The Earth is healing, and how! Carbon emissions have fallen sharply, the largest hole in the protective Ozone layer has closed, and global air quality has improved visibly. The waters are clearer, the environment is quieter and our co-existence with other species is more palpable; be it in the now audible chirping of birds every morning or in the sightings of various curious animals on desolated city streets. These restorative improvements in the Earth’s ecosystem during the “anthropause” (the temporary slowdown in human activity), prove unfortunately, that Humans have been the biggest threat to the very planet which sustains them.
But that should change if at all we harbour hopes for a better, kinder world post the pandemic. UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres has issued a call to action to World Leaders, by saying that the pandemic is a wake-up call “to do things right for the future”. But will we do the right things this time, instead of the selfish things? The world needs a “green recovery” and there are some governments making efforts to “build back better”. The time is ripe to seize the momentum of change and build a sustainable future in-sync with Nature, simply because we have realised that our prosperity is deeply intertwined with that of Nature.
Here are the few important aspects of a green recovery post pandemic, which we as individuals must endorse and stand up for.
Nature-Based Solutions (NBS)
Nature-based solutions are all about working with nature to address societal challenges. The European Union defines them as:
“solutions that are inspired and supported by nature, which are cost-effective, simultaneously provide environmental, social and economic benefits and help build resilience.”
Why are NBS so important? Because they can provide cost-effective ways to mitigate climate change, can bring about multiple benefits, such as reduced infrastructure costs, job creation and green growth, all the while protecting natural ecosystems and biodiversity.
Implementation of these by Governments and Industries is a win-win for All- humans, nature and its myriad species. While NBS is a huge umbrella with benefits ranging from natural resources management to disaster risk reduction, let us just focus on how they can improve our cities. Integrating natural designs in urban planning and choosing green infrastructure such as green roofs, green walls, rain gardens, and planting more trees can moderate the impacts of heatwaves, capture storm water and abate pollution. This in turn has positive outcomes on our mental and physical well-being. Initiatives such as creating more roadways for cyclers and pedestrians, utilising vacant areas for diverse recreational needs, encouraging use of electric cars, are just few initiatives which go a long way in creating resilient cities.
It pains me when online-delivery giants package things in layers of plastic, bubble wraps and huge cardboard boxes and send them our way. These single-use packaging materials simply end up clogging oceans and overwhelming landfill sites. While it may take some more time for affordable, sustainable and recyclable alternatives to become mainstream, we as consumers must know about them and support the cause.
- Bioplastics: Currently just a meagre 1% of the entire plastic industry, these plastics are produced from natural raw materials such as corn, cane sugar, or potatoes. These plant-based plastics are used for bags, food packaging, disposable cups, etc.
- Sustainable Packaging: A lot of innovations have already been taking place and in these green solutions lies the future of packaging. These include: edible films and wraps, algae-based packaging, mushroom-based containers, cellulose, fibre and resin, stone paper, shower-friendly paper, palm leaves, milk plastic.
It is heartening to see that some big companies have taken the lead. IKEA has been looking into packaging grown from mushrooms, while beauty giant L’Oréal has launched an eco-beauty range, Seed Phytonutrients, for which the packaging is recyclable, compostable, glue-free and water-resistant. This is the time when more companies should follow suit and rid the Earth of the plastic menace.
Finally, it is all about Us; the citizens, the consumers, and the inhabitants of this beautiful blue planet. What we choose as individuals in turn affects the choices of humanity at large. What have we learnt in times of this crisis? Have we learnt to be kinder, more respectful towards Nature and more willing to let other species co-exist with us? If the answer is a Yes, then nothing can stop the Earth from healing.
Here are a few questions we can ask ourselves to ensure that we are leading an eco-friendly life, being mindful of the carbon footprint we leave behind.
- Are we conserving energy at home and ensuring not to waste water and food?
- Are we recycling instead of binning? Almost everything can be recycled: be it clothes, batteries, paper or cars.
- As long as sustainability is not the way of the world, are we willing to pay more for sustainable products designed to be reused or recycled?
- Are we making our environment a little greener, by planting tress or creating a home-garden?
- Are we saving paper and ink by not mindlessly printing documents?
Nature has always given wholeheartedly to HUMANS from Her overflowing treasury. It is time for HUMANS to give back, and restore the Earth to prosperity by allying with Nature.