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Why it’s urgent to restore and reclaim our environment

OPINION
By Humphrey Agevi | June 6th 2021
Kenya Scouts Association Rovas team engaged in cleaning operation at Kibra area, Nairobi in celebration of World Environment Day on Saturday, June 5, 2021. [Samson Wire. Standard.]

Yesterday was the World Environment Day.

This day was declared by the United Nations General Assembly in June, 1972. The first celebration had the theme “Only one Earth.” Since then, the day has been celebrated yearly with different themes based on problems facing Mother Nature, for example plastic pollution, illegal wildlife trade, food security, sea-level rise among others.

This year’s celebrations took place with the theme, “Reimagine, Recreate, Restore.”  This was coined by the UN to focus attention on investors, businesses, governments and communities on increasingly urgent need to restore the Earth’s ecosystem that is on the verge of collapse due to a number of human activities. The global awareness programme always shifts attention on a particularly pressing environmental theme, providing a platform for global education and inspiration, thereby creating a legacy of action.

This year’s World Environment Day was unique since it marked the day of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021-2030) was launched to protect and restore billions of hectares of valuable and much-needed capital, farmlands, forests, oceans and other ecosystems.

The end of this decade will coincide with deadline for achieving the sustainable development Goals (SDGs) a timeline critical for avoiding the worst impacts of climate change. Ecosystems, which consists of the animals, plants and the environmental conditions of an area include wetlands, mangroves, rainforests such as the Kakamega Tropical rainforest and coral reefs.

Ecosystems maintain a very delicate balance and various human activities threaten to disrupt this balance and destroy the world’s ecosystems.

Deforestation, pollution, climate change, land clearing, resource over exploitation are some of the disruptions. Deforestation for instance, has deprived the world of the major carbon sinks. It also led to increased malaria exposure and loss of access to wild foods. Covid-19 is a consequence of ecosystem destruction.

Linked to nature-restoration is addressing climate change. These two crises are inextricably linked and the best way to reverse the effects of climate change is to restore nature through nature-based solutions. 

Increasing awareness and focusing efforts on restoration of key ecosystems in the world will improve the biological diversity on degraded landscapes, increase the populations and distribution of rare and threatened species, enhance landscape connectivity, increase environmental goods and services, and contribute to the improvement of human well-being.

It will add fertile soils and increase food security. Efforts that can contribute to restoration of ecosystems include growing of native trees, greening cities and cleaning up of rivers and coasts.

-Dr Humphrey Agevi is a lecturer, Masinde Muliro University

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