Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Happy International Cheetah Day!

Today International Cheetah Day is celebrated all over the world. It places on the spotlight of the cheetah, the world’s fastest land animal because it’s racing against extinction. Over the last 100 years, we’ve lost approximately 90% of the cheetah population.

Here are a few interesting Cheetah facts:
·         Cheetahs are the world’s fastest land animal because they can run 70 mph (or 110 kph), which is as fast as cars drive on the highway.
Source: NatGeoKids

·         The cheetah can reach its top speed in just 3 seconds.
·         The cheetah’s fur is covered in solid black spots, and so is their skin! The black fur grows out of the black spots on their skin.
·         A female cheetah cares for anywhere from 2 to 8 cubs per litter.
Source: How Stuff Works

·         There are less than 7,100 cheetahs left in the wild, making the cheetah Africa’s most endangered big cat.

You can learn more about this important day and complete activities to show your support https://internationalcheetahday.com/

By watching documentaries on Cheetahs or by learning more about them, you’ll can help with their conservation. Go on, spread the word. Join the conversation on Twitter by using the hashtags #SaveTheCheetah & #IntlCheetahDay.Be a wildlife ambassador. Even though they are extremely fast, we can slow down its extinction.


Saturday, 3 November 2018

Living Planet Report 2018: Aiming higher

Source: WWF

The Living Planet Report 2018 has been published this week, the twelfth edition of the report. Every two years, the WWF (one of the world’s largest independent conservation organizations with a global network active in 100 countries) publishes the report so as to give an indication of the current health and state of our planet (including biodiversity, ecosystems, and demand on natural resources and what it means for humans and wildlife), the trends in global biodiversity and wildlife abundance, and the impact of human activity. It is a science-based analysis, assisted by multiple indicators including the Living Planet Index (LPI), the Species Habitat Index (SHI), the IUCN Red List Index (RLI), the Biodiversity Intactness Index (BII), the Planetary Boundaries, and the Ecological Footprint. The report comprises of a variety of research in order to provide a comprehensive view of the health of the Earth. The state of global biodiversity is done by measuring the population abundance of thousands of vertebrate species around the world. The Living Planet Report tracked more than 16,704 populations of 4,005 vertebrate species of mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, and amphibians. It uses the Ecological Footprint and additional complementary measures to explore the changing state of global biodiversity and human consumption.

Disturbing results and statistics
The results and the scientific evidence are shocking. Nature has continually warned us: unsustainable human activity is pushing the planet’s natural systems that support life on Earth to the edge. The report warns us seriously too: “Earth is losing biodiversity at a rate seen only during mass extinctions.” Over recent decades, human activity has also severely impacted the habitats and natural resources wildlife and humanity depend on, such as oceans, forests, coral reefs, wetlands, and mangroves.

According to WWF’s Living Planet Report 2018:
·         Human activities are primarily responsible for the main threats to species identified in the report, including habitat loss, degradation, and over-exploitation of wildlife, such as overfishing and overhunting.
·         On average, we’ve seen an astonishing 60% decline in the size of populations of mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, and amphibians in just over 40 years (between 1970 and 2014). Over-exploitation of ecological resources by humanity is thus worrisome.
Source: WWF
·         Current rates of species extinction are now up to 1,000 times higher than before human involvement in animal ecosystems became a factor.
·         Species population declines are especially pronounced in the tropics, with South and Central America suffering the most dramatic decline, an 89% loss compared to 1970.
·         Freshwater species numbers have also declined dramatically, with the Freshwater Index showing an 83% decline since 1970, due mainly as a result of overfishing, pollution, and climate change.
·         The Earth is estimated to have lost about 50% of its shallow water corals in the past 30 years.
·         90% of seabirds have plastics in their stomachs, compared with 5% in 1960.
·         A fifth (20%) of the Amazon has disappeared in just 50 years.
Source: Wikipedia
·         African elephants have declined in number in Tanzania by 60% in just five years between 2009 and 2014, primarily due to ivory poaching.
·         Deforestation in Borneo, designed to make way for timber and palm oil plantations, led to the loss of 100,000 orangutans between 1999 and 2015.
·         The number of polar bears is expected to decline by 30% by 2050 as global warming causes Arctic ice to melt, making their habitats increasingly dangerous.
Source: Science Daily
·         Only a quarter of the world's land is untouched by humans, who are increasing food production and use of natural resources.
·         America is among the countries using the most natural resources. North America and Canada consume more than seven global hectares per person.
·         The report also focuses on the value of nature to people's health and that of our societies and economies: Globally, nature provides services worth around $125 trillion a year, while also helping ensure the supply of fresh air, clean water, food, energy, medicines, and more.

Thus, from the abovementioned statistics, it is clear that the impact human activity (how we feed, fuel, and finance our lives) has on the world’s wildlife, forests, oceans, rivers, and climate is troublesome. It is taking an unprecedented toll on wildlife, wild places, and the natural resources we need to survive. According to Global Footprint Network, humanity is currently using the resources of 1.7 planets to provide the goods and services we demand when we only have one Earth.

Is it too late?
Current efforts to protect the natural world are not keeping up with the speed of this destruction. We’re facing a rapidly closing window for action and the urgent need for everyone to cooperatively rethink and redefine how we value, protect, and restore nature. This generation may be last to save nature, the report warns. But, we still have time to act; there is still hope. In order to ensure a sustainable future for all living things, we need to urgently curtail the loss of nature. In essence, the Living Planet Report 2018 highlights the opportunity the global community has to protect and restore nature leading up to 2020, an imperative year when leaders are expected to review the progress made on landmark multilateral pacts to solve global challenges including the Sustainable Development Goals, the Paris Climate Agreement, and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

Marco Lambertini, Director General WWF International, is of the belief that “the nature conservation agenda is not only about securing the future of tigers, pandas, whales and all the amazing diversity of life we love and cherish on Earth. It’s bigger than that. There cannot be a healthy, happy and prosperous future for people on a planet with a destabilized climate, depleted oceans and rivers, degraded land and empty forests, all stripped of biodiversity, the web of life that sustains us all. In the next years, we need to urgently transition to a net carbon-neutral society and halt and reverse nature loss – through green finance, clean energy and environmentally friendly food production. We must also preserve and restore enough land and ocean in a natural state. Few people have the chance to be a part of truly historic transformations. This is ours”.

WWF. 2018. Living Planet Report - 2018: Aiming Higher. Grooten, M. and Almond, R.E.A.(Eds). WWF, Gland, Switzerland.

Friday, 8 June 2018

World Oceans Day

Oceans are an integral part of the environment, but are under severe threat, mainly due to unsustainable human activities and other natural factors.

World Oceans Day is annually celebrated on the 8th of June and has become a growing global celebration, as an increasing number of countries and organizations have marked 8 June as an opportunity to celebrate our world oceans and their personal connection to them. It mainly focuses on why oceans are important in our lives, and how we can protect it.  People from all over the world partake in the celebrations. It provides an opportunity to help conserve our world’s oceans. Specific focus is placed on honoring the ocean (our blue planet), which connects all of us. It is done to ensure a better future of all. It raises awareness to inspire to being more involved to conserve this amazing resource we all depend on. This will ensure a healthier ocean and a better future for all.

Each year there is a main conservation focus. Based on the conservation theme of the year, they also develop an annual World Oceans Day social media campaign their partners can tie in with to enhance their efforts. The action focus for World Oceans Day 2018 is to Prevent plastic pollution so as to encourage solutions for a healthy ocean. This also tied in with this year’s World Environment Day’s theme of “Beat Plastic Pollution” to further place the spotlight on preventing plastic pollution.  

Brief history
The Ocean Project has promoted and coordinated World Oceans Day globally since its inception in 2002. They are based in the US, but have various advisors and volunteers in various countries. They are a collaborative organization and work in partnership with hundreds of organizations, including World Ocean Network.

There’s no getting away from the fact that a healthy world ocean is critical to all of our survival.

The ocean plays an integrally important role as it: Generates most of the oxygen we breathe,
Helps feed us, Regulates our climate, Cleans the water we drink, and Offers a pharmacopoeia of medicines. Not only that, but it provides limitless inspiration.

Why is World Oceans Day required?
It helps to:
·         Change our perspective by encouraging individuals to think about what the ocean means to them and what it has to offer all of us. Whether you live inland or on the coast, we are all connected to the ocean. Take the time to think about how the ocean affects you, and how you affect the ocean. This will help to conserve it for present and the future generations.
·         We learn by discovering the wealth of diverse and beautiful ocean creatures and habitats, how our daily actions affect them, and how we are ALL interconnected.
·         It changes our ways as we are all linked to, and through, the ocean. You are a caretaker of oceans when you take care of your backyard and helping out in your community. You can also make small modifications to your everyday habits to make a difference. All of this will be beneficial to our blue planet.

The Ocean Project has recognized that there’s one global ocean connecting all of us. There are five distinct oceans: the Pacific Ocean, Atlantic Ocean, Indian Ocean, Arctic Ocean, and Southern Ocean.

So, how can I get involved?
The official World Oceans Day’s website (www.worldoceansday.org/) has a myriad of ways you as an individual, group, or community can get involved. Simply click on the link below to download and read free resources which you can use then. Ask your family, friends, and community to join you. The more people involved, the better the outcome of this environmental day. By working enthusiastically together, it’s possible to strive towards protecting our oceans. 

You can, furthermore, plan your event, play host, and register your event on their website. You can also find others on the global community map, get celebration ideas, access media and outreach resources, and more!

It is important to help spread the day’s positive impact.

It is not just individuals that will make a difference; it is up to ALL of us to ensure that our oceans are healthy, not only for current generations, but also, importantly, future generations.

I hope you will get involved and participated in a World Oceans Day event near you!

I’ll leave you with this: The ocean, undoubtedly, deserves its own day. Make every day an Oceans Day.


Tuesday, 5 June 2018

World Environment Day 2018

World Environment Day
World Environment Day is celebrated on the 5th of June each year and is one of the UN’s most important environmental days. It encourages worldwide awareness and action for the protection of our environment. It is the ‘People’s Day’ for doing something positive for the environment. World Environment Day has gained tremendous momentum over the years. Since its inception in 1974, it has grown to become a global platform for public outreach that is widely celebrated in over 100 countries.

Theme for 2018
Each WED is organised around a theme that focuses attention on a particularly pressing environmental concern. This year's theme "Beat Plastic Pollution" was chosen by the host country, India.

Plastic pollution is a defining environmental challenge. “Beat Plastic Pollution”, the theme for World Environment Day 2018, also ties in with World Oceans Day’s 2018 theme of “Prevent Plastic Pollution” that will take place on the 8th of June. The theme was chosen by India, the host country. 

It also is about considering how all of us can make changes in our everyday lives in order to reduce the burden of plastic pollution on not only our natural places and wildlife, but also our health. All partners raise awareness and inspire action to form the global movement needed to wholeheartedly combat plastic pollution. It promises to be the largest and most consequential World Environment Day ever. They are going to build on the global momentum to beat plastic pollution and use as a turning point to people worldwide to do more than just clean up existing plastics, but also focus their action upstream.

This year’s World Environment Day provides an opportunity for each of us to embrace the many ways that we can help to combat plastic pollution around the world. And you don’t have to wait until 5 June to act. Nor do you have to take only take action on the 5th June; preventing pollution can be part of your green, everyday lifestyle.

Key actions and message
An important message the day tries to convey is in order to beat plastic pollution, we need to entirely rethink our approach to designing, producing and using plastic products. Their goal is to inspire solutions that will ultimately lead to sustainable behaviour change upstream. They are also calling on governments to enact robust legislation to curb the production and use of unnecessary single-use plastics. Its aim is to harness individual actions and transform them into a collective power that has a legacy of real and lasting impact on the planet. They are working with education partners to help them reconsider their plastic habits, generate solutions and raise awareness. They want to inspire children on how they can take action to protect the environment. Children can then spread this message to their parents and, importantly, the wider community.

Plastic’s impact on the environment and on humans
Although plastic has many uses, people have become too reliant on single-use or disposable plastic – with severe environmental consequences.

It is shocking to realize that:
·         Every year, 13 million tonnes of plastic enter our oceans, threatening marine and human life and destroying our natural ecosystems. It smothers coral reefs and threatens vulnerable marine wildlife.
·         The plastic ending up in the oceans can circle the earth four times in a single year, and it can persist for up to 1,000 years before it fully disintegrates.
·         Nearly one third of the plastic packaging we use escapes collection systems, which means that it ends up clogging our city streets and polluting our natural environment.
·         What is even more worrisome is the fact that, around the world, 1 million plastic drinking bottles are purchased EVERY MINUTE.
·         Every year we use up to 5 trillion disposable plastic bags. In total, 50 per cent of the plastic we use is single use.
·         Over 90% of bottled water and even 83% of tap water contain microplastic particles. Micro-beads from beauty products and other non-recoverable materials also negatively impact our environment.
·         Plastic also makes its way into our water supply – and thus into our bodies.
·         Plastics contain a number of chemicals, many of which are toxic or disrupt hormones.
·         Plastics can also serve as a magnet for other pollutants, including dioxins, metals and pesticides.

Other Global Plastic Pollution by Numbers
·         Up to 5 trillion plastic bags used each year
·         17 million barrels of oil used on plastic production each year
·         100,000 marine animals killed by plastics each year
·         100 years for plastic to degrade in the environment
·         90% of bottled water found to contain plastic particles
·         83% of tap water found to contain plastic particles
·         50% of consumer plastics are single use
·         10% of all human-generated waste is plastic

What needs to be done?
It requires a complete rethinking of the way plastic is produced, used, and managed. Simply put: Our manufacturing, distribution, consumption, and trade systems for plastic NEED to change. Items that are merely thrown away immediately after a single use must stop. Individual action alone cannot solve the problem of reducing our plastic footprint. It is important that the problem is addressed at its source. Manufacturers must be held to account for the entire life-cycle of their consumer products. Policymakers and governments must safeguard precious environmental resources and public health by encouraging sustainable production and consumption through legislation. Focusing on the next generation is central to addressing the plastic pollution issue.

What has been done to curb plastic use?
Individuals, companies, and communities have increasingly exercised their power as consumers. This has been evident especially in supermarkets where people have, instead of using single-use plastic grocery bags, have used recyclable material or paper bags. Many have also reconsidered their purchase habits in supermarket aisles. People have also continuously turned down plastic straws and cutlery and several restaurants have joined in a campaign to not give any plastic straws out anymore. Beach clean-ups have also taken enthusiastically place. While clean-ups may only address the plastic issue at the end of its life cycle, they are a wonderful way to see the extent of plastic waste first-hand and rethink their behaviour.

Is there something else I can do, though?
Consumers must not only be actors but drivers for the behaviour change that must also happen upstream.

The main idea that this day wants to bring across is:

If you can’t reuse it, refuse it.

Furthermore, there are so many things that we can do:
·         Ask your restaurants to stop using plastic straws
·         Bringing your own coffee mug to work
·         Pressure your local authorities to improve how they manage your city’s waste.
·         Bring your own shopping bags to the supermarket
·         Pressure food suppliers to use non-plastic packaging
·         Refuse plastic cutlery
·         Pick up any plastic you see the next time you go for a walk on the beach

On social media platforms you can share your ideas on social media using the hashtags #BeatPlasticPollution #WorldEnvironmentDay #WED2018 and inspire other people to also get involve.

Download the Litterati app to track the plastic waste that gets collected. Click on www.litterati.org and register what you collect so that it is included in the global total.

There is also a guide to help you develop your promotional materials for World Environment Day 2018. Click on the link to learn more: http://worldenvironmentday.global/en/get-involved/toolkits.

Encourage another institution to make a plastic-reduction pledge: Make a commitment to reduce your school, university, or organisation’s use of disposable plastic.

#BeatPlasticPollution game of tag
Join the global #BeatPlasticPollution game of tag: Invite students and staff to take a selfie with their canvas shopping bag, metal straw or any other reusable product and tag five friends, telling them to do the same. The person tagged should post a photo with their reusable item within 24 hours. You can also challenge other institutions to join you in cleaning the planet: Announce that your school, university, or organisation is cleaning up plastic litter in a park or public space for World Environment Day. Challenge other to do the same.

You can also host your own event and make it as fun, inspiring and interesting as you would like.

You, as citizens, must act as both consumers and informed citizens, demanding sustainable products and embracing sensible consumption habits in your own lives. To Beat Plastic Pollution, everyone needs step up and think about how they can not only reduce, reuse and recycle, but seek to inspire behavioural changes.

Only when we all come together, can we successfully combat one of the great environmental challenges of our time.


Thursday, 22 March 2018

World Water Day 2018

From the 18th to the 23rd of March, the 8th World Water Forum is taking place in Brazil. World Water Day falls on the 22nd of March and, this year it is the 25th year of it being held and will be enthusiastically celebrated at the forum. World Water Day is coordinated by UN-Water (the UN’s inter-agency collaboration mechanism for all freshwater related issues) in collaboration with governments and partners. It places an important spotlight on the importance of freshwater and advocating for the sustainable management of freshwater resources.

History of World Water Day
This day was first proposed at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro. The United Nations General Assembly responded by designating 22 March 1993 as the first World Water Day.

Why is there a World Water Day?
Because World Water Day is an international observance, it provides an opportunity to learn more about water related issues, be inspired to tell others and take action to make a difference. The engagement campaign is coordinated by one or several of the UN-Water Members with a related mandate.

Water challenges
Source: Unknown
Damaged ecosystems affect the quantity and quality of water available for human consumption. Today, 2.1 billion people live without safe drinking water at home; affecting their health, education and livelihoods. There are many local, national, and global water challenges facing our planet. Water demand will increase 55% by 2050 as a result of population growth, economic development and changing consumption patterns as well as growing demand from manufacturing, thermal electricity generation and domestic use. It will continue to grow significantly over the foreseeable future. Environmental damage, coupled with climate change, is driving the water-related crises we observe around the world. The global water cycle is intensifying due to climate change, with wetter regions generally becoming wetter and drier regions becoming even drier. Urbanisation, deforestation, intensification of agriculture add to these challenges. Degraded vegetation, soil, rivers and lakes worsen floods, drought and water pollution. If we neglect the ecosystems, it is harder to provide everyone with the water we need to survive and thrive. Industrial and domestic demand for water will increase much faster than agricultural demand, although agriculture will remain the largest user overall.

2018’s theme
Each year, UN-Water (the entity that coordinates the UN’s work on water and sanitation) sets a theme for World Water Day corresponding to a current or future challenge. 2018’s theme is “Nature for water”. The theme explores how we can use nature to overcome the different water challenges currently facing our planet.

Nature-based solutions
Nature-based solutions have the potential to solve many of our water challenges. More has to be done with ‘green’ infrastructure and harmonize it with ‘grey’ infrastructure. Planting new forests, reconnecting rivers to floodplains, and restoring wetlands will rebalance the water cycle and, subsequently, improve human health and livelihoods.

NBS use or mimic natural processes to enhance water availability (e.g., soil moisture retention, groundwater recharge), improve water quality (e.g., natural and constructed wetlands, riparian buffer strips), and reduce risks associated with waterrelated disasters and climate change (e.g., floodplain restoration, green roofs).

Currently, water management remains heavily dominated by traditional, humanbuilt (i.e. ‘grey’) infrastructure and the enormous potential for NBS remains underutilized. NBS include green infrastructure that can substitute, augment, or work in parallel with grey infrastructure in a costeffective manner. The goal is to find the most appropriate blend of green and grey investments to maximize benefits and system efficiency while minimizing costs and tradeoffs.

Importance of Sustainable Development Goal 6
This goal, mainly to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all by 2030, includes a target to halve the proportion of untreated wastewater and increase water recycling and safe reuse. Thus, it includes targets on protecting the natural environment and reducing pollution.

The Water Crisis and the OECD Water Governance Principles
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and UN have emphasized the need for dialogue and action on water governance — to focus on changing water behaviours and decisions. Managing and securing access to water for all is not only a question of money, but equally a matter of good governance. The 12 OECD Water Governance Principles provide guidance for governments to design and implement effective, efficient, and inclusive water policies. To date, they have been endorsed by 170+ stakeholder groups or governments.  

World Water Development Report 2018
The World Water Development Report (WWDR 2018) Report was launched at the 8th World Water Forum in Brasilia, Brazil, on March 19 and in conjunction with World Water Day. The report demonstrates how naturebased solutions (NBS) offer a vital means of moving beyond businessasusual to address many of the world’s water challenges while simultaneously delivering additional benefits vital to all aspects of sustainable development. Solutions inspired and supported by nature (“nature-based solutions”) use, or mimic, natural processes to address contemporary water management challenges, improve water security and deliver co-benefits vital to all aspects of sustainable development. The 2018 edition of the World Water Development Report (WWDR 2018) seeks to inform policy and decision-makers, inside and outside the water community, about the potential of nature-based solutions (NBS) to address contemporary water management challenges across all sectors, and particularly regarding water for agriculture, sustainable cities, disaster risk reduction and improving water quality.

The World Water Development Report can be downloaded here: http://www.unwater.org/publications/world-water-development-report-2018/

Here are two videos with regards to World Water Day:

We often take water for granted. Thus, we must always remember that every day should be World Water Day.


Wednesday, 21 March 2018

International Day of Forests 2018


Forests cover one third of the Earth's land mass, performing vital functions around the world. Around 1.6 billion people depend on forests for their livelihoods, medicines, fuel, food and shelter. Forests are the most biologically-diverse ecosystems on land. They are also home to more than 80% of the terrestrial species of animals, plants and insects. Even though they provide a myriad of priceless ecological, economic, social and health benefits, global deforestation continues at an alarmingly fast rate - 13 million hectares of forest are destroyed annually. Deforestation accounts for 12 to 20 percent of the global greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change.

Today International Day of Forests is celebrated all over the world. It is an annual occurrence and a particularly important environmental day. It not only helps to raise awareness of the importance of forests to people, but also their vital role in poverty eradication, environmental sustainability and food security. Sustainable management of all types of forests are at the heart of unlocking challenges of conflict-affected, developing and developed countries, for the benefit of current and future generations.

2018 Theme: Forests and Sustainable Cities
This year the UN has provided the platform to raise awareness of the importance of all types of woodlands and trees, and celebrate the ways in which they sustain and protect us.

Key Messages that they want to convey are:
·         Forests and trees store carbon, which helps mitigate the impacts of climate change in and around urban areas.
·         Trees also improve the local climate, helping to save energy used for heating by 20-50 percent.
·         Strategic placement of trees in urban areas can cool the air by up to 8 degrees Celsius, reducing air conditioning needs by 30 percent.
·         Urban trees are excellent air filters, removing harmful pollutants in the air and fine particulates.
·         Trees reduce noise pollution, as they shield homes from nearby roads and industrial areas.
·         Local populations use the fruits, nuts, leaves and insects found in urban trees to produce food and medicines for use in the home, or as a source of income.
·         Wood fuel sourced from urban trees and planted forests on the outskirts of cities provides renewable energy for cooking and heating, which reduces pressures on natural forests and our reliance on fossil fuels.
·         Forests in and around urban areas help to filter and regulate water, contributing to high-quality freshwater supplies for hundreds of millions of people. Forests also protect watersheds and prevent flooding as they store water in their branches and soil.
·         Well-managed forests and trees in and around cities provide habitats, food and protection for many plants and animals, helping to maintain and increase biodiversity.
·         Forests in cities and surrounding areas generate tourism, create tens of thousands of jobs and encourage city beautification schemes, building dynamic, energetic and prosperous green economies.
·         Urban green spaces, including forests, encourage active and healthy lifestyles, improve mental health, prevent disease, and provide a place for people to socialize.

How you can partake in the day:
·         Watch and share the International Day of Forests video 2018 (please see video below).
·         Take part in the International Day of Forests 2018 photo contest by sharing a photo of that special tree or that special forest in your city.
·         Organize or join events celebrating forests – tree plantings, symposiums, art exhibitions, or a photo competition.
·         Use the #IntlForestDay hashtag on social media.

Read the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations’ report on the state of the world’s forests here: http://www.fao.org/3/a-i5588e.pdf

Why do you think forests matter? Follow the link to find why forests are important: https://www.unenvironment.org/explore-topics/forests/why-do-forests-matter

How much do you really know about forests and cities? Follow the link to the FAO’s quiz to find out: http://www.fao.org/zhc/detail-events/en/c/1107093/.