Celebrating 50 Years of Earth Day

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The president of the EUROPARC Federation calls for people to listen to our natural heritage – not stock market listings.

Article issued by Ignace Schops,

Today we celebrate 50 years of Earth Day.

It seems like there is not a lot to celebrate, or is there?

The Coronavirus has obliged us to look at the wider picture of how our society functions. Our politicians have relied on scientific knowledge and recommendations to solve this crisis. The draconian measures deemed impossible until recently, have become a reality today. The impossible suddenly becomes possible.

Can we count on similar leadership and the same methods for saving Mother Earth and ourselves? Because we’ve made a mess of things over the last 50 years! With currently 7.8 billion people, the world’s population has doubled, the cultivated area on a global scale has increased by 22 million hectares, 230 million hectares of grassland have been added for cattle, and on top of that, an additional 160 million hectares for arable land.

All this extra space has been taken from our natural heritage.

We have been blind to the collapsing natural ecosystems that keeps our climate stable and provides us with healthy air and drinkable water. We did not listen to the deafening last words of so many life forms on earth. There has certainly been no stock market listing, nor value for a share of nature.

There are consequences arising from our actions. One example. In many parts of Europe we have experienced weather conditions like it was already summer: warm and almost no rain! Despite a drenched spring, the groundwater reserves are dwindling like snow in the sun. Without rain and with high temperatures, the drought increases at an infernal rate. Because of the dehydration, the soil has become concrete in many places where a bird’s beak can’t get through and where toads and frogs croak no more. Farmers already have to pump a huge amount of water, just to keep the crops alive, which only aggravates the situation.

The consequences of an overpopulated world are overwhelming. Each person on this planet now emits on average 21% more CO2 than 50 years ago and we all emit 47% more! These are the averages, but you need to know that only 10% of the world’s population is responsible for 50% of emissions. Per capita, we use 47 times more fossil fuels, consume 65% more meat, produce 447% more plastic and our air travel has increased by 561%! Extreme weather conditions such as hurricanes, floods and extreme drought increased by 44% between 1980 and 2018.

So it would seem, there is no good news at all to report.

But there is.

The reset, the necessary sustainable transformation is slowly underway.

The average number of births per woman dropped from 4.5 in 1970 to 2.2 now and 86% of the world’s population now has access to basic education. The volume of solar energy has increased 400 times, 3.2 million square kilometers of forests have been restored and 27 million square kilometers of marine nature have been protected.

But we are not there yet!

If we don’t halve the CO2 emissions in the next decade and prevent the collapse of natural ecosystems, things will go wrong for our society.

We need everyone now to turn the tide. Let us learn from these past 50 years and celebrate our hope and ambition for a new future.

Ignace Schops

President of the EUROPARC Federation

Ignace Schops