More than ever before in history, World Environment Day today needs to sound alarm signals that we are heading towards self destruction of Planet Earth unless we repent and turn around now.
The world theme this year is “Seven billion dreams. One planet. Consume with Care”. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in a message to mark the event has given us lots of food for thought. It says that while substantial environmental impacts from food occur in the production phase -- agriculture and food processing -- households influence these impacts through their dietary choices and habits. This consequently affects the environment through food-related energy consumption and waste generation.
According to the UNEP, 1.3 billion tonnes of food is wasted every year while almost one billion people go undernourished and another one billion hungry. Overconsumption of food is detrimental to our health and the environment. Some 1.5 billion people globally are overweight or obese.
Land degradation, declining soil fertility, unsustainable water use, overfishing and marine environment degradation are all lessening the ability of the natural resource base to supply food.
The food sector accounts for around 30% of the world’s total energy consumption and for around 22% of total greenhouse gas emissions.
The UNEP also warns that increased consumption adversely affects food security.
This causes an increase in food prices and an upsurge in production methods that use more resource-intensive food products while and resource-intensive foods deplete the agro-ecological resource base, affecting its ability to produce plentiful food.
The environmental crisis has reached such catastrophic proportions that Pope Francis, for the first time in modern history will take up the mission of saving Planet Earth as the theme of his encyclical or the papal letter to all. The widely anticipated document will be issued on June 18 with the title based on the legendary ‘Canticle of the Sun’ penned by St. Francis of Assisi.
Meanwhile France, in a bid to tackle the epidemic of waste alongside food poverty has introduced legislation barring supermarkets from spoiling and throwing away food. On May 22, the French national assembly voted unanimously to pass the legislation as France battles an epidemic of wasted food that has highlighted the divide between giant food firms and people who are struggling to eat, the Guardian newspaper reported.
Supermarkets will be barred from deliberately spoiling unsold food so it cannot be eaten. They will have to sign contracts with charity groups to give such food to them or face penalties including fines of up to Euros 75,000 or two years in jail.
In Sri Lanka, the national theme for World Environment Day will be, ‘Sustainable use protects the earth’. The main national ceremony will be at the historical site of Watadageya at Medirigiriya in Polonnaruwa with the chief guest being President Maithripala Sirisena who is taking a personal interest in environmental affairs.
In addition all schools have been requested to hold an assembly at 9.00 a.m. and conduct tree planting and clean-up campaigns or environmental exhibitions to raise awareness. Development of rural schools in Polonnaruwa, tree planting campaigns at Medirigiriya Watadageya premises and the Somawathiya scared site, herbal garden and forest cultivation, implementation of solid waste management programmes and infrastructure development in the area will also be carried out.
For all Sri Lankans, not just for today but starting today, we hope we all could take small steps to save Planet Earth. For instance we could do this by stopping the waste of fresh water and electrical energy or measuring our carbon footprints to reduce our carbon dioxide emissions. One practical step here would be to use less private transport and more public transport or even go back to the bicycle of our good old ‘Babi Achchi’ era. It is not just a ‘baila’ but a make or break, now or never step to save seven billion people from the madness of self destruction.
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