If we are to register any significant progress in addressing our quality of life we must once and for all end the war on nature. This has been emphasised by Inger Anderson, the Executive Director of UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) when she was addressing the Conference of the Parties of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, currently in session at Montreal.
This has been also emphasised by a multitude of speakers within other fora, notably those related to climate, most recently in Sharm El Sheikh during the latest Climate Summit.
The Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Convention on Biological Diversity are just two of the many efforts and initiatives of the international community in order to end the continuous human war on nature.
Small steps forward have been made but they are nowhere near being enough in order to have any significant impact in halting the damage done to date as well as reversing its consequences.
It has been an uphill struggle for more than fifty years. It was in Stockholm fifty years ago, in June 1972, that the international community agreed for the first time ever, to recognise the environment as an important issue to be delt with by the global political agenda.
The UN Conference on the Human Environment held in Stockholm in 1972 laid the foundations for international environmental governance. The Stockholm Conference is in fact credited with introducing the environment in the contemporary political lexicon.
Opening the United Nations Montreal Biodiversity Conference, this week, Antonio Guterres-UN Secretary General, said that humans are treating nature “as a toilet”. Nature, said Guterres, is humanity’s best friend: without nature, we have nothing, without nature we are nothing!
We threaten nature in many ways: urbanisation, deforestation, agricultural intensification, all forms of pollution, climate change as well as the spread of invasive species. Possibly these are the primary vehicles used in the intensive war waged by humanity against nature.
It is about time that we seek ways to make peace. With nature, however, there is no room for negotiation! We must seek to make peace before nature strikes back with full force. It is already retaliating, and this will definitely get much worse.
There is no possibility to negotiate with nature, her demands are clear and simple: unconditional surrender. We need to change our ways and habits. Nature can be a reliable friend but if transformed into an enemy, it is ruthless, as climate change shows continuously and unequivocally.
Nature is what sustains everything on earth, yet it is declining on a global level. The rate of extinction of species is increasing exponentially.
Expanding protected areas is not enough to arrest nature’s decline. We need to change our behaviour through seriously addressing the various environmental threats. We must limit the spread of invasive species, and halt deforestation. We need to protect agricultural land. It is imperative that we drive some sense into land use planning. We also need to eliminate environmentally harmful subsidies. We need to protect what’s left of the natural resources which we have been provided with!
It is only when our actions match our nice words that we can start achieving the required results. Until then, we inch closer to a collective suicide.
published in The Malta Independent on Sunday: 11 December 2022