Today (5th June) is World Environment Day. A time to focus on solving the issues we face in protecting the environment that supports our existence.
This year’s theme links to the United Nations declaring 2014 as the International Year of Small Island Developing States (SIDS). The actions of the developed world are causing serious issues for SIDS and have created the first climate change refugees.
Through our modern lifestyle we have burnt billions of tonnes of fossil fuels, pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Deforestation driven by development and trade has released more greenhouse gases. This global blanket traps the sun’s heat, warming our planet beyond natural processes and causing environmental havoc.
Giant glaciers that have stood for millennia are breaking apart and melting at a phenomenal rate. This increases the amount of water in the planet’s system, causing storms and raising sea levels. By 2015 the Carteret Atoll in Papua New Guinea will be submerged, completely displacing its inhabitants.
It is not only SIDS that we need to protect by preventing excess sea level rise. Great Britain and Ireland are islands, we have coastal communities, and we too will be affected by a rise in sea levels.
We are already seeing the impacts of increasing numbers of extreme weather events. This year we witnessed powerful storms hitting Great Britain and Ireland; causing flooding, the destruction of infrastructure and sadly the loss of a number of lives.
Enough doom and gloom… what can we do about it?
It is all well and good talking about the issues, but what we need are solutions. We need to use and waste fewer resources, we need to reuse and recycle, we need to use sustainable transport whenever possible, and we need sustainable alternatives to fossil fuels. We often talk about economic austerity, but what about environmental austerity – living within our means in terms of natural resources.
We need to mitigate against climate change, but some change is inevitable, and we also need to adapt. Woods and trees can play a role in both of these. They are vital parts of healthy, functioning ecosystems that provide all the natural services and resources on which we depend.
Therefore we need to protect our natural resources; protect our ancient woodland and trees, peatland and other priority habitats. We need to restore important and damaged habitats. We need to create new habitat that buffers and links existing patches of ancient woodland or wood pasture, meadows and heathland. Through all this we need to make our landscapes more resilient to future change, while locking away the atmospheric carbon causing many of the issues.
We can all play our part. Why not see what campaigns to protect ancient woodland you can get involved in, or plant some free trees in your local community, or volunteer to support our woods and trees, or send in your wildlife sightings to help us learn more about the natural world.
We need to work together for the benefit of all species and we need to do it now – but we can do it. Happy World Environment Day!
Things to do:
Kay Haw, Conservation Team