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EDITORIAL

The Urgency Of Safeguarding The Environment

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Nigeria, recently, joined the rest of the interna- tional community to mark this year’s World Environment Day. June 5, every year, countries and civil society groups engage in activities to create awareness on environmen- tal issues. Since 1974, the day has increasingly assumed global si- gnificance as the world keys into the import of a joint natural heri- tage that transcends borders. Glass ceilings have been shat- tered and information is easily accessible to everyone. And yet, despite all technological advan- cements and research, societies and governments have moved away from a basic truth about the crucial link between human existence and nature.
In all these years, we have only seen climate patterns change at an accelera- ting speed, with commerce and convenience trumping environ- mental concerns in a world where so-called ‘free-market’ greed and desire reign supreme — with no realistic alternatives in sight to re- place that system. In the past few years alone, we have witnessed our mighty rivers and oceans clogged with toxic waste and plastic; the death of coral reefs that maintain the ecosystem for diverse marine life; ferocious wildfires swallowing everything in their path; glaciers melting at terrifying speed; rising water levels, heavy rainfall and flooding that destroy and displace in equal measure; droughts and heatwaves that scorch the earth and kill vegetation, animal and human life; rising food shortage; and large-scale climate-caused migration.
And it is only expected to get worse. Despite growing evidence of the catastrophes posed by climate change, there are still some among those occupying the most power- ful positions in the world who deny the reality of global war- ming. In 2015, the Paris Agrement stated that the responsibility for halting climate change rests with each nation. Its aim was to reduce global warming to below 2°C. The air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat, the climate that makes our planet inhabitable are all made available to us by the services that nature and biodiversity perform.
The eight million species on our planet — from plants to bacteria and animals to fungi — the ecosystems that house them, and the genetic diversity among them, is what describes biodiversity. For instance, marine plants produce more than half of our atmosphere’s oxygen. A mature tree cleans the air by absorbing 22 kg of carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen in return. Each year, pollinators like bees and bats help three-fourth of the world’s flowering plants and approximately 35 per cent of the world’s food crops reproduce.
Today, humans extract more from the Earth than ever before (60 billion tonnes) of renewable and non-renewable resources); the world population has doubled over 50 years and the per-person consumption of materials is up by 15 per cent since 1980. Over the last three decades, global extraction of biomass, fossil fuel, minerals and metals rose by 80 per cent, and fishing now covers over half of the world’s oceans. In our opinion, the world must begin to come to the realization that we all have a role to play in raising awareness on emerging environmental issues from marine pollution, human overpopulation, and global warming, to sustainable consumption and wildlife crime. Everyone has a role to play in preventing the loss of biodiversity and preserving nature for our future. World Environment Day offers a global platform for inspiring positive change. It recognizes that global change requires a global community.
It pushes for individuals to think about the way they consume; for businesses to develop greener models; for farmers and manufacturers to produce more sustainably; for governments to safeguard wild spaces; for educators to inspire students to live in harmony with the Earth; and for youth to become fierce gatekeepers of a green future. It requires all of us. As the world celebrates this year’s World Environment Day, Nigerians, in their respective capacities must support a long term action plan to rehabilitate the forest estates. Today, only about five per cent (46,000 km2) of Nigeria’s land area is covered by natural forests with majority located in protected areas like National Parks and Game Reserves. Flagship species such as the Cross River Gorilla is the most endangered African ape with only about 300 individuals left in the wild. Fo- rest Elephants are also critical- ly endangered with fragmented populations in southern Nige- ria.
These Elephant populations might not survive except urgent action is taken to protect their range. This year’s World Environ- ment Day should remind eve- ryone that consumption habits must be controlled and based on a broader awareness of the fragility of the earth’s ecosystems. From 1960 to date, Nigeria has lost about 95 per cent of its forest cover due to deforestation and habitat degrading activities like forest clearance for farmlands, lo- gging and unsustainable land-use practices. This year’s celebration of World Environment Day is an opportunity for us to think about how we are part of nature and how intimately we depend on it. It challenges us to find fun and exciting ways to experience and cherish this vital relationship.

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