Thursday, 22 June 2017

Today is World Environment Day

By Ama Kudom-Agyemang

THE international community is celebrating World Environment Day (WED) today, Monday, June 5th, 2017, and using the occasion to urge people to appreciate that they are part of and, intimately, dependent on nature.

Obviously, as humans, we exploit the environment for sustenance. And through rapid technological advancement, man has acquired the power to transform his environment in diverse ways and in an unprecedented scale to ensure survival and a life of modern comfort.
Man has so mastered taking advantage of his environment that it appears he can even make do without natural resources, especially as scientists are now talking of synthetic biology – which has been described as an evolving science that sees engineers using biological-based systems, among other things, to display functions that do not exist in nature.
But in spite of this scientific technological advancement, the international community wants every human being to understand that the survival of man on earth is intertwined with that of the environment.
Therefore, this year’s celebration of the WED is being used to challenge people to reflect on and cherish this relationship. The theme is, ‘Connecting People to Nature’.
The significance is that billions of people, especially in rural communities around the world, spend every working day connected to nature and appreciate full well their dependence on natural water supplies and how nature provides their livelihoods in the form of fertile soil.
They are among the first to suffer when ecosystems are threatened, whether by pollution, climate change or over-exploitation. This is evidenced by the current spate of abuse of natural resources in Ghana, for example.
Naturally, nature’s gifts are often hard to value in monetary terms. So, like clean air, they are often taken for granted, at least until they become scarce. However, economists are developing ways to measure the multi-trillion-dollar worth of ecosystem services from insects pollinating fruit trees to the leisure, health and spiritual benefits of climbing a mountain.
The need to get people connected to nature becomes more urgent because for the time ever, more than half of the world’s population live in cities. Thus, our environment that has been predominantly natural, is now more urban, and increasingly virtual.
As we increasingly interact with technology, people might begin to wonder what nature means, why we need it, and how reclaiming our place in the natural world might help us be more fully human.
Connecting with nature, therefore, means more than simply getting a little fresh air. Rather, it entails reconsidering our individuality, and readjusting our wider human and ecological relationships.
Fact is, a fuller connection with nature is an essential part of a good life that allows us to see ourselves from a proper perspective – that can be considered as a rights issue. The right to air, water, sanitary facilities, justice, and, even access to internet, should all be viewed in the light of a human right to a meaningful connection to nature.
The annual celebrations of WED have been spearheaded by the UN System to address huge environmental issues like deforestation, increasing global warming and access to safe water. It is celebrated to create public awareness about the environmental issues. It is also used to encourage governments, communities and individuals to actively participate in the celebration as well as become an active agent in developing environmental safety measures.
Canada is hosting the international celebration this year and it sees this as an important part of her 150th birthday celebrations. As part of the festivities, Canada is offering free passes for its national parks throughout 2017.
In Ghana, the national celebration will take place at Kyebi. The event will be marked with tree planting, hiking, and a grand durbar.
The focus for this year’s celebration is important for Ghana, as illegal mining among other human activities, has completely destroyed water bodies and farm lands, with unimagined consequences for sustainable livelihoods in the near future. So for Ghanaians, the call to ‘Connect to Nature’ is very timely and appropriate.