On Earth Day 2020, the Marbella Club’s head of sustainability projects, Leigh Barrett, shares a personal reflection on what nature is so vividly trying to tell us amidst the chaos and uncertainty of the novel coronavirus.
Covid-19 has just thrown humanity an almighty great curve ball and never before has the concept of Earth Day had such relevance. The pandemic that is sweeping across the globe has been the wake-up call that has forced us all, not only to re-evaluate what is important in life, but also focus on the deep intrinsic connection that exists between human health and planetary wellness.
We have seen from our windows and news reports over the last few months just how quickly ecosystems can bounce back when we give mother nature a well-deserved respite from human activity. Many of us have also realised that once we get through this health crisis and we start to gradually go back to our normal way of life, we as a species cannot afford to become complacent and push our connection with nature to the back of our minds again.
Climate change continues to be the biggest challenge to the future of human civilisation and the diverse ecosystems upon which we depend.
Instead of feeling powerless and depressed about the enormity of the challenge that lies ahead, we should feel positively optimistic and hopeful, because we still have time to turn things around. Crises often act as catalysts for change and if there is one valuable lesson we can take away from the current global disaster, it is that working together to take the right kind of action early on can help mitigate against the most disastrous of consequences.
Scientists have been warning us for decades that if we don’t start reducing the amount of heat-trapping greenhouse gases that we are releasing into the atmosphere as we develop our respective economies, the earth’s temperature will reach a critical tipping point that will result in rising sea levels, extreme weather patterns, economic uncertainty, habitat loss, reduced availability of fresh water, food insecurity and an increase in the risk of global pandemics.
One of the lesser discussed adverse effects of unchecked greenhouse gas emissions, is the irreversible, artificially accelerated rate of ocean acidification. Since the pre-industrial era, the oceans have absorbed 29% of all CO2 emissions that human activity has produced. This carbon pollution has been gradually changing ocean chemistry by increasing its pH level, which, in turn, is threatening to undermine the functioning of marine ecosystems that cannot adapt quickly enough to the change and is beginning to disrupt the provision of food supplies associated with the ocean.
Like the land, the oceans have their own significant natural carbon sinks in the form of coastal marshes, seagrass meadows, mangroves and coral reefs, which are capable of sequestering carbon in its organic form and storing it away for thousands of years. Due to human activity however, these important coastal ecosystems are currently disappearing at a rate four times faster than terrestrial forests, thereby compromising the ocean’s ability to balance the excessive carbon that they have to absorb.
The Mediterranean region is host to 10% of all global biodiversity and it has been identified as one of the most vulnerable and sensitive regions in the world to the impacts of global warming.
Climate change models have predicted that with warmer temperatures just 2 degrees Celcius higher than average and a reduction in rainfall caused by a shift in weather patterns, the Mediterranean region is likely to experience a drastic transformation, with all of southern Spain becoming a vast desert, that will lose its ability to support its native biodiversity and the human populations that depend on its ecosystems for their livelihoods.
Life below water will also be greatly affected. The Mediterranean Sea, due to its particular biogeochemical features and water circulation patterns, make it particularly sensitive and vulnerable to the adverse effects of ocean acidification.
As part of the Marbella Club’s commitment to help tackle climate change and ocean acidification in the Mediterranean, we have been working on a local initiative that we will share in the next few months. Until then, Happy Earth Day!
To learn more about how to take digital action on Earth Day 2020, visit the official website here. #EarthDay2020