…Experts seek investment in green economy for rescue
Renowned American biologist, naturalist and writer, Edward Wilson, once said: “We should preserve every scrap of biodiversity as priceless while we learn to use it and come to understand what it means to humanity.”
This timeless and priceless advice could not have come to mind at a better time than during the 2020 World Environment Day (WED) which was celebrated at the weekend globally amid the COVID- 19 pandemic; with millions of people lending voices to the preservation of nature.
The theme of the 2020 WED is: “Biodiversity”, with the slogan: “Time for Nature”.
World leaders, environmentalists, Civil Society Organisations (CSO) and other relevant stakeholders in a virtual meeting across the globe called for synergy to invest and protect “the nature that takes care of human needs.”
The 2020 WED was marked in more than 150 countries, bringing together millions of voices advocating against human encroachment on earth’s biodiversity.
The calls were made bearing in mind that humanity has altered nature, thereby leading to catastrophes such as climate change, pollution, erosion, floods and the COVID-19 that is now haunting the human race.
According to experts, humanity has altered 75 per cent of the earth’s ice-free surface, 420 million hectares of forest have been lost since 1990 and nearly one million species face extinction due to illegal wildlife trade; which is said to be the fourth largest illegal trade crime in the world.
COVID-19, which was transmitted from animals to humans, is a direct warning that nature could take no more.
Humanity’s expansion into wild spaces and exploitation of species bring people into closer contact with wildlife, and 75 per cent of all emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic, they asserted.
It is worthy of note that COVID-19 is not the first; there were Ebola, SARS, the Zika virus and bird flu; all spread from animals to man, often due to human encroachment on nature.
Explaining the importance of biodiversity at the virtual WED event, Project Officer at Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), Mfoniso Antia, said: “Biodiversity is life. It is the hanger that sustains human existence. It helps maintain the balance of ecosystems and keeps them functioning and self-sustaining. A continued destruction of biodiversity will mean a distortion of the balance of life.”
Conservator General of the National Park Service, Dr. Ibrahim Goni, said the consumption of wildlife as the likely origin of COVID-19 should not be left out in the prevention campaign during WED.
Dr. Goni said, “When we disrupt ecosystems, we shake viruses loose from their natural hosts, they will need a new host, and often, we humans are the new hosts.
“People still eat and sell various species of dead monkeys, cats, birds, bats and pangolins suspected to be at the centre of the COVID-19 scourge; which is alleged to have originated from hunting, eating and trading in wildlife.
“This alone, one would expect to deter people from having close contact with wildlife, but sadly, that is not the case.”
While noting that it is important for people to understand the links between habitat, environmental damage and COVID-19, the National Park Service boss said: “They should equally understand that destruction of ecosystems makes disease outbreaks, including pandemics”, and that the destruction of nature could be the underlying cause of the COVID-19 crisis.
The Nigerian Minister of State for Environment, Sharon Ikeazor, during a webinar hosted by the European Union (EU) in collaboration with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) to mark the day, said the pandemic had shown more than ever the importance of biodiversity and the need to upscale conservation strategies.
Ikpeazor said, “Preserving and protecting intact ecosystems and their endemic biodiversity lessens human-animal contact, the onset of new pathogens, and the prevalence of infectious diseases.”
She maintained that conservation of biodiversity must therefore be high on national agenda as it was the most efficient and the most cost-effective way to prevent future outbreaks that endangered human lives and threatened livelihoods.
She added that a lot might have been done, but that more needed to be done to upscale the protection and conservation of the earth’s biodiversity.
A clear understanding is needed, of the fact that biodiversity is the cradle of life on earth and covers millions of species, from plants, animals, fungi and bacteria, and the ecosystem is the baseline that holds all of these together.
The minister, however, said there was need for stricter enforcement of policies, laws and regulations on Illegal Wildlife Trade, deforestation and over-exploitation of biodiversity and leveraging on knowledge of indigenous people and communities living in Key Biodiversity Areas (KBA).
She also noted that provision of alternative livelihoods to the communities so as to reduce human activities impact on biodiversity and its resources, as well as promotion of eco-tourism as a viable source of revenue generation were necessary.
Meanwhile, Chevron Nigeria Limited (CNL), the operator of the joint venture between the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and CNL, said it had made environmental stewardship part of its social investment programmes and remained an active agent of sustainable development and strong advocate of partnerships in support of the environment for close to 60 years.
Explaining CNL’s commitment to biodiversity, its Chairman/Managing Director, Jeff Ewing, said the company was proud to be part of the solution to the global environmental issues wherever the company operated through its sound environmental management policy that supported environmental stewardship and sustainable development.
Also, calling for collective effort to protect and preserve biodiversity, a team of young environmentalists and ecological defenders under the auspices of HOMEF, called on governments, private sector and the public to shift from the mindset of competition that entrenched the harm done to the environment while in pursuit of economic growth.
They said, “We need to work in harmony with nature instead of against it and should leave what is in the wild in the wild and desist from over-consumption.
“Our government needs to make and implement laws to protect endangered species and focus on eco-friendly approaches to global challenges. It is time to respect the integrity of our biodiversity and thus ward off intrusion of viruses such as the new COVID-19. A healthy biodiversity supports a healthy population.”
Also, in a Facebook live streaming, the UNEP Executive Director, Inger Andersen, said to address the issue of biodiversity, there was need to tackle the drivers of loss which were land use, climate change, pollution and force exploitation and illegal trade on biodiversity.
She said: “Investing in nature’s infrastructures, those mangroves, forests, seagrass and nature solutions are not only good for biodiversity, temperature and others, but also good for climate change, SDGs, and poverty reduction which is clearly what we are aiming for.”
She added that, “When we see green stimulus package being rolled out across the world, it is to heighten up our economic engines again for post – COVID -19 recovery. There is an opportunity making that stimulus green, investing in a greener future, through creation of jobs of tree planting and protection, green infrastructure and renewable energy.
“We understand that planetary health and human health are not two separate things, so if we are to be healthy, our planet has to be healthy.”