“Caring for the Planet from the Ground” is the theme of this year’s World Soil Day (#worldsoilday). World Soil Day (WSD) is an annual campaign aimed at raising awareness of the critical importance of healthy soils and advocating for the sustainable management of global soil resources. In June 2013, the FAO Conference endorsed WSD and requested for it to be officially adopted at the 68th UN General Assembly. As a result, 5 December 2014 was designated as the first official WSD. So why is soil so important and why should we care about the health of it?
First held in 1974, World Environment Day (WED) is considered to be the largest global event for positive environmental action, with participation from over 143 countries. It takes place on 5th June each year and is a flagship campaign for driving change and raising awareness on emerging environmental issues, from climate change and wildlife crime, to resource consumption and marine pollution. This year's host country is Canada and the chosen theme is 'Connecting People to Nature – in the city and on the land, from the poles to the equator' which encourages us to consider our role within nature and how closely we depend on it.
Indigenous peoples are characterised by having their own land to which they are connected at various levels, and protecting this special relationship has attracted a great deal of media attention recently. Demonstrations have resumed demanding a stop to the construction of Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines for oil transportation as campaigners and experts say these pipelines would threaten Native American reservations yet create only a few dozen permanent jobs. These conflicts reflect deeper issues than sheer disagreements about economic interests and land ownership – they reveal two fundamentally different approaches to relating with nature. Below, I explain how viewing the planet as a supplier of resources or as a provider of nurturance may even determine our success in living sustainably as a global community.
Why we need to value our ecosystem services
A recent report The Value of Land: Prosperous lands and positive rewards through sustainable land management published 15th September by the Economics of Land Degradation Initiative (ELD) estimates the value of ecosystem services lost worldwide due to land degradation at a staggering US $6.3 trillion to $10.6 trillion annually, or the equivalent of 10-17% of global GDP. The report goes further to say that the effects of land degradation and desertification are distributed unevenly throughout the human populations, and often impact the most vulnerable – the rural poor – who largely depend on land for both sustenance and income.
Tropical rainforests are often referred to as the lungs of the planet for their crucial role in the global carbon cycle. They also harbour a large proportion of the world’s biodiversity and provide commodities for consumers around the globe. But the health of these forests is declining due to logging, climate change, invasive species, and other impacts arising from human activities. Metaphorically speaking, decades of chain smoking are starting to take a big toll on this vital organ. Now there is a need for a suitable health care plan. The latest special issue of Science was dedicated to forest health. It reviews the present and future threats to tropical and temperate forests. Of particular interest is the growing research on tropical secondary forests and their capacity to sustain biodiversity and ecosystem services.
Mangrove forests in Indonesia store approximately 3.14 billion tonnes of carbon, therefore protection of these ecosystems should be considered a major priority in terms of global climate change mitigation, according to a new study published in the journal Nature Climate Change.