Happy Earth Day to all!
Today, we mark the 53rd anniversary of Earth Day, a moment where millions of people across the world pause to recognise the state of our planet, raise awareness for environmental issues and advocate for the continued protection of this world and its inhabitants.
This year’s theme, “Invest in Our Planet,” urges us to understand the importance of committing time, resources and energy to addressing these issues. This call comes at an extremely critical time. But unfortunately, the reality is we have been living in a critical time for a while now.
Each month, each week, each day, we see, hear or feel the effects of the climate crisis and other environmental challenges. Since the last Earth Day, we saw historic floods in Australia, Brazil, South Africa, Pakistan, and Nigeria. In our own region, our neighbours in Belize and St Lucia were also seriously impacted by catastrophic flooding.
Meanwhile, Europe experienced a heatwave that officials estimate was responsible for the deaths of over 20 000 people in three months, east Africa experienced what experts described as the worst drought in 40 years. And this year, Cyclone Freddy became the longest lasting hurricane ever on record, lasting an incredible five weeks.
Right now, here in our own island Barbados, marine environment and beaches are being impacted by what has now become an annual Sargassum Seaweed invasion, while our coastline and aquifers are threatened by sea level rise. Harsh dry seasons bring wildfires which scorch the earth, while drought-like conditions exacerbate the pre-existing challenges we face as it relates to water scarcity; and all of this is happening while the Atlantic Hurricane Season looms, officially starting in six weeks.
At the same time, despite ongoing global efforts, biodiversity is deteriorating worldwide at rates never before seen in human history. We see it here too in Barbados with the decrease in the numbers of cobblers and other wildlife in our oceans. It is for that reason at last year’s COP15, nations committed to reduce threats to biodiversity with major commitments, such as protecting 30% of our planet’s land and sea area by 2030, reducing the rate of introduction of invasive species by half, and reducing pesticides by two-thirds.
Friends, the evidence is there. These are extremely challenging times for the earth. These are challenging times for Barbados.
In order for us to become the best version of ourselves and embark on this Mission Transformation, we must first ensure our island is protected and preserved. Investing in this planet starts right here at home, by investing in Barbados.
The Government of Barbados is committed to this cause. I salute the work of the Ministry of Environment and National Beautification and its departments for all they continue to do in the name of protecting and preserving our environment and encouraging the sustainable use of our resources.
We have taken major strides in environmental protection of our terrestrial and marine environment. The establishment of the Barbados Blue Bond initiative, which will help us protect up to 30% of our marine ecosystems is testament to this.
But it must go further. Investing in our island is a job for every single one of us. It means we must value and protect our natural surroundings, the beaches, the ocean, the gullies, and the hills. It means actively engaging in conservation efforts, waste management, and recycling practices to preserve the pristine beauty of Barbados’ environment. It means focusing on locally sourced food, including fruits, vegetables, and meats, which promotes sustainable agriculture and reduces the carbon footprint associated with imported goods.
Having a commitment to a clean and healthy environment extends beyond Earth Day, as we must understand the importance of long-term investment in our island for the benefit of current and future generations.
On the global level, I continue to call on the world’s powers to invest in our planet, supporting the Bridgetown Initiative and the push for the reformation of the international financial system, so we can finance climate resilience and help millions of people in Small Island Developing States across the world have a fighting chance in the midst of the climate crisis.
Yes, today is that day for us all to recognise the important task we have before us in saving our planet. But we cannot save it, unless we invest in it first. Join me today, in whatever way you can, and show that you care for our planet by showing that you care for your beloved country Barbados.
In this vast universe, there is only one earth. And on this one earth, there is only one Barbados. Let’s invest in it.