It’s been nearly half a century since the United Nations General Assembly designated June 5 as World Environment Day. Since then, global awareness of environmental protection has risen exponentially. Action, however, continues to lag behind the awareness.
Global efforts have been launched to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, with industries redesigning their factories, workplaces, products and services to comply with new standards. Rivers and lakes have been revived in several countries, and there are regular coastal cleanups even in the Philippines. In Metro Manila, a mangrove forest has sprung and has been turned into the Las Piñas-Parañaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area – the only urban wetland in the country that enjoys international protection under the Ramsar Convention and other global environmental treaties. Around the world there are intensified efforts to preserve forests, coral reefs and threatened species.
Still, environmental degradation continues at an alarming scale. Today, climate change poses an existential threat to the planet. And it will remain a threat long after the COVID-19 pandemic has been contained. The pandemic itself has been blamed by scientists on the disruption of ecosytems arising from illegal wildlife trade, with the coronavirus believed to have jumped to humans from bats in the Chinese city of Wuhan.
The confirmation that airborne or aerosol transmission is possible for the COVID virus is leading to a review of global standards for indoor ventilation and air filtration.
In the Philippines, an upside of the deadly pandemic has been a heightened interest in keeping surroundings clean, in the use of environment-friendly transportation particularly bicycles, and in activities such as gardening. Property developers are putting greater emphasis on green spaces. More trees are being planted in urban centers including Metro Manila.
Such moves are in sync with this year’s theme of World Environment Day: ecosystem restoration. A message for this special day declares: “We are the generation that can make peace with nature.” It may sound like a pipe dream, but it doesn’t have to be.