World Environment Day comes this year to a planet that is preoccupied with the effects of COVID-19, a pandemic that has played with the lives of millions and affected some two-thirds of the people that share this planet.
And as nations emerge from the darkest days of the coronavirus crisis, there is a focus now on looking to the future and making sure that things won’t be like before.
And that’s why decision makers, influencers — all of us — need to ensure that the environment is placed front and centre of our revitalisation efforts.
If anything, one lesson from the pandemic should be a reminder that despite all of our science and technologies, our development and progress, there are forces in nature that still possess the ability to humble us.
For the past four months, as much of the world’s population lived under restrictions of lockdown conditions necessitated to fight the pandemic, nature has demonstrated time and time again how us humans adversely impact our environment, how our activities are largely negative and how we have disturbed critical balances in delicate ecosystems.
The anecdotal evidence is there: The majestic Himalayas in clear view with the smog lifted from Delhi; rare turtles hatching eggs on deserted tourist beaches of Thailand; mountain goats roaming a seaside resort in Wales.
The empirical evidence is there too: Fewer recorded cases of asthma from air quality that has improved; a per cent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions globally; a doubling of rare seahorses off the southwest coast of Britain.
Irena, the international renewable energy agency based in Abu Dhabi, reports that the uptake of power from green sources has never been greater.
In Europe, more countries ran for longer using non-fossil energy sources during the economic hibernation enforced by coronavirus than at any other period in the timeline of our development.
Yes, as World Environment Day rolls around this year, there is a clear message that we can make a positive impact on our planet by changing our ways. If there is one positive from this pandemic, it might be that we have been given time to reflect on our actions.
And we are being presented with an opportunity to embrace change now. As we renew our economies, let us embrace the environment too. We have a rare opportunity to change things for the better. Our future must be green.