President Higgins marked the start of the International Year of Plant Health (IYPH) 2020 by planting a tree in Dublin’s Phoenix Park.
The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has chosen the year 2020 to raise awareness on how protecting plant health can help end hunger, reduce poverty, protect the environment, and boost economic development.
Plants make up 80 percent of the food we eat, and produce 98 percent of the oxygen we breathe. Yet, they are under constant and increasing threat from pests and diseases. Climate change and human activities are altering ecosystems, reducing biodiversity and creating conditions where pests can thrive. At the same time, international travel and trade has tripled in volume in the last decade and can quickly spread pests and diseases around the world causing great damage to native plants and the environment.
The importance of protecting plants, wildlife and our natural environment has been a constant theme throughout the Presidency of Michael D. Higgins. The President has particularly highlighted the impact of runaway climate change, stating that contemporary society will be “judged by future generations as to whether we averted our gaze from the vulnerabilities of our planet . . . or had the empathy necessary to celebrate our interdependency”.
Last year, President Higgins also commissioned a full audit of the plant and animal life in the grounds of Áras an Uachtaráin, with a view to developing plans to better protect the biodiversity in the land surrounding the home of the President of Ireland.