Friday, February 2nd is World Wetlands Day, in commemoration of the adoption of the Convention on Wetlands on February 2, 1971 in Ramsar, Iran. It delves into likely the most overlooked environment on earth, the wetlands.
Our planet’s wetlands are in dire need of protection against over development. Loss of these environments leads to the loss of vital habitats that are the pillars of a stronger, healthier ecosystem.
This year, the Ramsar Convention organization is planning to focus on creating a sustainable urban future through wetland environments. It is a appropriate message to convey today, as we mobilize resources to shrug off the many unsustainable practices that stem from a fossil fuel based energy economy and infrastructure. Many of humanity’s first cities were established alongside the fertile wetland plains along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.
Urban wetlands make cities livable in many important ways. They reduce flooding, replenish drinking water, filter waste, provide urban green spaces, and are a source of livelihoods. These wetland benefits grow ever more crucial as the number of people living in cities has now passed the 4 billion mark. By 2050, 66% of humanity will live in cities, as people move into urban areas searching for better jobs.
“Unfortunately,” the Ramsar Convention organization states, “most people are unaware of the value and importance of urban wetlands. In fast-growing cities, wetlands are often viewed as wasteland; places to dump rubbish, fill in or convert to other uses.” According to the Convention’s research, an estimated 64% of the world’s wetlands have disappeared since 1900. Meanwhile, our cities worldwide have exploded with growth.
Many urban centers worldwide have begun restoring wetland environments to benefit their cities. Huangshan City, China, Kampala, Uganda, and Bucharest, Romania have all made progress in restoring and protecting local wetland ecosystems. It is unfortunate that we have not taken up their example. The Chesapeake Bay, San Francisco Bay, and Gulf of Mexico have all been affected by pollution, over development, and lack of environmental protection.
It’s up to us to protect these lands from unnecessary development. If you’d like to learn more about the environmental impact of the American population, you can check out our Environmental Impact Study here.