Future of mankind: Vibrant Earth or Environmental Apocalypse

Bhaskar Saikia rethinks human actions from individualistic goals to community led ones for the larger goal of conservation of wild species.

By Bhaskar Saikia 

The 50th anniversary of the adoption of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) that protects wildlife species was celebrated on March 3, 2023. Incidentally, March 3 is also the day when World Wildlife Day is observed,  highlighting the pivotal role of wild plants and animals in our lives and maintaining the health of the planet, as well as to generate awareness on its conservation.

Wild flora and fauna by their interactions with the environment constitutes an ecosystem that is integral for the survival and sustenance of provide mankind and the

larger pool of  life. However, with every new research finding about the present state of the biosphere — the life supporting layer of the earth— the picture looks grimmer. The world is currently battling with climate change due to global warming, rising sea levels, disappearing glaciers, desertification, along with extinction of wildlife that could lead up to food security imbalance and man-animal conflicts. Accentuating these further are the direct human interventions like mining and construction activities, deforestation and unsustainable farming practices that are destroying the environment.

As per a 2019 report by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services — a UN backed organisation — up to one million species of plants and animals might go extinct within a few decades. The worst fears came true in 2019 when the Australian Government announced the extinction of Bramble Cay melomys (Melomys rubicola), a small rodent species endemic to a tiny island in the Great Barrier Reef. Among animals, the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red list has recorded a total of 882 species as already extinct with further 77 species as extinct in the wild, which in all probability is only the tip of the iceberg. With an estimated 42,100 species currently under the risk of immediate extinction, these instances must serve as an alarming bell for mankind to pursue a course correction on sustainability and rethinking ideas of ‘development’.

The question then is, what can we, as individuals and a conscious community do to celebrate World Wildlife Day sustainably to further conservation of the wild species? Can our individual efforts have a magnifying impact?

In 2000, Canadian journalist, Malcolm Gladwell authored a book called ‘The Tipping Point’ where he explained how some products or ideas suddenly become viral and garner social acceptance. The central theme of his book revolved around ‘connectors’ akin to the social media ‘influencers’ that can accelerate the pace of acceptance or rejection of an idea or a product. It is this aspect of our modern-day social life where the need to connect and create our local ecosystems arises so that concerns can be raised on issues detrimental to the sustainability of the environment and biodiversity. Usage of social media not just to voice our concerns but also to raise funds for local conservation efforts. As a step further, we can petition the government to include spending on conservation initiatives as part of CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) activities. Currently, as per section 135 of the Companies Act, 2013, it is mandatory for companies in India to spend 2% of their profit in the next three years under CSR activities; so there could be a specific spending clause on conservation initiatives instead being an option under Schedule VII of the Companies Act, 2013. a

To counter the threat of extinctions, concrete measures have been initiated at various multilateral and international forums, However, the most promising among them, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) appears to be the viable solution.

In 2015, the UN had envisioned 17 SDGs under 2030 Agenda, that includes ending poverty, hunger, combat climate change, conservation and sustainable use of marine and terrestrial resources, among other goals. At the national level, India, too, has initiated an ambitious programme to sensitise the masses for the need to protect the environment.  On 1 November, 2021, at the COP26 meet held in Glasgow, we advocated the need for a global movement of pro-planet people behaviour. Taking this initiative a step further, in 2022, Mission LiFE (Lifestyle for Environment) was launched with the objective of creating an ecosystem of individuals and communities to implement measures and actions that will help to combat climate change and protect the environment by mobilising people to sensitise the masses on actions at individual level that can endorse sustainable living, like promoting preferences for environment-friendly goods and services and coerces businesses to adopt a cyclical economy instead of the current use-and-dispose economy.

The buck, however, does not stop at the policy level, but communal action, locally, is what would make a significant impact. Since the theme of this year’s celebration of World Wildlife Day is ‘Partnerships for Wildlife Conservation’, coexisting in partnerships for  conserving the wild flora and fauna and acting as the connectors of a pro-planet community is pre-eminent. We could steer the future of mankind into a sustainable economy of zero waste and abundant wildlife.

(The author works at the Zoological Survey of India, Shillong and is a contributor at The Shillong Times)

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