Cultivating Sustainability: a Call-to-Action on Earth Day and beyond
FS-UNEP Centre / 2 May 2023
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Project Coordinator
Arturo Martinez Oest works at the Frankfurt School-UNEP Collaborating Centre as a Project Coordinator and has a background in finance and economics. His current areas of expertise include climate and sustainable finance, ESG strategies and renewable energy. He holds a Master of Science in International Economics and Public Policy from Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz and a Bachelor’s in Finance and Management from the Universidad Panamericana.

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Besides being a good day to post pictures of ourselves hugging trees and pretending to be one with nature while doing online shopping to get the most fashionable and “original” synthetic clothes, Earth Day is a day that reminds each one of us of our duty to protect the planet and ensure a sustainable future for generations to come. It is a day that serves as a call to action to rethink our relationship with the environment and take steps towards a more sustainable and fairer world. But it should not be a reminder only every 22 April, but daily.

One of the key concepts that Earth Day promotes is sustainability. It means living in a way that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Sustainability requires not only a shift towards renewable and clean energy sources to reduce waste and carbon emissions but also a need to step away from the current model of unbridled consumption and resource depletion, pursuing profits and growth.

The importance of biodiversity

And let’s not forget about the consciousness of nature and humans. We need to start thinking about our relationship with the natural world and how we can live in harmony with the planet. It means treating other species with respect and recognising the importance of biodiversity in maintaining a healthy and resilient planet. It’s time to realise that we’re not above the natural world but rather a part of it. We are not the only species on the planet and are not entitled to exploit and destroy the natural world for our own benefit. We need to recognise that we are part of a larger ecosystem and that our actions have consequences for all living beings. The COVID-19 pandemic has reminded us of the fragility and interconnectedness of the natural world and the importance of protecting it. Therefore, to create a sustainable future, we need to adopt a more holistic approach that recognises the value of ecosystems and promotes their conservation.

However, achieving sustainability and consciousness of nature and humans will require significant changes to our economic models and growth plans. The pursuit of endless economic progress and capital gains has led us down a dangerous path of environmental destruction and social inequality. The current capitalist way of living is driven by the pursuit of infinite growth, economic development and “progress,” which is unsustainable in the long run because of the fundamental physical limits. It may be crazy and unrealistic for some of us, but we need to adopt de-growth and redistribution strategies and prioritise human and environmental well-being and social equity over greed and profit, and that means making some uncomfortable changes to our lifestyles and economic systems. Luckily, changes are seen through implementing environmental regulations, promoting sustainable practices and developing alternative economic models such as the circular economy.

The step in the right direction

The role of this decade is critical in shaping the future and achieving climate goals. We need to take immediate and decisive actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, transition to renewable energy sources and protect vulnerable communities from the impacts of climate change. The recent commitments made by governments and some businesses towards net-zero emissions are a step in the right direction. However, more needs to be done to ensure that these commitments are met and that we can still successfully remind future generations about the importance of the place where we, as human beings, are only guests.

Earth Day serves as a reminder that we have a responsibility to protect the planet and ensure a sustainable future for all. We need to prioritise sustainability, consciousness of nature and humans and adopt economic strategies to challenge the current way of living. By doing so, we can adopt new economic models that prioritise the well-being of people and the planet and implement practices that promote environmental protection, social equity and financial viability. The role of this decade in shaping the future and achieving climate goals cannot be overstated, and we must act now to ensure a sustainable future for generations with 365 Earth Days to come.