Earth Day 2023: Invest in our planet

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The theme for this year’s Earth Day, ‘Invest in our Planet’, encourages us to make decisions and take actions that pull us back from the brink of collapse due to climate change issues.

The Earth’s wide varieties of ecosystems provide services that work together in a way that makes it possible for us to live comfortably. It has been proven time and again that decisions that do not factor in the many benefits of our natural ecosystems while focusing only on immediate benefits can lead to more harm than good many years into the future.

For us in the Caribbean, every year, we face the threat of destructive weather events such as hurricanes, and data has been showing that the average number of storms per season has been increasing and that these storms are becoming increasingly devastating. Scientists have made a direct link between the increasing atmospheric temperatures, which fuel these extreme weather events, and the steady increase in greenhouse gases that trap radiation before it can dissipate out into space. The elevated greenhouse gas emissions are caused by uncontrolled use of fossil fuels in practically every industry. So, what can we do to invest in our planet’s – and therefore our — future?

We can reduce our carbon footprint by directly and indirectly reducing energy consumption that will make it necessary to burn more fossil fuels. For instance, energy saving light bulbs are an easy way to start. Also, turn off lights, air conditioning units and other appliances when they are not in use. As a rule of thumb, if it doesn’t have an essential use it doesn’t need to be pulling power when nobody is there to benefit from it. Can we reuse or repurpose many of the things we purchase, that have reached the end of their originally intended use? For instance, many things we purchase may come with a lot of packaging. Did it come in a box? Why not repurpose that box instead of buying storage containers? Other uses can be found for empty bottles. Old clothes can be converted into rags for household cleaning activities and other creative ideas. Carpooling where possible is also a great way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Another great way to invest in our planet is to plant trees, especially food bearing varieties that will help to lower our dependence on food imports and increase food security. Trees also help to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and produce life-giving oxygen in return. They also help to prevent erosion, that, because of the connectivity between the land and the ocean, can lead to the death of sea grass, coral reefs and other ecosystems that provide resources such as food, and support livelihoods.

We can also become involved in trash cleanups and other activities that reduce the pressure of ill-disposed waste on our environment. It is unfortunate that these are necessary, but while we continue to spread the message that polluting our environment causes harm to all of us, both now and in the future, our efforts to preserve our natural environments help to protect vital ecosystems that curb nature’s destructive potential.

Another way to invest in the Earth is to engage in sustainable development. Natural ecosystems like mangroves and coral reefs benefit the livelihoods of fisherfolk, individuals in the hospitality industry, and the regular consumer. While development has the potential to provide more jobs, it must be done in a sustainable manner that not only benefits a few hundred or a few thousand people, but also protects current livelihoods and ensures that both humans and biodiversity continue to thrive.

Developing a stable future requires the cooperation and support of everyone. This means governments, civil society, institutions, and businesses would need to work together to ensure that we adopt environmentally friendly behaviours that invest in our planet’s future, and by extension, our own future.

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