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By Carien Grobler

Deputy Digital Editor

Small steps, big impact: Embracing #GenerationRestoration for World Environment Day

"We could be the generation that restore some of our soil and mitigates some of the damage our activities caused.”

Our everyday activities as humans are so significant that they affect the world’s environment, atmosphere, landscape, ecology and climate on a global, and often disruptive scale.

Dr Lize Barclay, senior lecturer in Systems Thinking and Futures Studies at Stellenbosch Business School, says everyone has a role to play in the preservation of the environment.

The slogan for World Environment Day 2024 is: “Our land. Our future. We are #GenerationRestoration”. World Environment Day, which was first celebrated in 1973, is observed by the United Nations (UN) annually to motivate the world to consider the impact of human activities on the environment.

“Since the 1950s the impact of humans on earth has been so significant that our activities influence the cycling of water and sediment. Thus, we are now in what is called the Anthropocene,” she adds.

Restore soil and revive resources

“Land restoration is one of the key pillars of the UN’s Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021 – 2030). This initiative has been established to mobilise the world to protect and revive our ecosystems and take decisive steps in meeting the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s),” explains Barclay.

Barclay notes the need to focus on restoration to prevent further damage to the environment.

“The campaign acknowledges that we are unable to turn back time and prevent the damage that has been done. Yet we could attempt to restore the soil and revive water sources. We could be the generation that restore some of our soil and mitigates some of the damage our activities caused,” she says.

The triple planetary threat

World Environment Day 2024 will shine light on the triple planetary threat of the crisis of nature and biodiversity loss, pollution and waste, and climate change. This has led to damaged ecosystems, leaving almost half of the world’s population affected by the degrading of land. Rural communities, people with low-income and small-scale farmers being the most vulnerable.

Success is not out of reach

“The world has seen success stories of land being restored, deserts being rehabilitated, and soil being enriched. In Africa, the late Wangari Maathai from Kenya founded the Green Belt Movement and motivated Kenyans, especially women, to plant more than 30 million trees,” says Barclay.

“In neighbouring Tanzania, the area of Shinyanga was characterised by desertification. However, a Soil Conservation Initiative since 1986, which also rallied community effort, financial investment and the Indigenous practice of Ngitili, led to dramatic restoration of the land and rehabilitation of the soil. It has also marked success in terms of dryland restoration in various locations.”

Everyone can contribute

Barclay encourages everyone to contribute to World Environment Day by:

  1. Spending 10 minutes outside in nature.
  2. Planting an indigenous tree.
  3. Eating all the vegetables in your fridge drawer to prevent food waste.
  4. Making a broth with kitchen scraps.
  5. Starting a compost bin in your kitchen, which you could then use in your garden or donate.
  6. Sorting your recycling and support waste pickers and informal recyclers in your community.
  7. Exchanging the non-runoff surfaces around your home for permeable paving.
  8. Exchanging your lawns for an organic food garden.
  9. Remembering to take your heap of fabric bags when you go shopping.
  10. Taking your own containers, reusable coffee mug or water bottle when you leave home.
  11. Cleaning up an area, such as a beach, river or next to the road (but ensure your safety).
  12. Going vegan for the day. Rice, beans, lentils, oats and vegetables are all good ingredients for affordable and delicious vegan dishes.
  13. Donating seed packets to community farms.
  14. Buying local and organic.
  15. Telling somebody else about World Environment Day.

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