World Environment Day: Time is running out

World Environment Day: Time is running out
World Environment Day: Time is running out

The earth, the air, the land and the water are not an inheritance from our fore fathers but on loan from our children. So we have to handover to them at least as it was handed over to us. – Mahatma Gandhi.

This quote clearly emphasize the relevance of environment as well as the importance of adopting sustainable practices in conserving the environment for future generations. This filial allegiance confirms that nature and humanity have evolved together. The term “environment” refers to the interrelationship of the elements of water, air, and land as well as their effects on people, other living things, plants, animals, microorganisms, and property. In general, it refers to the totality of all the living and non-living factors and their influence on human life. The Vedas teach that all of us (every creature of nature), especially humans (because we are the ones who are outwardly conscious), must maintain cordial relationships with all elements of nature. The Vedas declare that while the attitude of indulgence and satisfaction towards nature is not forbidden, it should be restrained. No quantity can ever be enough to satisfy our greed, so we must just take and enjoy what we need. Mahatma Gandhi himself was an advocate of this.

The basic concept is to approach cosmic existence in a mutually beneficial way. To put it another way, we must treat nature with reverence and not only as a resource. Everything that humans have ever needed to survive and thrive has been available in the natural world around us, including food, water, medicine, materials for shelter, and even natural cycles like nutrient and climatic cycles. Although the growth of industry and technology may have temporarily separated us from nature, it hasn’t changed how much we rely on it. Over the past few decades, environmental degradation has become a “common concern” for humanity. The unique feature of the current environmental issues is that human activity contributes to them more than natural activities. Economic expansion and mindless consumption are beginning to have negative impacts on “Mother Nature”.

A global event known as World Environment Day is observed every year on June 5th to promote action for the preservation and conservation of the environment. Environment Day in 2023 is a perfect opportunity to consider our impact on the environment and mobilize group efforts for a sustainable future as the globe deals with urgent environmental challenges. A different nation hosts World Environment Day every year, where official events take place. In collaboration with the Netherlands, Côte d’Ivoire will host World Environment Day in 2023. Côte d’Ivoire is taking the lead in the fight against plastic pollution. It has prohibited the use of plastic bags since 2014 in order to encourage the transition to reusable packaging. Abidjan, the largest city in the nation, has developed into a centre for start-ups that value the environment. The Government of the Netherlands, one of the nations adopting ambitious action along the plastic lifecycle, will support World Environment Day this year. It has signed the Global Commitment on the New Plastics Economy and is a participant in the Global Partnership on Plastic Pollution and Marine Litter.

The UN General Assembly proclaimed June 5 as World Environment Day (WED) in 1972. WED was created as a result of a meeting of world leaders to examine how to increase public awareness of environmental protection. The first-ever WED was then observed two years later with the theme “Only One Earth.” WED has evolved over the years into a forum for bringing attention to environmental issues like food security, sea level rise, illegal wildlife trade, air pollution, plastic pollution, and sustainable consumption. WED also encourages changes in national and international environmental policies as well as consumption habits. The potential of environment Day to unite individuals from many origins and cultures for a shared goal is one of the key contributing aspects to its success on a global scale.

On June 5, celebrations might range from political activism and public rallies to educational activities and neighbourhood clean-ups. NGOs, governments, communities, people, charities, organisations, and celebrities all participate in WED to spread awareness of environmental issues. There are many ways to mark World Environment Day, including tree-planting ceremonies, concerts, conventions, and parades. Clean-up programmes are also popular and will be prominent this year. Natural environmental colours are frequently used in the creation of promotional materials for the day. Worldwide, more than 430 million tonnes of plastic are produced each year, half of which are intended for single-use applications. Less than ten percent of that is recycled. Every year, 19–23 million tonnes are thought to make their way into lakes, rivers, and oceans. Microplastics, which are minute pieces of plastic with a diameter of up to 5 mm, are present in food, water, and the atmosphere. Each person on the earth is thought to consume more than 50,000 plastic particles annually, and much more if inhalation is taken into account. World Environment Day, which this year celebrates its 50th anniversary, will highlight ways to combat plastic pollution under the hashtag and campaign slogan #BeatPlasticPollution.

Single-use plastic that is thrown away or burnt pollutes every ecosystem, from the summits of mountains to the bottom of the ocean, and is harmful to human health and biodiversity. Governments, businesses, and other stakeholders must step up and accelerate efforts to address this catastrophe in light of the science and solutions currently available. This demonstrates the significance of this World Environment Day in inspiring transformative action across the globe. Due to the world’s inability to keep up with the world’s exponentially rising production of disposable plastic goods, plastic pollution has emerged as one of the most urgent environmental challenges. In developing Asian and African countries with ineffective or non-existent garbage collection systems, plastic pollution is particularly evident. But even in the developed countries, particularly in nations with poor recycling rates, it can be difficult to adequately collect scrap plastic.

According to a recent analysis by Un-Plastic Collective, India produces 46 million tonnes of plastic garbage each year, of which 43% is used for packaging and 40% is left uncollected, the majority of which is single-use plastic. Plastic is basically a polymeric substance, which means that it has very massive molecules that frequently resemble long chains comprised of an apparently unlimited number of interconnecting links. Because they are essentially non-biodegradable, manmade plastics tend to linger in natural environments. Additionally, a lot of lightweight single-use plastic items and packaging—which make up about 50% of all plastics produced—are not placed in containers to be later taken to landfills, recycling facilities, or incinerators. Instead, they are carelessly discarded at or close to the spot where they no longer serve the needs of the consumer. In many places of the world, plastic packaging has become a common hazard in the landscape. In fact, the main cause is negligence. The main cause behind all this scenario is negligence.

In reality. 80% of marine litter is thought to originate from land. Most of this pollution is caused by poorly recycled household waste that is either left in landfills or left to rot in the environment. The winds and rains carry this trash into streams, rivers, and seas, where it eventually ends up. The receiving body for the majority of the plastic trash produced on land is the ocean because it is downstream from almost every point on land. Every year, several million tonnes of garbage, including a large amount of carelessly disposed plastic waste, enter the world’s oceans. Plastic waste has contaminated every area of our earth, from landfills to the oceans, seriously harming ecosystems, wildlife, and public health. The main implications of plastic pollution are:

  1. Effect on economy: Revenue from tourism is negatively impacted by plastic waste along the shoreline. For instance, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands are threatened by plastic and are dealing with an aesthetic problem as a result of foreigners dumping plastic waste there.
  2. Effect on animals: The confinement of animals in nets or other big detritus is the most obvious consequence of plastic pollution. It is a significant factor in the deaths of birds, turtles, and marine animals. Ingestion is a second direct effect that affects the entire marine ecosystem’s food chain. The harmful compounds in the plastics may also endanger the animal’s critical organs or biological processes. Plastic pollution poses a grave threat to marine life and terrestrial ecosystems alike. Millions of tons of plastic waste are dumped into the world’s oceans annually, endangering marine creatures through entanglement and ingestion. From sea turtles and dolphins to seabirds and fish, the toll on wildlife is devastating.
  3. Effect on environment: Multiple possibilities exist for this plastic waste to be a source of chemical contamination. They contain substances that, when consumed by living things, can chemically. They include substances that, when consumed, can chemically transfer to living things. Some of these substances have the potential to be harmful and can build up inside the body. Additionally, because plastic bags impede the process of photosynthesis in agricultural areas, they also have an impact on crop development. Plastics that are disposed of in landfills leach hazardous chemicals into the ground when it rains. Leaching chemicals and harmful substances seep into aquifers and the water table and consequently have an indirect impact on groundwater quality. Many aquatic animals are being negatively impacted by alarming incidences of plastic waste floating on water surfaces in lakes and oceans. When marine animals consume the harmful substances, it has terrible effects on them. According to a United Nations study from 2014, the annual cost of plastic pollution to the oceans is projected to be US$13 billion.
  4. Effect on human population: Plastics may be detrimental to human health because of the chemical additives employed in their manufacture. In fact, exposure to harmful chemicals released by plastic can result in cancer, birth deformities, weakened immunity, and other medical issues. Chemicals including polybrominated diphenyl ether (anti-androgen), bisphenol A (mimics the natural female hormone oestrogen), and phthalates (also known as anti-androgens) are leached from plastics and have an effect on human health, causing different hormonal and genetic diseases. These substances can seriously harm young children and women of reproductive age by interfering with thyroid hormone and endocrine system function.
  5. Effect on ecosystems: Additionally, species can be transported by plastic waste, which could broaden the range of some marine animals or introduce new species to areas where they were not previously present. The environment of the area may subsequently change as a result of this.

Keeping in mind the various harmful effects of plastic pollution, several global initiatives to combat plastic pollution have picked up momentum as people, governments, and businesses are urged to act jointly in the direction of a sustainable future. A global convention being negotiated by the United Nations has been attempted as a result of how ubiquitous plastic waste has become. The United Nations Environment Assembly passed a resolution in 2022 with the goal of wrapping up the negotiations by the end of 2024 to create a legally enforceable instrument on plastic pollution, including in the marine environment. At the end of May 2023, the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee’s second meeting (INC-2) conducted in Paris. The instrument must be built on a thorough strategy that considers  entire life cycle of plastic. Since the Paris Agreement, this multinational environmental agreement is of the utmost importance. It is a form of insurance for both the current and next generations, allowing them to coexist with plastic without being doomed by it. . We must work together to preserve our environment if we want to safeguard our health, our families, and our way of life. This can be accomplished by stepping up efforts to address the legacy of plastic pollution as well as three major shifts: reuse, recycling, reorient and diversify. Recycling plastic reduces the amount of plastic that ends up in rivers and oceans, protecting ecosystems and conserving natural resources. Reorienting and diversifying the market means moving it towards sustainable plastic substitutes, which calls for a change in consumer demand, legislative frameworks, and cost structures. For example: Use of bio-plastics as an affordable replacement for plastic Plastic waste minimization is the most favoured method of managing waste. Many countries around the world have made commitments in  reducing the amount of plastic being produced and used. Govt. of India has also decided to discontinue the manufacture, import, stocking, distribution, sale and use of identified single-use plastic (SUP) . Expanded Producer Responsibility (EPR), correct labelling, and the collection of compostable and biodegradable plastics, while easing the deadline for the use of biodegradable plastic, will all help to strengthen the effort to reduce waste. Develop cutting-edge technology, such as the use of additives to transform polymers like polypropylene and polyethylene into biodegradable polyolefins. Apart from all these measures the most important way is to raise awareness. By making people aware about  the harms, implications and alternatives, one can contribute to save the  environment at an individual level.

Conclusion: Time is running out, and nature is in a state of emergency. In the absence of action, by the year 2040, the amount of plastic waste entering aquatic environments will nearly triple. Global cooperation is needed from people, governments, and corporations to combat plastic pollution. Plastic pollution has too severe a negative impact on our world and its inhabitants to be ignored. We can contribute towards a future free of plastic by putting new ideas into practice, assisting international projects, and making thoughtful decisions every day. Let’s get unite and act decisively to preserve the environment for upcoming generations.



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World Environment Day: Time is running out