June is Environment Month

The month of June includes four important days for the planet: June 5 is World Environment Day; June 8 is World Oceans Day; June 17 is World Day to Combat Desertification; and June 29 is International Day of the Tropics. Each of these dates is a chance to reflect on the problems affecting the planet; such reflection is essential to our continued survival.

Text and Photos: Javier A. Pinzón

“We are not here in passing / to trample the roses / or wither their breath / of sacred aromas / with our reasonable inquisitive epilepsy / because the Earth will become green again without us / but we without it / will not live a moment.”

Gonzalo Arango (Providence)

World Environment Day: June 5

Each year, we use 500,000 million plastic bags and at least eight million tons of plastic end up in the ocean; this is the equivalent of unloading a garbage truck every minute. This year, World Environment Day is dedicated to raising awareness about the unnecessary use of plastic.

World Oceans Day: June 8

Earth is known as the “Blue Planet” thanks to its oceans. Water covers 70% of Earth´s surface and, aside from giving the planet its characteristic color, our oceans are home to 700,000 species and currents that regulate global climate. The livelihoods of more than three billion people depend on the planet’s diverse marine and coastal ecosystems, which have absorbed 93% of the excess heat (CO2) produced by humans since the 1970s. Despite this dependency, we have overexploited and destroyed the habitats of many species, introducing invasive species and protecting only 3% of the ocean’s surface. In addition, we have caused ocean acidification by forcing the seas to absorb the carbon dioxide produced by humans. This is one of factors that triggers coral bleaching and usually goes hand in hand with an increase in water temperature caused by climate change.

It’s time we responded to the impacts of climate change and the terrible pollution we have generated. Suffice it to say that every square mile of ocean contains an average of 6,500 pieces of plastic waste. We need to promote a shift towards safeguarding our marine ecosystems and creating more marine sanctuaries, where endangered species and habitats can be protected. We are all responsible and can do our part to improve this situation simply by recycling. The fifth World Ocean Summit was held on México’s Mayan Riviera from March 7-9, 2018 and will expand into an ambitious global oceans initiative based on five pillars: sustainable fishing, pollution, climate change, financing, and technology.

World Day to Combat Desertification: June 17

Desertification is the ecological process in which fertile and productive land loses all or part of its production potential due to deforestation, overexploitation of aquifers, over-irrigation, overexploitation of land, and climatic variation. Thirty percent of the Earth’s surface has been degraded and lost its real value, directly affecting some 250 million people, with an additional one billion at risk in areas spread over more than a hundred countries. These populations include the poorest and most marginalized citizens, who lack political representation. Land grabbing and the tendency to acquire productive land in a precipitous manner are confirmation of the increasingly evident fact that access to productive land will be crucial to improving economies and ensuring peace and stability in the future.

This year, Ecuador will host the global observance of World Day to Combat Desertification, with the theme “Land Has True Value: Invest in It,” meaning that land is a tangible asset with a quantifiable value beyond its monetary value. This slogan emphasizes the ways in which consumers can regenerate economies, create jobs, and revitalize livelihoods and communities by forcing markets to invest in sustainable land management through purchasing choices. The celebration hopes to remind us of the importance of soil in the production of food and employment, as well as its contribution to the sustainability, stability, and security of areas affected by desertification.

International Day of the Tropics: June 29

For many, the tropics are sunny lands with beaches, ideal climates, white sands, palm trees, and coconuts. But the tropics are also synonymous with abundance, since they cover 40% of the total surface of the planet and are home to approximately 80% of its biological diversity, 54% of its renewable water reserves, 95% of its mangroves, 99% of all mangrove species, and a large part of the planet’s linguistic and cultural diversity. The tropics also harbor a significant number of threatened species, since, according to available data, the loss of biodiversity is higher in the tropics than in the rest of the world. Nearly half of the population living in the tropics suffers from water scarcity and the total area of tropical mangroves has decreased since 1980.

The tropics face several challenges that require special attention, including climate change, deforestation, logging, urbanization, and demographic changes. It is estimated that, by 2050, most of the planet’s inhabitants will live in the tropics, including nearly two-thirds of the world’s children. International Day of the Tropics is a chance to recognize the incredible diversity of the tropics and raise awareness of the challenges and opportunities facing the people who inhabit them. It’s also an opportunity to evaluate progress made to date, share tropical stories and experiences, and celebrate the region’s diversity and potential.