World Environment Day is the most renowned day for environmental action. Since 1974, it has been celebrated every year on June 5th, engaging governments, businesses, celebrities and citizens to focus their efforts on a pressing environmental issue. In 2020, the theme is biodiversity, a concern that is both urgent and existential. Recent events, from bushfires in Brazil, the United States and Australia, to locust infestations across East Africa – and now, a global disease pandemic – demonstrate the interdependence of humans and the webs of life in which they exist. Nature is sending us a message.
To mark World Environment Day 2020, Elsevier presents a curated collection of 62 journal articles and book chapters devoted to biodiversity and humanity’s intimate interconnection with nature.
This special issue demonstrates how nature responds to some of the most pressing challenges faced by humans today. It provides us with oxygen, purifies the water we drink, ensures fertile soil, and produces the variety of foods we require to stay healthy and resist disease. It enables medical researchers to understand human physiology; and offers substance for developing medicines. It is the foundation of most industries and livelihoods. It even helps mitigate the impact of climate change by storing carbon and regulating local rainfall. Life on earth would not be possible without nature’s services. It is our greatest common good.
But with our increasing demands, humans have pushed nature beyond its limit. In the last 50 years, the human population has doubled; the global economy has almost quadrupled and global trade has increased by about ten times. It would take 1.6 Earths to meet the demands that humans make of nature each year.
As part of our SDG Impact of COVID-19 podcast series, RELX’s Global Head of Corporate Responsibility, Dr Márcia Balisciano, spoke to Dr Sam Scheiner, Editor-in-Chief of the Encyclopedia of Biodiversity. As discussed during this episode, the emergence of COVID-19 has underscored the fact that, when we destroy biodiversity, we destroy the system that supports human life. By upsetting the delicate balance of nature, we have created ideal conditions for pathogens – including coronaviruses – to spread.
If we don’t take care of nature, we can’t take care of ourselves. It's time to work together #ForNature.