Every year the world observes June 5 as World Environment Day. Exactly 50 years ago in 1972, the UN General Assembly designated this day as such and the first celebration took place in 1974 under the slogan ‘Only One Earth’. In 2022, once again the theme is the same and reminds the world that in half a century the issues of environmental degradation have only intensified. For South Asia, this day should serve as a stark reminder of what the people of this region have been doing to their own environment and as a result also suffering the consequences of their own and other’s mistreatment of nature. The consumption patterns in countries such as India and Pakistan need drastic changes otherwise it will be too late to make any meaningful difference to environmental degradation. And spending one day a year holding seminars and hearing government officials pontificate about their duty is not going to do anything to heal our warming planet by itself. The world is at a precipice and simply ‘raising awareness’, as important as that may be, is not sufficient at this perilous time. By any measure, the planet is threatened like never before. Extreme weather events like floods and droughts have become more common and the world is getting warmer every year. Already, many communities are being displaced by climate change and as climate migration increases so will wars over resources like food, water and land.
Rather than being able to offer a cleaner and greener present and future to our generations, sustainable living has been compromised. This day reminds us that we need to live in harmony with nature. In Pakistan, from rural to urban areas, rather than striving to provide a greener lifestyle through governmental policies and individual choices, we have seen a remarkable increase in deforestation. Urban centres have spawned asphalt and concrete jungles; whereas rural areas have seen cultivable land being used for housing societies and residential settlements. It is pertinent to mention here that the previous government of the PTI in Pakistan did make some efforts in planting trees that must continue.
Hope is something that should be in short supply in Pakistan, which has finite resources in terms of clean water and green pastures. The country cannot afford to squander these resources the way we have been doing for decades now. We are to be one of the countries that is worst hit by climate change. And, while we may be reliant on action from the international community for tackling climate change, we can be better stewards of our environment at home. Our reclamation of coastal land and deforestation has done untold damage to our environment. Pakistan needs to ensure a more sustainable society for our current and coming generations. This is why the environment needs to be at the forefront of ever decision we make – be it political, social or economic. This is too important to just be relegated to one day of the year.