Restore our Earth for benefit of nature and humankind

This article has been published in New Straits Times on Earth Day 22 April 2021.

Earth is home to eight billion humans, with a long history of people who lived before us and, hopefully, for more generations to come. Earth rotates around the sun that brings energy to all forms of life.

Green plants in particular absorb the energy from the sun to make food for themselves and become key producers of a multitude of services for nature and mankind.

Plants release oxygen for animals and humans to breathe and live, and they absorb carbon dioxide that we exhale. Plants are the primary sources of food in the energy pyramid that includes herbivores, carnivores and omnivores, including humans, at the top of the food chain and hierarchy.

Natural habitats for plants are also habitats for other organisms where they interact and form continuous chains of activities and processes to stabilise ecosystems and landscapes. Nature, for billions of years, has had its ways to sustain these interactions, and the Earth has been resilient and resistant in coping with these natural processes.

Humans have been part of nature but never in the history of mankind have we collectively caused a major setback to the Earth’s systems, until recently.

Anthropogenic activities not only jeopardise our survival, but also cause the depletion of numerous species of plants and animals, monstrous loss and degradation of habitats and ecosystems, as well as alter the environment and climate conditions.

We could perhaps blame the European industrial revolution of the 1700s. We could also blame developed nations and civilisations for continuing with industrialisation and exhausting the world’s resources from the Renaissance up until now.

But then, should we continue with the blame game and retaliate by emulating their wrong-doings? Besides industrialisation, increasing population and utilisation of natural resources are key factors that cause space and resources to be scarce.

Southeast Asian countries, for example, are striving to sustain and develop their economies. With an extremely big population, this megadiverse region is also identified as the global hotspot for deforestation. With significant areas still under forest cover, there are overwhelming pressures on these countries to protect their natural ecosystems and resources.

However, wouldn’t it be unfair for developed countries to impose such an order instead of compensating underdeveloped and developing countries for the sacrifices they are making, as the whole world shares the benefits provided by their primary forested ecosystems as major producers of oxygen and carbon sinks, as well as other global ecosystem services?

Smart negotiations and fair resolutions are very much needed to address this global issue. Balancing the act of mankind towards nature and Mother Earth should be the ultimate aim. Ending destructive actions against nature and our inertia on the climate should be a top priority.

Malaysia and the league of other 16 megadiverse countries should play a major role in championing this cause. Halting further habitat loss and restoring damaged ecosystems could be done with support from global communities. Monetary assistance in the form of green bonds, carbon credits and payments for ecosystem services must be firmly articulated to be agreed and achieved on the planetary scale.

The series of climate disasters and global catastrophes we are facing, including the current pandemic, is a wake-up call for global populations to collectively take hard and fast actions.

Ever since the first celebration of Earth Day in 1970 and the first United Nations Conference on the Environment in 1972, we have proven that collectively, we can make significant changes for the environment. We have managed to stop the use of leaded fuels and dichloro-diphenyltrichloroethane in pesticides at the global level.

We have also succeeded in banning the production of chlorofluorocarbons, halons and other ozone-depleting chemicals across the globe. We must now come together to minimise carbon emission and bring down the global temperature to prevent the Earth from going through the worst-case scenario.

The Earth is our only home. It is our responsibility to ensure that it is liveable and conducive to house our kids and future generations, as well as accommodate all plants, animals, habitats and ecosystems and thrive harmoniously, again. Let’s reflect on and embrace the theme of this year’s Earth Day celebration to “Restore our Earth” for the benefit of nature and mankind.