Today is the Earth Day 2016, a time to stop and think about the planet we live on - and how to save it – and, most importantly, act on it.
Over one billion people across the world mark the event every year by showing their support for environmental protection. Earth Day, first celebrated nearly fifty years ago has become emblematic of the modern environmental movement.
Earth Day, celebrated every year on 22nd of April, encourages people across the world to act friendlier towards the environment. Examples of this include increasing the amount they recycle, volunteering for local green projects or, conserving water or installing solar panels at their homes. It should go without mentioning that biosciences research also holds great potential for making our societies and planet greener. The day is marked by festivals, rallies and outdoor events that are held in nearly 200 countries.
Today, on the 22nd of April 2016, at least 130 countries are also set to sign the Paris Agreement on climate change. This historic agreement, adopted by consensus in the French capital last December, will be deposited at the UN in New York in a bid to get other countries to sign it. It will remain open for signature for one year from this Earth Day. Both China and the United States – currently the world’s top carbon dioxide emitters – have promised to sign the agreement at the UN ceremony on this Earth Day. The agreement is scheduled to come into force in 2020.
The European Commission has stated that the agreement ‘sets out a global action plan to put the world on track to avoid dangerous climate change by limiting global warming to well below 2C’. Its success depends on united efforts by the mankind globally. The effects of climate change are already seen across the globe, and the recent historical drought in Eastern and Southern Africa is only the beginning of things to come if climate change is not slowed down.
The importance of environmental protection and mitigating climate change is also recognized for example in the priorities outlined in the Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy for Africa (STISA-2024). Some important research and innovation areas include agriculture/agronomy in terms of cultivation technique, seeds, soil and climate, environmental protection including climate change studies and biodiversity, the water cycle and river systems, urban waste management, and responsible use of natural resources through effective management contributing to sustainable improvements in communities’ livelihoods.
It goes without saying that these are important building blocks for an integrated and prosperous Africa, contributing towards a better future not only for the continent but also for the whole Earth. Many of the NEPAD-SANBio nodes are involved in research relevant to climate change and environmental conservation and the BioFISA II Programme funds biosciences research especially in the impact areas of health and nutrition, and many of the projects involve significant climate change mitigation and environmental conservation aspects. For example, diversifying the food basket and climate change resistant crops have been some proposed research topics under previous calls for proposals. A SANBio/BioFISA II call for flagship projects is also currently open.
That being said, here are a few ideas of what you could do to help our planet on an individual level:
- Walk to work, use a bicycle or public transport
- Try going meat or dairy free at least once a week; vegetables are good for you and for example beans and legumes (or even insects) offer a good alternative source of protein
- Recycle everything you can
- Avoid using plastic bags – you should take a tote bag to the shop
- Buy local produce – it’s good for the environment and your local community