We welcome the year 2022 with right zeal and positivity with the hope that the New Year ushers in better life and health for all. However, a healthy life is only possible in a healthy environment. And, let us face it, our biosphere is getting worse with every passing year. Year 2021 had wreaked havoc upon it and if we do not understand where we went wrong, this year might hammer in the last nail. We will have to realise that in a world governed by economics, we have failed to acknowledge the value of Nature. It provides us with indispensable resources, yet is bizarrely free to overdraw from. Its services range from air, water, food, and medicine to other less obvious things like climate regulation and natural flood defenses provided by forests. In many cases, damaging or changing the environment is considered no more than a side-effect of business activities. Biodiversity has suffered wherever we went. Today, it has developed into one of our biggest environmental problems, with animal populations in critical state. Globally, all monitored populations have declined by an average 68% since 1975, but some regions are in a far more critical state. The main cause of decline worldwide is land-use change, i.e., when we convert habitats like forests, mangroves or grasslands into agricultural systems. 10,000 years ago, around the start of agriculture, forests used to cover 57% of all habitable land. Since then, we've lost a third, much of it replaced by crops or grazing land. Far more critical is the rate of loss of primary forests that have remained untouched for millennia. New forests are not able to build up such biodiversity without centuries to do so, nor are they able to capture and store carbon so densely. Agriculture has since become the principal type of land usage on Earth: nearly 50% of all habitable land has become either crop or pasture. The bulk of its growth came after the Industrial Revolution around 1780. The amount of environmental destruction necessary for such land change could be one of our biggest environmental problems on its own, but there's more. It also emits about a third of all human-caused greenhouse gas emissions. Sustainable food production is one of the biggest challenges ahead. Then, ironically, the amount of food going waste is equivalent to roughly 1.3 billion tons, which is enough to feed 3 billion people. While the number of undernourished people has been decreasing, there remain over 650 million worldwide. As explained above, we have a food surplus that is going to waste, and we need to do a better job of directing it toward places in need. From here we can point out that market incentives for post-use processing haven't kept up with production, resulting in one of the biggest environmental problems of our time: plastic pollution. And with Covid-19, its production has increased manifold, though only part of it is being recycled. So, this problem is still majorly unsolved. Then, air pollution is one of the world's worst killers and India remains in a critical state, with routine smog in its densely populated clusters, affecting millions of people every day. We must point out here that the Earth has a number of carbon emitting and capturing mechanisms that interact to create patterns over long periods of time. Despite large fluctuations in the past, the past 12,000 years have been uncharacteristically stable and temperate, allowing humans to flourish. But since the Industrial Revolution, we have been drawing on longstored carbon reserves, emitting it into the atmosphere far faster and longer than any natural process would. As a result, we are experiencing rapid warming, launching a cascade of effects. Rain patterns change, ice caps melt, sea levels rise, weather extremes become more intense, ecosystems falter and we struggle to adapt. These are some, not all, of the environmental hazards we will have to keep in mind while making policies and launching developmental projects. Weighing pros and cons will be vital if we want to restore our highly ailing ecosystem and environment.
We must make amends this year
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