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2022 is a landmark year – it marks 50 years since the Stockholm Conference, which led to 5 June being designated as World Environment Day.
A lot has changed in the last 50 years – from our environmental priorities to the way we consume products. Let’s take a look at the good, the bad, and the ugly (from an environmental standpoint) over the last 50 years.
Laws have changed
Policies and laws surrounding environmental protection have only come into effect in the last 50 years. In fact, till 1972, no country had an environment ministry! Now, every country has its own set of laws based on the environmental crises they feel are most relevant.
Apart from governments, companies have also started taking sustainability seriously by both pledging support and investing in sustainable businesses, as well as pledging to follow net zero. In fact, many companies in India, such as Reliance Industries, TCS, Mahindra, and Adani (among others), have already announced targets to achieve the same.
People have become more interested in sustainability
It’s not just the laws that have changed – so have people! With growing awareness and interest in biological diversity and conservation, more people are trying to live environment-friendly lives, even younger generations. In fact, Gen Z is the most environmentally conscious of any other group- and it shows in their purchasing choices. By buying and investing in sustainable businesses, they are influencing other generations to do the same.
The ozone layer is healing
The degradation of the ozone layer was alarming when it was first discovered – because its loss would mean a loss of protection from the sun’s UV rays, affecting every living being on Earth. Thankfully, after years of campaigning, the Montreal Protocol was instituted in 1989 to help phase out substances that were responsible for ozone depletion, and it has worked. Since 2000, parts of the ozone layer have begun to recover at a rate of 1-3% every ten years. Currently, the ozone layer is on track to completely heal by 2060 – well within our lifetimes!
Areas facing desertification have increased
Fertile soil is one of the greatest ways to slow down rising temperatures because of its ability to support the growth of plants. Unfortunately, human activities and climatic variations have resulted in desertification. In fact, nearly 30% of India is facing desertification or has already degraded. Apart from the loss of biodiversity, it also causes food insecurity due to crop failure or reduced yields. Reversing this is almost impossible and a long process – certainly not achievable in our generation.
Oceans are warming and becoming more acidic
The oceans have absorbed almost 93% of excess heat from greenhouse gases released since the 1970s, raising their temperatures and making them more acidic. Even the seemingly smallest variation in the oceans’ temperature and pH can have major effects on the marine ecosystem. For example, in the last few decades, we have observed consequences such as coral bleaching, a rise in harmful algae, and changes in the breeding and migration patterns of marine life, all of which have an effect on both the environment as well as our own consumption patterns.
Hundreds of species have gone extinct since 1970
Unlike environmental degradation which might be reversible in a few decades (or even hundreds of years), extinct species are lost to history. This means that we will never see them again.
This is even worse, considering we haven’t even mapped out all the species on the planet – so species that we haven’t even discovered yet might have already gone extinct!
While some of these changes are irreversible, we can still do so much good for the planet by becoming better, more sustainable versions of ourselves. The World Environment Day, get your start in sustainability by taking up our courses on hub.sdgplus.org.