The Pointer will cover the 10 themes of The United Nations Decade of Restoration throughout 2022. The global movement was launched with the goal of inspiring initiatives that restore damage done to the planet—work that is necessary in order to achieve climate change targets aimed at limiting catastrophic global temperature increase.
The United Nations calls it the Decade of Restoration.
A 10-year plan is needed to not only stop the ongoing destruction and harm being done to continents around the world, but also to try to press the rewind key; reverse the damage caused by years of decision-making which paid little attention to the devastating environmental consequences. Because of the human impact on Earth, it is impossible to solve the climate crisis through sustainable management and protection measures alone. We must turn back Earth’s planetary clock.
“The planet’s degraded ecosystems and the huge benefits that they provide must also be restored,” reads the #GenerationRestoration reportThe United Nations Environment Programme, (UNEP)
It is difficult to comprehend what has been lost on a global scale.
Since 1700, 87 percent have disappeared from inland wetlands
Climate change could see the end of one-third off all animal species worldwide by 2070.
humans have altered more than 70 percent of Earth’s ice-free land, about a quarter of that is subject to degradation
Extreme heat already kills approximately 5,000,000 people each year. Climate change will increase the frequency of heat waves and their severity, increasing the death toll.
across the globe, humans raze approximately 10 million hectares of forest every year, that’s an area larger than the state of Maine.
The world has lost more coral reefs than half of its original 50-year-old coral reefs. Coral reefs are vital for ocean biodiversity and around half a billion people depend on them for income, food, and protection from erosion.
Each of these blows to the Earth’s land, water or air is a potential domino that, if toppled, will lead to what climate change scientists call “cascading risks”.
For example, the loss of forests causes a loss in their ability to pull carbon out of the atmosphere. This leads to more warming and all the disastrous consequences that follow.
Jenga is a game where too many foundational blocks are removed and the tower begins to wobble. It’s possible to go on for quite a while, but we all know the end.
Earth is currently wobbling.
Destruction versus restoration. The United Nations Decade of Restoration aims to reverse the trend of years of unchecked human growth that has led to a terrible ecological cost.
(Graphic From The Pointer/Images From Wikimedia Commons)
We keep going, with very few meaningful commitments coming from our elected leaders. Many of the above-mentioned degradations are not only ongoing but also accelerating.
“The massive economic growth of recent decades has come at the cost of ecological health,” the UNEP report says.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), was established in August last year. Unconventional report released that detailed how many of the most feared impacts of climate change—things many people believe are the problems of the next generation—They are actually closer than you think.
The report was labelled a “code red for humanity” by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.
“The alarm bells are deafening and the evidence is irrefutable,” Guterres said. “Global heating is affecting every region on Earth, with many of the changes becoming irreversible.”
The report described how the Earth was dangerously close to 1.5 degrees of temperature increase from preindustrial temperatures, which the scientific consensus considers the threshold to extreme climate impacts.
It’s a threshold 196 countries vowed to avoid when signing the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. It’s a threshold that, if passed, will disproportionately impact the world’s most vulnerable people.
There is a growing number of climate change experts who believe we have already blown past the ability to prevent 1.5 degrees, and if we reach 2 degrees of increase… it will be a near doomsday scenario.
Many of the countries that signed the legally binding Paris Agreement failed to reduce their emissions over the years. In fact, many have seen their greenhouse gas emissions rise.
Canada, a country known worldwide for its beautiful natural landscapes, cherished by those who live here, and with a Prime Minister who has said “climate action can’t wait”, was the worst of the G7 countries. This is a clear example of the disconnect between policy implementation and actual results. The Alberta Tar Sands and other harmful features of our economy continue receiving the support of all levels.
Ottawa has shown a lackluster vision in enacting policies that will protect both the environment and workers who rely upon the current energy economy.
The largest contributor to GHG increases is Ontario, Canada’s most populous region. Premier Doug Ford and his PC party have shown themselves to be ardently anti-environment, and over nearly four years in government have dismantled much of Ontario’s legislation put in place to protect the environment and fight climate change.
After being elected in 2018, Ford immediately axed a number of renewable energy projects—spending $230 million of taxpayer dollars to do so—and cancelled the Province’s subsidy for electric vehicles, causing sales of these green automobiles in the car-dependent province to plummet.
Doug Ford PCs do not consider the climate crisis a priority.
Peel’s local municipalities are also affected by this neglect of the fates of our planet.
Brampton has been a vocal advocate for climate change for over five years. The City pledges to reduce emissions by 80 percent below 2016 levels by 2020, and declared a Climate Emergency in 2019. The emergency declaration was made at the same meeting that councillors supported the GTA West Highway. Environmental Defence claims this PC project would add 17 million tonnes of CO2 to the atmosphere by 2050. Recently, councillors had the chance to reverse their support of this project which actively goes against their climate emergency declaration. The motion to reconsider support didn’t even make it to the floor.
“So much for our path to a sustainable Brampton,” Councillor Doug Whillans tweeted after his motion was defeated. The motion was defeated by the council members, including Mayor Patrick Brown. They offered no explanation for their actions.
Brampton also failed to fulfill its ambitious Grow Green Master Plan. On target to achieve only 3 of the 20 goals set out in the six years after its introduction.
In 2022, the City will spend more to repair a single street than it will for its entire road network. All of its climate initiatives together.
The City of Mississauga is a neighboring city. The climate emergency deserves special attentionIn recent years, however old attitudes have continued to hinder real change.
“We’re all going to take transit, walk and crunch our granola bars as we skateboard to Square One—that’s never happened, it’s not going to happen, it’s utter nonsense,” George Carlson, Ward 11 Councillor and Chair of the Planning and Development Committee, Last yearDuring a discussion to limit the number parking spaces developers were required include in new condo developments.
Guterres, in October, addressed this gap between the promises of world leaders and their actions.
The UN Emissions Gap Report showed that even with the bold pledges from the world’s largest countries, including Canada and the United States, to reach net-zero by 2050, the world was still on track to see a global temperature increase of 2.7 degrees. This will lead to serious problems.
“The emissions gap is the result of a leadership gap,” Guterres said.
“Climate change is no longer a future problem. It is a now problem,” stated Inger Andersen, executive director of the UNEP in a press release. “To stand a chance of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees we have eight years to half emissions, eight years to make the plans, put in place the policies, implement them and ultimately deliver the cuts. The clock is ticking loudly.”
This is where the Decade of Restoration steps in. At first glance, it appears that much of the global initiative has little to do the Region of Peel.
Conserving coral reefs and oceans Peel is located thousands miles away from the closest ocean. What does this have to offer Peelers?
They are calls for action. Initiatives to save the oceans and their coral reefs are already being implemented. The same goes for desertification prevention and rainforest preservation. All these projects add weight to the climate scales, which will gradually reduce emissions. Any country that doesn’t do the same is doing the exact opposite.
A selection of initiatives already underway as part of the Decade of Restoration.
“Ecosystems can not keep up with our demands,” a UNEP report states. “The restoration of ecosystems at scale is not a small task, and it will take a concerted effort to truly restore the planet.”
Peel may not be home to oceans or rainforests but it does have Lake Ontario and watersheds that provide water. iHumans and wildlife receive a lot of valuable services. It has farmland which must be protected from aggregate extraction, sprawl, and the construction of unnecessary highways. It needs to be cleaned up by waterways, Transportation systems to be upgraded, Buildings to be retrofittedResearchers to be supported, and a large population of nearly 1.6 million people to become empowered to make positive changes in their daily lives for the betterment of the planet.
“This is an endeavour that no single entity can undertake alone,” the UNEP report lays out.
The 10-year strategy details 10 “actions” to deliver on the vision of restoring the planet. These 10 actions will be The Pointer’s starting point for 10 stories that The Pointer will publish throughout 2022. They will be published on the last day in the first 10 months. These stories will feature local ambassadors to the climate. They will analyze Peel’s climate and environmental plans to determine what is working. The Pointer will also travel with researchers to take a closer look at the frontline efforts. save the world’s vulnerable species and their habitatsCelebrate community leaders who are actively working to make an impact, and talk to local families about how they are trying reduce their carbon footprint to pass on a way for living that is more connected with the natural world.
All of these stories are meant to localize the grand visions of the United Nations Decade of Restoration, and drive home not only that climate change is here—Peel is warming twice the global average.—and impacting the Region of Peel, but empower local residents with the knowledge that changes they can make will actually result in significant positive outcomes.
In fact, the first “action” of the decade is “empowering a global movement.”
“The UN Decade’s overarching goal is to stop and reverse the destruction and degradation of billions of hectares of ecosystems. It is a daunting task. It is even more difficult given the diversity of ecosystems and the threats they face: from lush forests being destroyed by land-grabbers, wildfires, and agricultural soils that are so eroded they may not be able to sustain a few years more of harvests. No single entity can steer the course in this endeavour,” the UN’s website states. “The UN Decade is therefore intended to connect and empowerrThe actions of the many. Individuals and groups alike can learn about restoration opportunities in the area. They can join an initiative already underway or start their own.”
Peel’s grassroots organizations will make a significant contribution to promoting change.
According to Divya Ara, one the founders of Peel’s Community Climate Council, Peel, people are already looking to help.
“We actually realized there is a lot more appetite for engagement at the local level that already existed and we were essentially filling a gap rather than creating a movement from scratch,” Arora says of forming the Community Climate Council in January of 2020. “We feel like a part of building that engagement really came from tying the community together and we hope to do that through more on the ground projects, doing outdoor hikes with the communities, people of all ages, just get them involved and immersed in the local environment that they live in.”
In the same way as climate change impacts are interconnected and snowball on one another like deadly avalanches, efforts to ignite changes can also work in the same way.
Fostering a community that cares about the space residents inhabit, as they begin seeing the trees, birds, and greenspaces outside their door as more than just nature’s simple pleasures, but as valuable assets in the climate fight—can create a population that is willing to push back against harms to these threatened natural wonders.
It is more difficult for politicians to ignore climate change if a community places priority on it.
“In order to get these politicians to do the right thing so to speak in terms of climate action, it really is a matter of garnering enough support from local residents,” says LJ Prabaharan, a volunteer with the Community Climate Council. “We can stand up there and argue with them all day or make demands of them all day, but ultimately they’re going to vote the way their constituents want and we need to ensure that their constituents understand the importance of climate action so they can put the pressure on them and really make them vote in a more green and sustainable way.”
Prabaharan (both in their 20s) and Arora (both in their 20s), find it difficult to consider the existential crisis that climate changes will cause.
Gen Z is the least responsible for the decisions that led to the current crisis. However, their members are at greatest risk as they will inherit the worst climate impacts in the coming years.
They both know that even with extreme action, things can only get worse before they get better. We’ve put so much carbon into the atmosphere, that a certain degree of warming is already locked in, along with the negative impacts it brings.
Arora has a vision in her mind of a time when the problems of today—mass extinction, rising sea levels, extreme weather—are a thing of the past, and humans have figured out a way to live in harmony with the Earth and its natural resources.
“I know that the reason I’m working towards this is because I can picture what’s on the other side and that’s what my motivator is to keep working,” she says. “If we can at least retain a portion of that vision that I have in my mind, I think that’s the vision that keeps me working.”
Arora and the other members of Council met with local elected officials from the GTA during 2021 to encourage them to make climate change a priority.
“We’ve sort of been patiently impatient where we know that policy change takes a really long time to occur and it’s not going to happen overnight, but at the same time if we don’t keep pushing our politicians towards that change then it might just not ever happen,” she says.
Bob Bowles is an award-winning naturalist who teaches the Master Naturalist Program at Lakehead University, Orillia. He says that many young people are beginning to understand the importance of the climate crisis. This is empowering them and allowing them to take action to stop further destruction of the planet.
“They don’t want that and they are going to be the politicians of tomorrow. I see a light at the end of the tunnel for when they get there, but what are we going to lose or what are we going to leave for them?” he says. “My generation failed, the generation after that failed, very few people my age actually understand or care about the environment.”
Bob Bowles, a master naturalist, looks forward to the day when green-conscious youth will take over leadership positions.
(Photo courtesy of the Master Naturalists Program/Lakehead University).
It’s something federal and provincial governments have been taken to court over, several times, as groups of youth have filed lawsuits against Ottawa for its failure to properly address the climate crisis—arguing the inaction to halt climate catastrophe is a violation of the Charter rights of young people.
It’s a clear sign that despite what politicians may think, people are empowered, and taking action to make change in their communities.
The United Nations states that widespread restoration efforts must be supported. This will require a fundamental shift of our relationship with nature.
“Humanity is not outside of nature; it is part of it. We need to recreate a balanced relationship with the ecosystems that sustain us,” the UNEP report reminds us.
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