By Lerato Ndlovu
For over 40 years the world over has advocated for a healthy environment in physical gathering gatherings but this year the World Environment Day had virtual celebrations.
The United Nations theme for World Environment Day 2020 is, “Time for Nature, – Biodiversity– a concern that is both urgent and existential” with a focus on its role in providing the essential infrastructure that supports life on Earth and human development. This focus is expected to provide an opportunity for driving the momentum and public awareness of nature.
UN chief Secretary General, António Guterres in his commemoration message said nature is communicating with the world, habitat degradation and biodiversity loss were accelerating.
“Nature is sending us a clear message, we are harming the natural world, to our own detriment. Habitat degradation and biodiversity loss are accelerating.
“Climate disruption is getting worse. To care for humanity, we must care for nature.
“We need our entire global community to change course, let’s rethink what we buy and use, adopt sustainable habits, farming and business models, safeguard remaining wild spaces and wildlife and commit to a green and resilient future.
“As we work to build back better, let’s put nature where it belongs at the heart of our decision making. On this World Environment Day, it’s Time for Nature,” Guterrez said.
Inger Andersen Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) said, people should keep their distance and mark the day virtually as a sign of solidarity with those infected by Covid-19.
“This year, we cannot take to the beaches, forests and streets, we must stay at home, keep our distance and mark World Environment Day virtually this is because we all stand in solidarity with those suffering from the global pandemic.
“We need to protect the sick, the poor and the vulnerable from the worst ravages of this disease. In particular, our thoughts are with the Americans, where the pandemic is now hitting hard”.
“While these online celebrations are a tribute to human commitment and ingenuity, the fact that we have to do it this way means something is terribly wrong with human stewardship of the Earth. This virus is not bad luck, or a one-off event that nobody could see coming. It is an entirely predictable result of humanity’s destruction of nature – which will cause far greater suffering if left unchecked.”
She went on to say the COVID 19 pandemic which is transmitted from animals to humans, is a direct warning that nature can take no more. COVID-19 may be one of the worst, but it is not the first. 75 per cent of all emerging infectious diseases are of zoonotic origins. Ebola, SARS, the Zika virus and bird flu all spread from animals to people, often due to human encroachment on nature showing humanitys unhealthy relationship with nature.
“Now is not the time to set aside environmental laws and norms in the name of recovery, as we have seen done in some places, we need to strengthen environmental protection to build back better. We have the opportunity to do just that.
“Everything UNEP does with its partners is geared towards creating a healthy natural world that will support human health, peace and prosperity for generations to come,” she said.
“The world is too big and interconnected for anybody to go it alone in the face of the environmental problems challenging our species. Isolationism and short-termism will help no one in the long run. Countries cannot close their borders to climate change or biodiversity loss”.
The Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA) in a statement said that defending our environment is the peoples mandate, the global pandemic is of great concern to the health of animals and humans.
“For us defending the environment is our core mandate and today is no different as we unite with likeminded countries, organisations and individuals in calling for positive actions to restore the interrelationship between human beings and their natural habitat,” it read.
“Increased temperatures, droughts, heat waves including massive cyclones that recently hit us as a country are all observable effects of climate change, showing that nature is sending a clear message to accelerate our efforts to ensure that we preserve whats left of our beautiful Mother Earth. The global coronavirus is also a tipping point of great concern”.
To support the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) perspective that a country should strive to create an environment that eradicates poverty and hunger whilst at the same time ensuring environmental sustainability, the Constitution of Zimbabwe on section 73(1) notes that, Every person has the right to an environment that is not harmful to their health or well-being; and to have the environment protected for the benefit of present and future generations.
The World Environment Day was launched in 1974, it has grown to become the UN’s biggest annual event, advocating for environmental action and raising worldwide awareness of the need to increase protection for the planet’s long-term survival.