• World Environment Day 2017: Connecting people to nature

    Ramesh Tiwari
    June 5, 2017
    World Environment Day 2017: Connecting people to nature

    Sunita Ranabhat —

    “Connecting people to nature”, the theme for World Environment Day 2017, encourages us to explore relationships between humans and nature, and understand the invaluable support nature lends to human well-being and prosperity.  Every year, World Environment Day is marked on June 5 around the world to celebrate nature and its importance to human survival, and raise awareness on the importance of protecting and safeguarding it. 

    Human survival depends on nature, and its appreciation and recognition should concern us all. In an article published in 2010, scholars Judith Chen-Hsuan Cheng and Martha C Monroe state, “learning, understanding, experiencing nature, and living close to nature could positively influence the development of affective attitudes towards nature” and “increase interest in participating in nature based activities and performing nature friendly practices in the future”. Direct communion with nature strengthens our sense of being connected to nature, which is why this year’s theme urges us to experience nature first hand. It implores us to make an effort to understand nature and make it a point to involve ourselves in activities that are built around natural elements for today and for tomorrow.

    Importance of nature

    Humans are inherently connected to nature and have been dependent on it and its functions for millennia.  The history of human existence and civilization is intertwined with nature. Humans cannot thrive without nature and its benefits. Nature and its elements are integrated into the daily lives of people. The goods and services that nature provides (ie, ecosystem services) contribute to human prosperity and wellbeing in countless ways.  Human dependency on nature is not limited to subsistence. Economic and social development, and the cultural, emotional, and aesthetic aspects of our lives are dependent on and closely connected to nature.

    A factsheet published by the United Nations in 2011, the International Year of Forests, states that the livelihoods of more than 1.6 billion people depend on forests, and that forests are home to 300 million people around the world. Forests supply human communities with materials necessary for household and commercial use. In developing countries, forests contribute 20–40% to an average household’s annual income. Besides provisioning services, nature provides regulating, supporting, and cultural services. For example, natural forces pollinate the world’s plants, regulate the earth’s climate, provide habitat to numerous species and remove pollution and toxins from water up to a certain extent. Forests, grasslands, and wetlands are storehouses of different medicinal and aromatic plants. Moreover, humans have in-depth spiritual, cultural, and religious connections with nature. There are evidences showing that closeness to nature and regular contact with the natural world improve emotional and psychological well-being.

    However, the role of nature in society has changed with changes in societal needs. With industrialization, urbanization, and economic development, humans have distanced themselves from nature. Humans have long been taking nature for granted and ruthlessly exploiting it. According to the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment Report (2005), approximately 60% of the ecosystem services nature provides are being degraded or used unsustainably. Similarly, pollutants such as untreated sewage, chemical and pesticides, and injurious smoke are released into water, soil, and air. These have disastrous impacts on nature and ultimately, human beings.

    Human reliance on nature is a reality. Human dependency on nature grows with economic growth. Demand for ecosystem services—hydroelectricity and (eco) tourism, for example—is on the rise. We need to value nature and recognize that we need to build a relationship of interdependence between nature and ourselves.

    Nature and society in the Hindu Kush Himalaya

    That people are connected to nature is an undeniable fact. This is evident especially in mountainous regions. Mountains, symbols of nature, provide a vast array of ecosystem goods and services to one-fifth of the world’s human population. The Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH), one of the largest and most diversified mountainous regions, has great significance for geo-hydrological, biological, cultural, and aesthetic values. The rich biodiversity and natural resources of the HKH provide direct ecosystem services to more than 200 million people in the mountains and to 1.3 billion people in downstream river basins.  The tangible and intangible services provided by the region are the basis for the livelihoods and economic growth of mountain people.

    In the HKH, there are several activities currently being undertaken to establish and maintain a harmonious relationship between people and nature. Successful community based natural resource management approaches — community forests, buffer zone community forests, joint forest management — have been applauded internationally for their ability to contributions to the sustainable management of forests and fulfill local people’s demands for forest products. Furthermore, the promotion of ecotourism in the HKH values nature’s contributions to economic development at the local level and encourages people to conserve natural areas. Because nature is not confined by national boundaries, the people-centric transboundary landscapes approach in the HKH is contributing to the enhancement and restoration of landscapes with fostering economic development. It is helping maintain a sustainable supply of ecosystem goods and services to the both upstream and downstream populations.  Moreover, climate smart practices — mulching, green manure, integrated pest management, and the use of bio-fertilizers and bio-pesticides — have helped revive traditional agricultural practices which, with technological advancement, had fallen out of use in many areas. Such practices are not only helping communities adapt to climate change impacts but reconnect with nature.

    What can be done?

    First, we need to change our habits. We need to stop polluting and degrading natural resources and need to commit to restoring and enhancing them. We need to set priorities and utilize renewable resources. Second, we need to spend time with nature and make it a point to take time out to connect with the natural world. Something as simple as maintaining a small garden on the balcony or having a potted plant on your desk at the office can help. Perhaps some weekends can be spent exploring nearby parks, mountains and forests. Third, we need to inculcate an appreciation of the natural world in our children. Families can do something outdoors together, if only once every week. Fourth, we must seek policy alignment. We need to advocate for policies that align with conservation and development to fully address human-nature interrelationships. Finally, regional cooperation is of utmost importance. We need regional level collaboration to conserve, manage, and utilize nature sustainably at the larger landscape level, and maintain harmony between humanity and nature.

    Sunita Ranabhat is Ecosystem Analyst at the International Centre for integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD.


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      Kabul: Afghan security forces have regained control of Intercontinental Hotel, hours after the gunmen burst into the hotel shooting at guests and staff. At least five civilians were killed and six were injured in the siege. Three of the attackers have been killed and more than 150 guests were rescued. No group has said it carried out the attack, but the Taliban targeted the Intercontinental hotel in 2011.

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      2017 in review -Top stories

      January 1 : New year nightclub attack leaves 39 dead in Istanbul
      January 20 : Republican billionaire Donald Trump sworn in as 45th US president
      January 23 : Syria peace talks begin in Kazakh capital Astana
      March 29 :United Kingdom officially launches the Brexit process
      April 4 :Syria launches chemical attack killing 90 people
      April 6 : US cruise missiles destroy Syrian air base
      April 9 : Bombings at two churches in Egypt kill dozens
      April 16 : Refugee death toll passes 1,000 in Mediterranean
      April 16 :Turkey says YES to presidential system
      May 6 :Emmanuel Macron elected French president defeating Marine Le Pen
      May 19 :Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani wins re-election
      May 22 : Terrorist attack kills 22 at Manchester concert
      June 5 : Gulf nations severe ties with Qatar
      June 7 :Suicide bombers attack Iranian parliament killing 13 people
      June 14 :London fire kills 71 in the 24-storey Grenfell Tower
      July 4 :North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s missile ambitions
      July 28 : Pakistan’s top court disqualifies Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from office
      August 5 :US withdraws from Paris climate change pact
      August 17 :Storms cause record damage in Caribbean and southern United States
      August 25 :Muslim Rohingya start fleeing Rakhine state in Myanmar
      September 15 : NASA’s 13-year Saturn mission ends
      September 20 : Earthquake kills more than 200 in Mexico
      September 24 : Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel wins fourth term
      September 26 : Saudi Arabia lifts ban on women driving
      October 1 : Gunman opens fire on Las Vegas music festival killing 59 people
      October 14 : Massive bombing in Somalia’s capital Modadishu kill more than 500 people
      October 24 : China confirms the elevation of President Xi Jinping to the same status as the nation’s founder, Mao Zedong, and Deng Xiaoping, by enshrining ‘Xi Jinping thought’ in the party’s constitution at the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China
      October 27 : Catalonia declares independence from Spain
      November 4 : S audi Arabia detains 11 princes, four ministers and ten former ministers in a corruption probe
      November 12 : Iran-Iraq magnitude 7.3 earthquake kills more than 500
      November 15 : Argentine navy submarine disappears with 44 crew on board
      November 21 : Robert Mugabe resigns as Zimbabwe’s president after 37 years in power. His former deputy Emmerson Mnangagwa will become president.
      November 22 : Bosnian Serb army commander Ratko Mladic convicted of genocide in Srebrenica during the 1990s Bosnian War
      November 24 : Gunmen kill hundreds at Sinai mosque in Egypt
      December 4 : Houthi militants assassinate Yemen’s former President Ali Abdullah Saleh
      December 5 : Russia banned from 2018 Winter Olympics for state-sponsored doping
      December 6 : US President Donald Trump recognises Jerusalem as the capital of Israel
      December 17 : Price of one bitcoin reaches a new high of $19,783.06 dollars
      December 21 : Yemen’s cholera outbreak
      December 22 : Syria peace talks in Astana (compiled)

      Top ten most visited cities

      Between January and August 2017, destinations worldwide welcomed 901 million international tourist arrivals (overnight visitors), 56 million more than in the same period of 2016 .The top ten most visited cities are:
      HONG KONG26.6 million
      BANGKOK 21.2 million
      LONDON19.2 million
      SINGAPORE16.6 million
      MACAU15.4 million
      DUBAI14.9 million
      PARIS14.4 million
      NEW YORK12.7 million
      SHENZHEN12.6 million
      KUALA LUMPUR12.3 million

      Source: Euromonitor International

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