By Baher Kamal
In the framework of World Environment Day, the UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights and the Environment, John H. Knox, declared in Geneva: “We must all be alarmed at the accelerated loss of biodiversity, of the one that healthy ecosystems depend on ”.
Such is the dependence on healthy ecosystems for nutrition, shelter, clothing and the very water we drink, as well as the air we breathe, that Knox recalled: “However, forested areas are diminishing, marine ecosystems are increasingly surrounded and it is estimated that vertebrate animal populations have been reduced by more than half since 1970 ”.
In fact, many scientists fear that we are at the beginning of the sixth worldwide extinction of species, the first in more than 60 million years, said the professor of international law at the US Wake Forest University.
"States reached agreements to fight the causes of biodiversity loss, which includes habitat destruction, overexploitation, poaching, pollution and climate change," Knox recalled.
"But the same states fail regrettably in fulfilling their commitments, which seek to reverse the disturbing trends," he said.
Illegal logging, fishing and hunting
Knox recalled that nearly a third of natural World Heritage sites support illegal poaching, logging and fishing, which has left endangered species on the brink of extinction and put sources of income at risk. and the well-being of communities that depend on them.
"Species extinction and the loss of microbial diversity undermine our rights to life and health by destroying potential sources of new drugs and weakening the immunity of humans," he explained.
“The reduced variety, production and safety of fishing and agriculture endanger our right to food. The decimated ability of nature to filter, regulate and store water threatens the right to clean and safe water, "he added.
The UN independent expert insisted that biodiversity and human rights are "interrelated and interdependent" and that states have an obligation to protect both.
The world must urgently take action to reduce another 25 percent of pollutant emissions expected by 2030, says the United Nations Environment Program. Credit: UNEP.
No biodiversity or food security or nutrition
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) stresses that biodiversity is "essential" for both food security and nutrition.
"Thousands of interconnected species constitute a vital web of biodiversity in the ecosystems on which global food production depends," says FAO.
“With the erosion of biodiversity, humanity loses the potential to adapt ecosystems to new challenges, such as population growth and climate change. Achieving food security for all is intrinsically linked to maintaining biodiversity ”, he warns.
The agency provides some key data in this regard.
Of the 8,800 known breeds of animals, seven percent are extinct and 17 percent are in danger of extinction. And of the more than 80,000 species of trees, less than one percent has been studied for possible use.
Fish contributes 20 percent of animal protein to about 3 billion people. Only 10 species provide 30 percent of the marine catch and 10 species, about 50 percent of the aquaculture production.
Meanwhile, more than 80 percent of the diet of humans comes from plants. And only five cereals provide 60 percent of the caloric intake.
The UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) focuses on land, "which is finite in quantity."
Competition for goods and services increases pressures on land resources in virtually all countries, he warns.
The connection with nature makes us guardians of our planet. For the director of the United Nations Environment Program, Erik Solheim, closeness to nature helps us see the need to protect it. Credit: UNEP.
Climate variability, population growth and economic globalization generate a change in land use and poor management practices at all scales, the document notes. In general, these changes and practices will continue to degrade the current and future “real” value of our land resources, such as soil, water and biodiversity.
“Now is the time to recognize the biophysical limits to the productivity of the land and the need to restore the multifunctionality of both our natural landscapes and those of production. The evidence proves the need to act in the short term to avoid possible negative and irreversible results in the medium and long term ”, he added.
The Bonn-based UNCCD secretariat indicated that its Global Earth Outlook (GLO) offers a strategic vision to transform the way we think about the value, use and management of our land resources, as we plan for a more resilient and sustainable future.
The first edition of the GLO is the new flagship publication of the UNCCD, as is the Global Biodiversity Outlook of the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Global Environment Outlook of the United Nations Environment Program.
“It is a strategic publishing and communications platform that demonstrates the central importance of land quality for human well-being, analyzes current trends in land degradation, loss and conversion, identifies the responsible factors and analyzes the impacts, as well as offers scenarios of future opportunities and challenges, ”he indicates.
"The loss of both the quality and quantity of healthy and productive land resources is an immediate concern, especially in developing countries and those with a high proportion of fragile and vulnerable drylands," he added.
Those are some of the reasons why the theme for this World Environment Day, “Reconnect with Nature”, underlines the vast benefits, from food security to improvements in health and water supply to stability. climate, that natural systems and a clean environment offer humanity. But there are more reasons.
Mental health, stress, depression
Numerous studies prove that spending time in green spaces is good for some mental health problems like stress and depression. The latter, which affects 350 million people, is the leading cause of disability worldwide, according to the UN.
"Urban green space is a key weapon in the fight against obesity: it is estimated that the 3.2 million premature deaths in 2012 can be attributed to lack of physical activity," says the world forum.
More and more cities are planting trees to mitigate air pollution, the greatest environmental risk to health. In fact, 6.5 million people die each year due to daily exposure to poor quality air.
Finally, the UN recalls that the use of plants in traditional medicine dates back to the beginning of civilizations and that herbal medicine has clear recognizable therapeutic effects and plays an important role in primary health care in many developing countries. .
Common pain relievers and malaria (malaria) treatments, as well as drugs used to fight cancer, heart disease, and high blood pressure, are derived from plants.
Do you still need more reasons to connect, or rather, to reconnect, with nature?
Translated by Verónica Firme