Healing the world is a universal call of duty
Stephen Ndegwa


Editor's note: Stephen Ndegwa is a Nairobi-based communication expert, lecturer-scholar at the United States International University-Africa, author and international affairs columnist. The article reflects the author's opinions, and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

American pop star Michael Jackson was not only known for his unrivaled performances, but also for his messages of social consciousness in many of his songs. His love for the world is engraved in two of his award-winning hits,"Earth Song" and "Heal the World," released in 1982 and 1991 respectively.

In "Earth Song," Jackson regrets "what we have done to the world," with lamentations ranging from environmental destruction to needless wars that have killed many children. When "Heal the World" released almost a decade later, the artist revisited the need to protect the Earth for progeny, and "make it a better place for you and for me, and the entire human race."

Concern for planet Earth is definitely at the core of human existence and pursuit. But while leaders should basically be on the front line in environmental conservation, everyone must be sensitized about what ails us, and mobilize toward the necessary remedial action. It is not a favor but an obligation that falls on humankind.

The world marks the annual Earth Day on April 22 under the theme "Restore Our Earth," which organizers say will examine natural processes, emerging green technologies and innovative thinking that can regenerate the world's ecosystems. Importantly, U.S. President Joe Biden will publicly host 40 world leaders for his virtual Leaders Summit on Climate. Biden seeks to set the agenda for the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) that will take place in November in Glasgow, United Kingdom.

Biden's invitees range from developing countries to major economies. Experts are of the view that he is recruiting a core group of allies to support his COP26 agenda as the world seeks to keep the increase in world temperatures below 1.5 degrees Celsius. If done in good faith, there is no reason that all countries cannot rally behind the U.S. in ensuring a safer world for humanity devoid of the current selfishness portrayed by those who are more fortunate than others.

A PV power plant in Hami, northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, September 20, 2018. /Xinhua

A PV power plant in Hami, northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, September 20, 2018. /Xinhua

Now, the COVID-19 pandemic has a silver lining. It has given the world's citizens an opportunity to reflect on how far we have come and take an honest audit of the negative impact social and economic activities have had on the Earth, particular since the Industrial Revolution. For instance, the cessation of motorized movement by sea, air and land has led to the rejuvenation of flora and fauna in many areas and regions due to the drastic reduction of the carbon footprint.

Social and family relations have been restored as millions have been forced by circumstances and government directives to work from and stay at home. It has led to reconciliation of strained human relations on a large scale. 

Some species of plants and animals that were feared endangered have shown signs of revival due to restoration of their habitats through eradication of pollution. While we do not have to necessarily learn it the hard way, the pandemic is a second chance and a golden opportunity to undo the damage that we have wrought on the globe.

We also need to unlearn some of the long-held strongholds that have misled much of the world toward the path of ruin. For instance, hegemony and unilateralism have no place in the emerging brave new world where everyone should have an almost equal chance of survival and prosperity.

Sustainable development and cyclical economies are the only sure way of building a resilient world where there is equity in the sharing of the world's resources. It entails ensuring all communities and workers benefit from the emerging clean energy economy being created by building emission-free industries.

We should be willing to share knowledge across boundaries in order to have a bigger impact. Just like the pandemic has proved painfully, no country is an island, regardless of how rich and powerful. The sharing of vaccine development technologies and the subsequent need for vaccine sharing is an apt example of our interdependency. Those engaging in vaccine nationalism will end up in self-destructive cocoons.

To achieve world peace, powerful countries must respect the right to self-determination of the weaker ones. Multilateralism in geopolitics will bestow countries with equal opportunities at the negotiating table.

Ultimately, climate and environmental literacy is necessary for everyone to ensure that we are all on the same page in executing the necessary climate action. Empowerment for such action is a necessary tool in meeting the global challenges expected ahead. There is only one Earth as far as we know, destroying it with myopia is the height of folly.

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