEYf497
– Tasso Azevedo (@tassoazevedo) May 27, 2021
The reduction of jungle territories in Brazil does not only affect the native animals and flora: it also harms the indigenous peoples who inhabit the lands and who, on many occasions, have been massacred by landowners or miners to get hold of them and get financial returns from them.
In addition, this exploitation of the area has caused it to be registered in recent years greater production of carbon dioxide than oxygen in the Amazon, something that completely breaks with its traditional balance.
The plastic problem
Every day there are more plastics in our environment. Whether in the air, on the ground or in the sea, this material, which takes more than 1,000 years to decompose, is very present in our daily lives.
However, the most affected by this type of pollution are the oceans. Each year, more than 13 million tons of plastics and microplastics end up in our seas and oceans. Although imperceptible to the naked eye, its effect on marine flora and fauna is devastating.
The magnitude of the problem due to plastic pollution has reached such levels that it has come to change the diet of animals in these ecosystems, since many people mistake food for plastic.
A problem generated mainly by single-use plastics and other waste such as fishing nets, since many of them are left wandering through the water after being used. Therefore, many governments are implementing measures to reduce the use of these plastics.
In the case of the European Union, it is expected that most single-use plastics will be banned and fishing practices will be regulated in member countries by 2021. Only in the region, waste from abandoned fishing nets, lost or discarded represent 27% of the trash on the beaches.
But while it is a step in the right direction, many experts encourage nations to go one step further and stop generating waste altogether. “The ‘zero waste’ or zero waste is where we should go, so as not to have the need to generate waste,” said Verónica Arias from CC35, in an interview with France 24.
The United Nations have also called for more respect for the oceans. “Quite simply, our relationship with the planet’s oceans must change,” said the president of the UN General Assembly, Volkan Bozkir, during a meeting with more than 70 countries in which he called for a “blue recovery” that improves the situation of the seas and the sectors that depend on them.
A much more complex problem than it seems, since 97% of the world’s water is in the ocean. And it has fundamental functions for life: it regulates the climate, absorbs carbon dioxide and is the number one source of protein for more than a billion people. The oceans generate 50% of the oxygen that is expelled into the atmosphere.
Studies estimate that this problem will get worse in the next 100 years and that the impact plastic has on the ecosystem, marine life and humans is potentially irreversible.
Global warming and the melting of glaciers
When talking about climate change, global warming is one of the first topics that environmental experts bring to the table. Although climate change is a phenomenon that is precisely changing – and will change – the climate throughout the planet, it does not have the same consequences in all fields.
Although a clear effect that is being registered in recent times is the melting of glaciers and snow-capped peaks around the globe.
Especially, this is the pattern they follow in the Andean mountain range, where most of the world’s tropical glaciers are found. Today these lose about a meter in thickness a year. And there are only a few, like the famous Perito Moreno in Argentine Patagonia, who resist the annual regression and remain stable.
Peru is the country that accumulates the most tropical glaciers, with 70% of the total in the region. But in recent years, mainly due to global warming, it has lost more than half of these surfaces.
A dramatic fact not only because of the environmental impact, which is very great, but also because in the driest times of the year there are several cities that depend on glaciers for the supply of water for human consumption and for the irrigation of the crops. This is the case, for example, of La Paz, in Bolivia, or Mendoza, in Argentina.
Furthermore, the melting of the Andean snow-capped peaks is one of the main causes of sea level rise. Various studies have proven that their melting accounts for almost 60% of sea level rise, while that of the largest glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica contribute less to this pattern.
The experts also point out that, if it continues like this, pollution and global warming could make these ice formations disappear in about a century. Something that would tremendously affect indigenous ecosystems and global biodiversity.
With local media