The World Environment Day is a vehicle used by the United Nations to promote worldwide awareness of the environment. Each year, the World Environment Day (WED) is organized around a theme on an environmental issue. In 2017, the theme is ‘Connecting People to Nature’. Its goal is to invite the audience to think about its interdependence with nature.
In these days of rapid technological transformation, development, and urbanization, our modern society often finds itself detached from nature. It is a fact that billions of people around the world are dependent on resources that nature provides. As such the impacts of inconsiderate development often create conditions in which people suffer when ecosystems are affected negatively.
Some examples include: over-exploitation of water resources; over logging of forests; and other forms of mistreatment to the natural environment. Even though this concern has been discussed for decades, the over-exploitation of natural resources that has accompanied economic development, and that has been incompatible with protection of the environment, is still happening. On the other hand, there is a need for development, even more so due to increased demands for rapid development due to the increasing population in urban areas.
How this planet will serve the future with world population projection of 8.5 billion by 2030, 9.7 billion in 2050, and 11.2 billion in 2100?
As a result, those actions could drive us away from our sustainable development goals (SDGs). As a reference, the declaration of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development states the world’s resolve “to ensure the lasting protection of the planet and its natural resources.”
We understand that sustainable development requires conditions where we preserve the overall balance of economic, social, and environment aspects, to meet the present and future needs. This is not an easy task to carry out and to measure.
This year the World Environment Day is trying to increase people’s awareness to get into nature, be connected, and realize the importance of our surrounding natural environment and ecosystem that provide us with the resources we need to live. Wider awareness in many levels of society regarding this issue is required for us to move forward to achieve the SDGs.
ACCCRN’s work has highlighted the importance of how natural ecosystems provide critical services in sustaining urban systems. When neglected or otherwise mismanaged, it can create increased risks of floods, droughts, landslides, and food insecurity. Many of these risks become even more apparent due to the impact of climate change. Here is what urban planning expert Jo Santoso’s said in ACCCRN’s ‘Resilience Talk’ in April 2017:
“City development needs resources to run its activities, which include natural resources provided by the ecosystem. The cost of exploiting natural resources would damage the ecosystem services and we don’t want to end up in a situation where we don’t have enough supply of those resources and so causing an obstacle for a city to run its activities.”
In 2015, a study in the journal Nature outlined how biodiversity increases the resistance of an ecosystem while facing climate extremes. As such, a healthy ecosystem is essential to increase resilience. The large biodiversity that one ecosystem has can serve as a supporting system for protection against climate change. This is a condition that should be understood by more people so that they place more value on nature. Changing human behavior to address climate change is important, but the need for preserving the ecosystem also essential.
People are bonded with nature. However, there is a trend where we continue to degrade nature which leads to a stage where we should reconsider our role and relationship with it.
As stated during the World Environment Day this year, with the theme ‘Connecting People to Nature’, there are various ways in which we can have a better connection to nature.
In the city context where the ecosystem is often less prioritized, a possible action would be to increase green space, such as public parks where people can interact with each other outdoors, or a forest within a city to serve as a green lung that provides biodiversity in the concrete jungle.
Blue space is also important for a city. Rivers, lakes, wetlands, and other forms of water catchment area should be considered because of the important role they play in an urban environment. The city itself should be able to provide spaces where people can connect to nature in a proper way.
In the bigger picture, the goal, again, is to make people assign more value to nature. Valuing ecosystem services in monetary terms is not common although many studies have been undertaken to measure the economic value of nature. Transformations in how the business sector makes its choices in terms of types of investment, innovation in environmental-friendly technology, also how government controls development, are challenges and at the same time opportunities to have a better future. Along with these, raising people’s awareness to treat the environment better should continue to be raised. In the end, we are the inhabitants of this planet, and we are part of a system where we coexist with nature.