World Environment Day 2011: Come celebrate nature

Commemorated every year on June 5th since 1972, World Environment Day is the principal vehicle through which the United Nations stimulates and generates worldwide awareness on the environment. The world environment day 2011, in support of the UN declared International Year of Forest (IYF), is aimed to be the biggest and most widely celebrated global day for positive action for the environment. The global host country for this year’s World Environment Day celebration is none other than our very own country, India. This year’s theme “Forest :Nature at your service”, underscores the variety of life sustaining services that forest provide and calls on all of us to protect and conserve these resources and move towards a green economy. It is aimed to encourage forest conservation and sustainable consumption for green growth and in support of the UN international year of Forest initiative.
If you ever wondered how it would be possible for you o save an entire forest then look no further than making simple lifestyle changes. Forests plays multiple roles in our lives including providing a source of livelihood, refuge for many species and clean air for all. As a result of growing global pollution levels forests have often come to be referred to as the ‘lungs of the earth’. This is particularly because deforestation and forest degradation account for nearly 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions, which forest would absorb if carefully managed. Broadly, there are three main sources of forest degradation: commercial logging, fires and gathering wood for fuel. Insects and pets also cause considerable forest degradation.
Benefits of Forest
As a resource, forest provide many important natural resources, such as timber, fuel, rubber, paper and medicinal plants. Forest also help sustain and availability of freshwater supplies. More than three quarters of the worlds accessible freshwater comes from forested catchments. Water quality declines with decreases in forest condition and cover, and natural hazards such as floods, landslides and soil erosion have larger impacts.
Climate change mitigation
It is well known that forest play key role in our battle against climate change: storing carbon and sucking in carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and locking it into their biomass.
Ecosystem services (water)
What is less known is that the products and services they provide are essential to every aspect of life. By regulating water for many of the world’s river, they help secure water quality and supply nearly half of the world’s largest cities. They also help decrease the impacts of storms and floods, whilst helping control erosion.
Biodiversity As the most biologically diverse ecosystems on land, forest are home to more than half of terrestrial species, from the great apes to the smallest of creatures.
Economics and Livelihoods.
They also provide homes, security and livelihoods for 60 million Indigenous people, whilst contributing to the livelihoods of 1.6 billion people worldwide.
Products & Biodiversity
The impact of forest reaches even further. In many developing countries more than 80% of total energy consumed by people and industry such as fuel wood and charcoal is derived from forest. Trade in timber and other forest products are estimated at almost 330 billion US Dollar/year. Its value multiplies as the timber is processed into a myriad of products used globally everyday. Use of the genetic diversity within forest enables the development of new medicines: progress in healthcare and science.
The numbers
Forest covers around 31% of total land area of the world while at the same time supporting 80% of terrestrial biodiversity that lies in them. Many of the worlds’s most threatened and endangered animals live in these forests, make them crucial to sustaining ecosystems. Not only animals live in the forest as they also provide a home to more than 300 million people worldwide. Beyond supporting the natural habitat, forest sustains economic growth. In 2005 trade in forest products was estimated at US Dollar 330 billion. Continued uncontrolled deforestation therefore not only has devastating consequences for the environment, the wildlife and communities, but for economics around the world as well.
Rather shockingly, 36 million acres of natural forest are lost each year.
Importance of forest in Nagaland.
Nagaland is a hilly state and has an agrarian economy. The most practices form of agriculture in the state is shifting cultivation or jhum cultivation as it more commonly known. This form of farming is entirely dependent on nature in the form of rainfall especially during the cultivation season as water is a very scarce commodity in hills.
The role played by forest in supporting and sustaining this system cannot be underplayed. Not only does forest cover help in regulating the micro climate of an area, it also plays a major role in preventing soil erosion thus checking nutrient loss and water retention which in turn recharges the ground water of the area. Forest also plays a very important role in the fallow cycle of replenishing the fertility of the soil. It is a well established fact that forest are the reservoir of species and genetic diversity, within which may be hidden the answers to many of the problems facing the world today. Conservation of this hidden natural capital is the need of the hour. Food and livelihood security are two very important consumptive uses of forests and the services provided by forest are diverse as it is myriad. The importance of forest is more reinforced in this century with various indicators, such as erratic rains, drought like conditions, alerting us to the laws and procedures of the planet. They warn us of what lies ahead. These above mentioned indicators are all man propelled though working through the instrumentation of natural phenomenon. The need of the hour is not a roll back or return to simplicity. The opposite of complexity is not simplicity but clarity. Clarity to choose the developmental path that the state has to adopt-one of blind development or one based on the tenets of sustainability. The choice is ours to make
What can you do?
A quick and easy way to get involved is to make others aware of the forest issues by organizing an event or participating in this year’s World Environment Day celebrations.
Governments should develop and implement policies that encourage sustainable use of forest. They should consider cordoning off areas inhabited by endangered species and promote forest restoration where they have been depleted.
Private companies have an opportunity to invest wisely into the new green economy whilst developing a socially responsible status with its consumers. They can develop procurement processes that buy only into sustainably managed forests i.e certified products. Be the first in your organization to shift your companies’ policies towards green growth. Civil societies can play a significant role by independently monitoring all parties involved, raising awareness on forest and supporting grassroots initiatives.
Like private companies, individuals can make wise premeditated choices over what products they will buy and only purchasing forest products that originated from sustainable sources. This means checking that furniture, wood, paper and other products you buy are verified as coming from legal sources. A quick and easy way to do this is checking for a forest certification logo.
Most importantly, taking action on forest requires an ongoing commitment to changing lifestyle and therefore is not a one-off action. Your new lifestyle demands that you are forest-conscious in all your choices, consumption and actions.
Every activity matters-organize a neighborhood clean-up announce an environmental initiative for your town, state or country, adopt targets for environmental improvements in your company, use cloth bags and motivate your school mates and teachers to do t he same, plan a tree or better yet organize a collective tree-planting effort for your family, walk to work, start recycling drive among your friends… the possibilities are endless.
Department of Forest, Ecology, Environment & Wildlife.