The National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE) and over 143 countries today celebrate and commemorate World Environment Day on the theme ‘Biodiversity - Time for Nature’. This day provides a powerful platform to accelerate, amplify andengage people, communities and governments around the world to take action on critical environmental challenges facing the planet and biodiversity as a whole.

All over the world, consequences of human activities that negatively impact on nature and ongoing climate crisis have given clear warnings of irreversible environmental degradation in the future if urgent steps are not taken to tackle issues of biodiversity and preservation of the ecosystem. According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), one million animal and plant species are threatened with extinction, due to loss of their natural habitat as a result of the continuous destruction of forest reserves and illegal felling of trees. Unprecedented harvesting of animal parts for economic gains worldwide have been recorded. Natural habitats of animals are being used for real estate development and urbanization. In Ghana, strict measures and policies as well as economic incentives for livelihoods have been formulated for natural resource and biodiversity conservation. These include snail breeding, mushroom farming, and the ban on felling rosewood trees. Certain wetland or Ramsar habitats in Ghana have been designated as crucial for migratory animal life along our coastlines.

However, we continue to witness practices such as illegal mining resulting in the destruction of most of our water bodies, farmlands, forest reserves, and vegetation. Humanity is placing huge pressure on the natural world and these have damaging consequences on our health, lives, and all other living things sharing the planet.

UNEP warns that unless urgent action is taken, more pandemics or epidemics similar to Ebola, SARS, bird flu, and COVID-19 will be discovered. Natural disasters such as floods, bush fires, drought, famine, erosion among others will continually occur if we fail to protect nature.

In 2020, the UNEP advises that measures must be taken to ban animal markets globally. It is believed that when animals are transported over long distances and are crammed together into cages, some with ropes around their necks and displayed in the open sun for hours, they become stressed, immune suppressed, and excrete whatever pathogens they have in them. When people visit these markets in large numbers and come in contact with the body fluids of these animals, it leads to dire consequences. Here in Accra and some major capitals of the country, most of our markets practice the sale of animals in the open. We must put a stop to this urgently.

The air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat, the climate that makes our planet inhabitable are all made available to us by the services that nature and biodiversity perform. Each of us, directly or indirectly, has experienced the havoc unleashed on society by the destruction of nature and we must, therefore, make efforts to help preserve our natural home.

As a people and a nation, protecting the environment must be paramount to us and we must address acts that cause destruction to our current habitat, which include marine pollution, air pollution, water pollution, increasing human population growth, attacks on wildlife, deforestation, illegal mining among others.

The NCCE urges citizens to take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts. The Commission also admonishes Government and relevant institutions to implement policies and strategies whilst enforcing laws on biodiversity conservation. We must remember that it’s our duty as good citizens to protect and safeguard the environment as stated in Article 41(k) of the 1992 Constitution. We must desist from actions that harm and destroy living things, especially our water bodies, marine life, forest reserves, pure air, animal life, and food. Further, with exactly 10 years to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), we must make conscious efforts to contribute towards attaining a safe, sustainable world for posterity. Let us “protect,

restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss” (SDG 15).

Being a responsible citizen means ensuring the conservation of biodiversity and the ecosystem for the benefit of our current and future generations. The time to preserve nature is NOW!

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