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Essay

Ananya Dave

Year-Prize: The 13th Eco-generation Environmental Essay Competition     Item: Time for Nature

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Ananya Dave (Kenya)
Samsung Engineering Prize

 

 

If we pollute the air, water and soil that keep us alive and well, and destroy the biodiversity that allows natural systems to function, no amount of money will save us.
~ David Suzuki

 

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought the issue of tackling climate change and biodiversity loss to the forefront of social and economic concern. Urbanisation and the widespread of agricultural farming has led to devastating amounts of deforestation, bringing about the loss of habitat  thereby forcing animal species to live side by side which exposes us to animal pathogens due to increased contact between wildlife, livestock and humans. Notably, 3 to 4 zoonotic diseases are emerging each year and resembling coronavirus, they have incredible aptitude to deliver economical blows and result in millions of deaths.  Evidently, human health itself is linked to the health of the ecosystem surrounding us and globally the effects of climate change can be witnessed in the form of extreme weather from large scale droughts in Africa and heatwaves around the world from the UK to Australia. Despite the pandemic acting as an instrument for environmental awareness, we can bring further urgency by observing the loss experienced over the years. Imagine expanses of lush green land, tall canopies of trees stretching to meet the sky whilst their roots anchor them to the ground. A palette of vegetation parting round waterfalls and lakes, the humid air buzzing with the sounds of diverse wildlife and ecosystems. This is what the Sahara Desert was like 10,000 years ago!  As humans travelled west from the Nile River their cattle overgrazed the lands, bringing about drought and degrading the soil leading to widespread desertification. Each year 12 million hectares of arable land are forgone to desertification  for which approximately 20 tonnes of grain could have been grown. With the exponentially rising population, the demand for livestock rearing and agricultural faming is ever rising and despite 50% of the worlds land being occupied for farming practices, the scarcity of fertile land will soon plunge the entire world into a food crisis driving humans to indulge in further deforestation.   With more and more people pursuing plentiful and high maintenance lifestyles as well as resources being utilised inefficiently with insufficient levels of recycling the Earth will quickly become incapable of sustaining human life. 
The overexploitation of the natural world and inefficient resource use to the point of diminishing returns fuels the destruction to the Earths ecosystems. The main causes of biodiversity loss comprise of deforestation, population growth, overfishing, overhunting, illegal wildlife trade, pollution, climate change and the introduction of invasive and exotic species to an environment where there is an absence of their natural predator.    Through these processes animal and plant species have to suffer through situations of hypoxia (oceanic-dead zones), habitat reduction and destruction, toxic environments leading to poisoning, genetic pollution through hybridization and global warming changing the optimum condition resulting in damage such as coral bleaching and melting of icecaps.  
We have lost an approximate of 60% of the world’s biodiversity in only the last 5 decades and it is predicted that half of the worlds flora and fauna species will go extinct by 2050.   A miniscule form of life such as a bee is so intrinsic to the survival of our planet, for bees pollinate 70 of the 100 plants that feed 90% of the global population.   With many countries like Kenya, Thailand, Nepal, Australia and Brazil relying on eco-tourism as a major contributor to their GDP, there are great economic losses to be experienced as this industry diminishes because of environmental destruction. This is illustrated by the examples of total tourism revenues in percentage of GDP of the following countries; Palau 72.6%, Macau 66.7%, Seychelles 38.7%, Bahamas 32.1%,  Barbados  29.3%, Jamaica 18.6%,  Kenya  5.2%,  Spain  4.7%,  France 2%, and USA 1%.  Principally, biodiversity loss directly correlates to a shortage in food supply, leading to the eventual demise of humanity.
Countries need to adopt eco-based models for economic growth, such as the ‘City Donut ’ economic model that has recently been embraced in Amsterdam.  Farming practices such as aeroponics, hydroponics, vertical farming and the use of natural fertilizers must be employed to minimize the space utilized for farming and the chemical runoff that departs damage to the surrounding flora and fauna.  Governments must implement forestation plans, a net zero target, a transition to country run by renewable energy and only permit electric or hybrid vehicles.  Strict environmental policy regarding industrial practices and waste disposal must also be introduced and improved and the investment in carbon storage plants (CSS)  as well as in research and development of more efficient energy sources, machinery and vehicles would greatly prevent future negative environmental externalities.  The human relationship with our planet is currently parasitic in nature, and once a parasites host is wholly depleted the survival of the parasite is doomed. In order to ensure our continued existence, and a certain quality of life free from disease induced by our own pollution or through zoonotic viruses, we have not only to sustainably source our food, strive towards net zero greenhouse gas emissions and adopt a widespread ‘reuse, reduce and recycle’ philosophy whilst responsibly storing our waste, but replenish the damage that we have done to the planet.  We need to cultivate a symbiotic association with biodiversity so that the Earth can continue to abundantly cater for the needs of generations to come and allow our children to marvel at the same wonders of nature that we witness today.

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