World Environment Day 2024: Land Restoration, Desertification, and Drought Resilience

Referring to the UNEP, the theme of World Environment Day, 5 June 2024 is Land Restoration, Desertification, and Drought Resilience. I will discuss this theme in general terms and its context for Indonesia, as well as how it impacts human life, especially women and children. I wrote this article in English and Indonesian versions

The Impact of Consumerism and Capitalism on Land Degradation

Today, the extent of available land is drastically diminishing due to massive usage for agriculture, plantations, and other industries. Fertile lands that once hosted diverse flora and fauna are now converted into palm oil plantations, intensive agricultural lands, and industrial areas. This phenomenon is driven by rampant consumerism and capitalism. The ever-increasing demand for consumer products, spurred by modern lifestyles and population growth, forces industries to continually seek new land. This expansion of agricultural and industrial land is often carried out without considering the long-term environmental impacts, such as deforestation and soil degradation.

In a previous article, I highlighted how consumerism significantly contributes to increasing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The rise in GHG emissions accelerates global warming, which in turn exacerbates land and environmental conditions. Deforestation for agricultural land, such as clearing forests for palm oil plantations, not only removes trees that function as carbon sinks but also releases carbon stored in the soil and biomass into the atmosphere. As a result, the carbon cycle is disrupted, and GHG concentrations in the atmosphere increase, speeding up the rate of global warming.

Capitalism, which promotes large-scale land exploitation for short-term economic gains without accounting for environmental damage, adds complexity to this issue. Therefore, unsustainable land use must become a primary concern in global environmental protection efforts.

The Potential for Desertification in Indonesia?

In Indonesia, desertification may not yet be a primary issue, given that the country does not have desert regions like Africa and the Middle East. However, the potential for desertification remains if illegal logging and forest fires are not promptly addressed. Eastern Indonesia, such as East Nusa Tenggara (NTT), is particularly vulnerable to this threat. Illegal logging reduces vegetation cover, which is crucial for maintaining soil moisture and preventing erosion.

When trees are cut down and forests burn, the soil becomes arid and loses its ability to retain water, accelerating the desertification process. Arid and dry soil is easily carried away by wind and rain, leading to further land degradation. If this continues, areas that were once fertile could turn into barren lands.

Conservation and forest protection efforts are crucial to prevent this process. Effective conservation actions include reforestation, the implementation of sustainable agricultural practices, and strict enforcement against illegal logging. Additionally, educating communities about the importance of forest conservation is vital. Communities should be encouraged to participate in environmental preservation efforts through sustainable empowerment programs. By doing so, we can prevent desertification and maintain the sustainability of our ecosystems.

Coping with Drought or Taking Action?

The impact of climate change is increasingly evident in Indonesia, as seen from the rising frequency and intensity of natural disasters such as floods, landslides, and droughts. Climate change causes extreme weather patterns, making dry areas drier and wet areas wetter. This issue requires serious attention from both the government and society.

The focus on World Environment Day this year, with the sub-theme of drought resilience, is very relevant. Communities living in dry areas, such as deserts, face significant challenges related to the availability of natural resources, especially drinking water and sanitation. In Indonesia, a notable example can be seen on Timor Island in East Nusa Tenggara Province, where residents struggle immensely to obtain clean water. Even during normal seasons, this region experiences infrequent rainfall, let alone during long dry seasons. My experience visiting Timor Island highlighted how difficult it is for residents there to get clean water. They have to travel long distances and spend a lot of time just to get water, which often is not potable.

Drought resilience is crucial to ensure the sustainability of their livelihoods. This involves developing adequate water infrastructure, such as boreholes and rainwater harvesting systems, as well as educating about efficient water management. Governments and non-governmental organizations must work together to provide long-term solutions that can mitigate the impacts of climate change and ensure water availability for communities in dry areas.

The Adverse Effects on Women and Children

The adverse effects of climate change are acutely felt by women and children. They are the most vulnerable groups as they often have limited access to resources and protection. Women, particularly in rural areas, are usually responsible for collecting water and fuel, which become increasingly scarce due to drought and environmental degradation. Children are also affected, as lack of clean water and poor sanitation increase the risk of disease. When the environment deteriorates, these additional burdens exacerbate gender inequality and infringe on children’s rights.

What Should We Do?

Collective action, global cooperation, and concrete measures from all parties are crucial in addressing environmental issues. Every individual, community, government, and private sector must actively participate in conservation and environmental protection efforts. Concrete actions such as reducing the use of harmful chemicals, supporting renewable energy, and implementing sustainable agricultural practices can make a significant difference. By working together, we can create more effective and sustainable solutions, ensuring that we leave a healthy planet for future generation.

Bogor, June 4, 2024


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