Extreme weather: Nature holds the keys of resilience and hope

Ahead of Biodiversity COP16, governments have to show courage in making decisions that benefit the whole of humanity rather than a select group of corporations.

This aerial view taken on July 9, 2023 shows a former logging area in the Tarhaus Valley
This aerial view taken on July 9, 2023 shows a former logging area in the Tarhaus Valley, near the village of Ghimes-Faget in the central Transylvania region of Romania [File: AFP/Ionut Iordachescu]

A simple cottage stands in the Norwegian mountains, about four hours north of Oslo. Electricity is supplied by a solar panel and a battery, and water comes from a nearby well. The area is normally quite green in the summer and attracts farmers who bring their animals to graze. In the winter, heavy snowfall would often block the roads so one would have to ski to get to this humble dwelling.

My family and I have been going there for more than 20 years, travelling overland from Sweden. It is where we would spend time reconnecting with each other, taking a break from our busy cosmopolitan lives.

Norway is my wife’s home country and one of the least impacted places on the planet when it comes to heat and drought, and yet even here, close to the Arctic, my loved ones and I are witnessing a dramatic transformation. The constant quiet rain during the summer has been replaced by increasingly longer periods of drought, resulting in empty wells and dried-up grass and forcing farmers to rely on feed for their cattle.

Extreme weather events show us that in the midst of our dual climate and biodiversity crisis, the complex cycles of nature, of which we are a part, are drastically out of balance. Protecting and restoring nature is vital for our physical and mental health, food security, water supply and so much more.

But it becomes even more important as nature restoration is one of our most effective tools in mitigating and adapting to the climate crisis and a heating planet. When we are in harmony with nature, it protects us. But we have allowed giant fossil fuel, industrial food and financing conglomerates to dictate our priorities – to view our natural treasures as mere resources to be commodified for obscene profits and economic growth at the expense of life in all its forms.

Restoring nature is fundamental, as it is our shield against heatwaves, forest fires, droughts, and floods – climate cataclysms we are seeing more and more often all around the world. What we need more than ever is a radical shift in our consciousness, where we reject the illusion that we are separate from the natural world, because we are nature.

We are deeply and undeniably interconnected to the web of life. And when given a chance, our forests, savannahs, lakes and wetlands can spring back to life. We need a mass social movement for nature restoration and we need bold leadership to implement laws that enable an age of renewal.

Recently, we have seen crucial steps being taken to push nature and biodiversity loss to the top of the political and economic agenda. Last December, nations agreed at the United Nations Biodiversity Conference COP15 in Montreal to ambitious conservation and restoration efforts regarding land and coastal areas and the restoration of degraded ecosystems. They also recognised the rights and roles of Indigenous peoples as the guardians of nature and the need to phase out billions in tax-funded subsidies for extractive industries.

In July, the European Parliament adopted a new Nature Restoration Law, a major piece of the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030. Although it is a good first step forward in achieving the European Union’s biodiversity commitments, the legislation that was passed was very diluted compared to its original draft.

To truly protect what is left and restore nature, the world’s governments need to implement binding national legislation in line with their pledges in the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (KMGBF). In late 2024, nations will convene again at the UN Biodiversity COP16 to present their action plans.

Now is the time for nations to start a race to the top to demonstrate they are serious about addressing the dual climate and nature crisis. We need leaders who dare to make decisions that benefit the whole of humanity.

These goals and targets are crucial for making our planet more resilient, for guarding against future extreme weather events and nurturing all life in the decades to come.

In addition to a consciousness shift and courageous leadership, the world needs one thing more than any other: hope for the future. We need a mass movement for nature on the scale of movements for civil rights, climate action, and global justice. When people unite to protect and restore their only home, new possibilities open up and flourish. The journey ahead is monumental, but together, we can create a world where nature thrives and we will thrive with it, be it in Norway, Namibia or Nauru.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.