Dr. Seemin Rubab
This is the theme of current year’s World Environment Day celebrations. The idea commensurates with the theme of International Year of Biodiversity. World Environment Day was declared by the United Nations General Assembly in 1972 to mark the opening of the Stockholm Conference on Human Environment.
World Environment Day(WED) is designed to promote environmental issues to become active agents of sustainable development. Due to gravity of the situation several days, years and even decade are celebrated to sensitize the stakeholders. United Nations declared the period from 2005-2014 as the decade of education for sustainable development. The present year is being observed as the International year of Biodiversity. A sustained effort like this bears positive impacts. People are now more aware and sensitive towards environmental issues and challenges.
World Environment Day is hosted by a different location each year. Rwanda is hosting WED 2010. Biodiversity is the variation of life forms on the Earth. The biodiversity found on Earth today consists of many millions of distinct biological species. Biodiversity is not distributed evenly on Earth, but is consistently rich in the tropics and in specific localized regions such as the Cape Floristic Province. It is less rich in polar-regions where fewer species are found.
Biodiversity supports a number of natural ecosystem processes and services. Some ecosystem services that benefit society are air quality, climate (CO2 sequestration), water purification, pollination, and prevention of erosion. Biodiversity provides many ecosystem services that are often not readily visible. It plays a part in regulating the chemistry of our atmosphere and water supply. It is directly involved in water purification, recycling nutrients and providing fertile soils.
Experiments with controlled environments have shown that humans cannot easily build ecosystems to support human needs; for example insect pollination cannot be mimicked by human-made construction, and that activity alone represents tens of billions of dollars in ecosystem services per year to humankind. The stability of ecosystems is also related to biodiversity, with higher biodiversity producing greater stability over time. This reduces the chance that ecosystem services will be disrupted as a result of disturbances such as extreme weather events or human exploitation.
Since the stone-age, species loss has been accelerated above the geological rate by human activities. The rate of species extinction is difficult to estimate, but it has been estimated that species are now being lost at a rate approximately 100 times as fast as is typical in the geological record. A total of 17,291 species are known to be threatened with extinction – from little-known plants and insects to charismatic birds and mammals. Many species disappear before they are even discovered.
Humans are among only a handful of species whose populations are growing, while most animals and plants are becoming rarer and fewer. To feed a large population, more and more land is being transformed from wildlife into agricultural, mining, lumbering, and urban areas for humans. As a result, we are increasingly risking the loss of the very foundation of our own survival.
The variety of life on our planet – known as ‘biodiversity’ – gives us our food, clothes, fuel, medicine and much, much more. You may not think that a beetle in your backyard or grass growing by the roadside has a fundamental connection to you – but it does. When even one species is taken out of the intricate web of life, the results can be catastrophic.
The theme of WED 2010 echoes the urgent call to conserve the diversity of life on our planet. A world without biodiversity is a very bleak prospect. Millions of people and millions of species all share the same planet, and only together can we enjoy a safer and more prosperous future.
Let us drive this point home that Nature is capable of taking care of itself. Going by the history of earth we know that Nature may help in evolution and nurture of new species in new circumstances. It is the survival of Homo sapiens that is at stake.
The consequences of present environmental crisis could be anything from a decline in biodiversity, proliferation of opportunistic species such as pests and weeds. Novel species may also emerge. However, no new species of existing large vertebrae are likely to arise and food chains will likely be shorter.
Through WED, we can employ our individual and collective power to stem the tide of extinction. Our conservation action has brought some species back from the brink, and has restored some vital natural habitats around the world.
Let us resolve to do much more, and much faster, to win the race against extinction!