The world commemorates June 5 as “World Environment Day” to cherish the contribution of the environment in human life.
It was at the 1972 United Nations conference in Stockholm where it was decided that the above date would be marked annually as Environment Day with a year specific theme to highlight various issues linked to Mother Earth.
The theme chosen in the first year to celebrate the occasion was “One Earth”, became identical to the celebration of the 50th anniversary of Environment Day in 2022.
Even though the threads sound alike phonetically, the purpose of designing such a similar theme diverges from each other in two different directions.
The focal point of the “One Earth” opening year celebration, drew attention to the rare endowment of Earth throughout the solar planetary system to contemplate life with so much diversification and size.
Rich variations of land forms with diverse greenery, various bodies of water inside and outside the land mass, multiple terrestrial, aquatic and amphibian species integral to the multiplex ecosystem were the commendable attributes of the globe which were highlighted in the introductory marking of the day’s environment.
He highlighted the roles and responsibilities of human beings in the preservation and conservation of these vital components of the earth.
However, in the space of fifty years things have changed in different directions.
The nurturing and benevolent forces of Mother Nature that sustain life on this planet are now becoming frightening and horrifying, sending a chill through humans.
Anthropocene behavior resulting from changes in the composition of the earth’s atmosphere accumulates greenhouse gases and increases the earth’s temperature, causing an imbalance in all aspects of life.
The “climate change” that scientists predicted in the previous century due to the accumulation of greenhouse gases has proven to be real today.
The rise in Earth’s temperature and the ripple effects have a colossal impact on people living at the bottom of the economic pyramid, even if their carbon footprint is negligible.
Disturbances of natural forces drive certain environmental changes that lead to the silent extinction of many species of this earth.
Many reports show their concerns that we are living in the 6th era of mass extinction listing the elimination of many species of flora, fauna and animals from biodiversity.
The unpredictability of seasonality, the increasing repetition of wildfires with higher magnitude across the world, the escalation of extreme temperatures throughout the year, the swelling of the ocean world due to melting glaciers and polar ice caps along with the infestation of various types of previously unknown viruses and germs point to a future where the earth may look to a hostile environment to sustain life.
The increase in the earth’s temperature has a prodigious impact on the hydrological cycle, the consequences of which are the instability of life and livelihoods. Frequent floods, prolonged dry spells and drought, torrential rains in a short period of time leading to flash floods, frequent formation of cyclones and low pressures on the sea surface creating disturbances in the sea are some of the dangerous hydrological events that scientists attribute to a warmer world.
These climatological changes have a huge impact on the poor and destitute populations with a negligible carbon footprint, living in an ecologically fragile area.
Health, education and food security are at risk for these people due to variations in climatic forces.
Odisha, a coastal and economically developing state with a growing industrial base and its people living at subsistence level with minimal carbon footprint, is experiencing all kinds of climate-related disasters in multifaceted formats.
The entrance of the sea to the interior is unique, occurs in the state near Satabhaya, where the sea encroaches on the land area, leaving people helpless to move to survive.
During a field visit to the village of Satabhaya, we see that the suffering of the villagers is enormous with the loss of means of subsistence, land, hope and dignity.
Satabhaya, once a fertile agricultural area providing all the requirements of life, is now a deserted area.
The teeming place rarely gave locals a chance to think of anywhere else to go is now deserted as the sea has taken more than half of the land area under its control.
Rehabilitating these climate-displaced communities does not generate enough income for families to lead dignified lives.
Most of the working age population migrates to different states in search of employment and leaves the region devoid of young male members of the community. Most of them migrated leaving behind women, children and the elderly.
In a focus group discussion with the affected community, one person said, “Why are we facing the wrath of the sea, even though we haven’t done anything wrong with nature.
We don’t cut trees or pollute the atmosphere, so our ancestors didn’t do wrong either.
So why do we face inhumane treatment from Mother Earth, when we are obedient children? The answer to the question posed above is “One Earth” sharing one atmosphere for all.
The atmospheric imbalance component has reached such a tipping point that it no longer counts on those who contributed to these disturbances.
Mother Nature is now giving back the mistreatment she had received from human beings in terms of climate irregularities and frequent larger disasters.
The resource poor of the current generation living in these fragile ecological environments are unable to adapt to the newly emerging situation of hostile climatic conditions.
They are trapped and crushed in the harsh reality of poverty, food insecurity, poor health, lack of education and growing incongruity in the community (social harmony is the buffer stock that people with low capital use to overcome the lack of reduced supplies).
If this reality is not taken into account, an entire generation, regardless of its resource base, may be vulnerable to the forces of climate change.
The 50th anniversary of Environment Day celebrated in this year 2022 sends a clear signal that there is only one earth.
Therefore, we must be respectful of Mother Nature and be responsible in using exhaustible resources in a sustainable way keeping in mind the carbon footprint and the generation of waste. Mahatma Gandhi once said, “The world has enough resources for everyone’s needs, but not enough for anyone’s greed”.
Taking note of this, we must be careful and responsible in our actions focusing on preserving and conserving exhaustible natural resources and working towards healing the restless mother nature as we only have one Earth.