Nahid Riyasad writes to mark Word Environment Day 2020
ZOONOTIC diseases indicate to a set of fatal infectious human diseases transmitted from other animals to human. AIDS, Ebola or the current ongoing COVID-19 pandemic are some of such diseases. In Epidemics and Society: From the Black Death to the Present (2019), Frank M Snowden elaborately discussed how human exploitation of the nature brings such diseases into prominence.
We are currently going through COVID-19 pandemic that has already claimed 400,000 lives in more than 215 countries. AIDS is still one of the major causes of death in South Africa and Ebola still ravages many sub-Saharan countries after the 2013 outbreak. On the first week of June 2020, in Mbandaka, capital of Équateur Province, a city in the northwestern region of Democratic Republic of Congo, is experiencing yet another Ebola outbreak.
Amidst all these, June 5 was World Environment Day. Considering the current situation and with the consequences of climate change looming large over us, we can reenergise the importance of environment for our survival.
As the current pandemic has forced many of us inside our homes and outdoor activities are somewhat halted, youth led environmental organisations have arranged online talks on environment. Green activists have also taken different unique initiatives to protect nature.
Currently there are more than one million species of animal who are facing extinction, among eight million animal and plant species, and experts argues that we might have the sixth large-scale species wide extinction at hand. By the next decade, we will be observing one in every four familiar species vanishing from around us.
To address this crisis, this year’s Environment Day’s theme is ‘Celebrate Biodiversity’. Columbia is the host country for the 47th World Environment Day.
Meanwhile, Amphan, the strongest super cyclone in the Bay of Bengal since 1999, wreaked havoc on its path with dozens of dead and billions of dollars in property loss, both in Bangladesh and India. Nonetheless, environmental advocates in social media platforms thanked the Sundarbans for its being the vanguard of Bangladesh. Netizens also asks for cumulative efforts from the citizens to protect the mangrove forest that is a safeguard from the rages of the sea.
Members of Noakhali Science and Technology University’s Green Voice, an environmentalist group, hold letters online to create a text that reads: Bachle pore shundarban bachbe jibon onukkhon (If the Sundarbans survive, lives will sustain always). This was their little gesture to address the pressing issue of development and financial projects near the Sundarbans.
Green Echo, a platform for youth who speaks for the environment and nature, takes a compassionate initiative for birds. As more and more trees are cut down, bird’s habitats are also disappearing. At least 30 members of this organisation are hanging five small clay pots each in trees of their home to offer resting and breeding pods for birds.
While describing their initiative to the New Age Youth over phone, Sanjoy Chowdhury, a founding member of the youth lead green team said, ‘This small gesture will at least give comfort to birds and will help to add more than 150 birds of different species to the nature.’
Sanjoy also describes another of their initiative which is to ensure supply of fruits year around. ‘We have a wide variety of seasonal fruits and if someone can plant trees at their homestead with a little bit of planning, the family can get fresh fruit supply all year around,’ he said. To make that happen, a number of members of Green Echo has started planting season wise fruit trees.
June 3 was International Bicycle Day. The two-wheeled easy maintenance vehicle is lauded by many activists and environmentalists as an excellent replacement of environmentally harmful vehicles that run of fossil fuel. Moreover, using bicycle for daily commute to workplace and home means that the person has to do some physical exercising. This is essential for urban population as they have very limited opportunity to exercise to keep them physically fit.
As the COVID-19 has redefined our social lives and public transports have started operation and economic activities reopened, many of us have to commute daily. In this situation, bicycle could be an excellent opportunity to keep physical distance from fellow people, as this is a crucial safety measures these days. This also saves a substantial amount of time and money.
United Nations, with the slogan of ‘Time for Nature’ urges the world to not gather to observe the day and rather suggests a list of activities to mark the day. Avoiding public transports and using bicycle is one of them.
Other suggestions from the list are: consuming locally grown organic food, planting trees in front of the house and on rooftops and become tolerant and compassionate towards all the animals.
Riverine People is an organisation aimed at protection of rivers and to mark the Environment Day, they have organised a talk on social media platform Facebook. The talk was attended by members of the organisation who focused on different aspects of environment and how rivers are one of the most essential components of the nature as well as biodiversity. Riverine Peoples’ theme of observing the day was ‘Time for Nature, Time for River’.
Dhaka University Environment Society, in association with EMK Center and Better Earth, has organised an online photography exhibition on environmental issues. This initiative was online because of the current COVID-19 situation.
Paribesh Andolon Manchya, an organisation of environmental advocacy, also organised an online talk which was attended by members of the organisation. The speakers said that more pandemics like the current one will visit us soon if we do not take swift and severe measures to reverse the effects of climate changes.
It is true that World Environment Day is observed by institutionally educated people who, in most of the cases are urban based and live thousands of miles away from the epicenters of actual effects of climate change. It is the people at the economic and societal margin who are worst hit by the damages to the environment done by over exploitation of the nature by human.
In many cases, these original victims have very little say in the mainstream media and how the world sees these issues. Protests against the Rampal Power Station is one such example where the people at the margin could not organise themselves properly. The political economy behind this also stipulates that merginalised people are forcefully being pushed to further margin only to entertain the human greed.
Coming back to the relationship between zoonotic diseases and environmental destructions, environmentalists have been warning us about deadly virus and bacteria stuck inside glaciers. The average temperature of the world is increasing and climate change is only hastening the process. As a result, we might face diseases that we have never been exposed too and the scenario would be much grisly than that of the COVID-19.
It is the high time to shift the concern of the policymakers towards environment and make them to adopt policies that prioratise nature over any development and financial interest. Otherwise, the nature would turn on us and no amount of financial or economic achievement would save us from her wrath.
The clock is ticking and we are running out of time very fast.
Nahid Riyasad is a member of the New Age Youth team.
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