UN SDG 15: Life on land
A flourishing life on land is the foundation for life on this planet. We are all part of the planet’s ecosystem and we have caused severe damage to it through deforestation, loss of natural habitats and land degradation. Promoting a sustainable use of our ecosystem and preserving biodiversity is not a cause. It is the key to our survival.
In our race for development, we are tearing up the land, cutting down trees, damning rivers and causing untold damage to the world we live in. The consequences of these actions are coming home to roost now. We are not only endangering other forms of life that live on this planet, but our own too.
UN SDG 15 – Life on Land aims to ‘protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.’
Our life on land is linked to all the species and forms of life around us. The furore around the decline of the bee population is a prime example. Scientists have found that bee populations are endangered. Why is this a cause for concern? BBC Future points out that bees are ‘critical pollinators: they pollinate 70 of the around 100 crop species that feed 90% of the world. Honey bees are responsible for $30 billion a year in crops’. Their demise has a ripple effect on several other ecosystems. The plants they pollinate would be in danger. Many fruits and vegetables would not grow because they are largely dependent on bees for pollination. Britannica states that ‘the availability and diversity of fresh produce would decline substantially, and human nutrition would suffer.’ Bees are largely going extinct due to the rise in temperatures on Earth, destruction of their natural habitats and increase in chemicals used in pesticides and fertilizers. Human activity has contributed to most of these factors, and a change in our practices would go a long way in improving outcomes for not just bees but many forms of life.
Those who work in this area find that even small, consistent steps show sustained results over time. The Better India features the story of a Jharkhand IAS officer who changed the landscape of a 5,000 hectare area of forest thanks to his vision and dedication. He worked with village and tribal communities on reforestation, forest augmentation activities and increasing groundwater tables. They monitored the forest for signs of growth. He provided them with training in livelihoods based on beekeeping and bamboo handicrafts to reduce their dependence on cutting and selling timber. Gradually, their efforts paid off. Four years after they began, the forest has lakhs of new plants and has seen a return of wild animals and natural water streams that had died off.
Afroz Shaikh has been cleaning up beaches in Mumbai for the past several years. Afroz was joined by volunteers from all over the city who connected with his mission. By 2018, they had cleaned up 20 million kgs of trash from Versova beach. The before and after pictures of the beach are a treat to see. What’s more, they found Olive Ridley turtles hatching on the beach, something that had not happened for decades. Volunteers slept overnight on the beach to make sure the turtles could hatch without being preyed on. A sure sign that nature was healing!
Individuals like Dr. Vandana Shiva, Biplab Deb, Sangita Sharma and others are focused on protecting and preserving heirloom varieties of seeds that have been around for hundreds of years. Dr. Prabhakar Rao states that ‘If you went to the market a 100 years ago, you could choose from 544 cabbage varieties, 480 types of peas, nearly 408 tomato species and over 341 pumpkins and squash species.’ Agriculture is also moving from high-yielding monocrops to more biodiverse crops that help the soil and offer health benefits to the ecosystem. Biodiversity in plants and soil makes crops resilient, helps mitigate the effects of climate change draw on indigenous and traditional forms of cultivation.
You can view NGOs who support the SDG Goal of protecting Life on Land on HelpYourNGO’s website. Animal rescue and welfare organizations like Thane SPCA, Plant and Animals Welfare Society and Vidyanagar Nature Club rescue and rehabilitate animals in distress. The provide a crucial service without which those animals would have suffered without assistance.
Let’s join hands, individually and jointly, to improve conditions for all forms of life on Earth. We can do a lot more together than alone!
PS: You can read our blogs on the other UN Sustainable Development Goals here.
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