By Kenechukwu Obiezu
AT a recent public policy forum aptly titled `Desertification and Deforestation’ which held at the Shehu Musa Yar’ Adua Centre, Abuja on Friday, October 25,2016, one chilling revelation trailed the other as panelists and participants projected a grotesque hologram of the slow, painful death nature is facing in Nigeria and indeed, all over the world at the hands of deleteriously reckless human activities and crimes.
When the Minister of Environment, Hajia Amina Mohammed and Chairman, Senate Committee on Environment, Senator Oluremi Tinubu, stated that about 1.5 million trees were being felled daily and about 351,000 hectares lost to desertification annually, an already grotesque picture grew even darker.
The chilling expose on the environment mirrored the very grave concerns which alarmed world leaders to meet in Paris in December, 2015 and iron out an Agreement now known as COP21 or the Paris Agreement to cut emissions of greenhouse gases and keep global temperature increase well below 2C thus protecting the environment. Since the Agreement opened for signature at the United Nations Headquarters in New York,over 180 countries have signed it while about 26 others have ratified it. That some countries have appended their autographs where others have appeared ambivalent certainly provides mixed news for environmental rights activists, humanity all over the world and unborn posterity. That the Paris Agreement is poised to go full throttle in a week’s time betokens hope and belief that the earth can be saved through our collective efforts.
But why, indeed, should we be bothered about what we are doing to the environment? Why should we be concerned that our unbridled thirst and craze for industrialization and consumption injures nature almost irreversibly? Why should we all, without exception go to the coalface of environmental conservation and preservation. The answer is crystal clear.
Like our ageless interaction with and study of nature vis-à-vis the environment make clear, like damning statistic after damning statistic point out and like speaker after speaker at the Forum reiterated, the environment is not only humanity’s heritage, it is humanity’s protection, its very life and more than ever and incrementally so, it is in grave danger of losing its very life giving treasures.
The data make for particularly uncomfortable reading. Taking Nigeria as a case study in terms of the impact of Climate Change and Environmental Degradation on Food Security in Nigeria, $1bn is posted as annual loss in non-timber forest products due to rapid deforestation,90% permanent loss is sustained in the natural habitat of pollinators critical to agricultural production 50,000MT annual loss is sustained in fresh water fish supply as a result of the drying up of Lake Chad 55 % estimated loss in pasture land due to desertification(posing a challenge to beef production), 95 % drop in quantity of milk produced per cow as a result of poor cattle nutrition and massive reduction in crop yield in the past 20 years (45% in tomato and 55% in wheat).
The effects of climate change and environmental degradation in terms of loss of lives and property and grave injury to the fragile socio-cultural unity of the country is simply incalculable. The recent myriad of clashes between alleged Fulani herdsmen and local farmers ostensibly for grazing and farming spaces bear violent testimony to that.
What appears even more shocking and portentous for the future of our environment is the fact that we have blatantly lusted after more industrialization and consumption even in the face of overwhelming evidence that these activities consume our environment, and the cold apathy and clay footedness which inhibit us in this crucial quest.
At the core of this mindless rape of nature lies a pervasive inequality and an insidious nonchalance entrenching systemic injustice that pushes millions of humanity’s great unwashed to the precipice daily. Forced to survive, they turn savagely on the environment to sustain life and living.
This darkly depressing attitude mirrors effulgently the sad fact that while industrial machines whirl and whine with the corollary corrosive pollution to the environment to churn out consumables mostly for those with access to the exchequer, the majority poor are left to pick up the craps while they suffer the effects of the production of elusive consumables. The results stick out like sore thumbs.
Like the panelists and participants at the forum presciently concluded, if we must survive and preserve our heritage for ourselves and prosperity, we must all shake off our apathy and work at altering our mindsets. We must fight consumerism and those crimes that are gradually draining our lives for if we continue cutting our noses to spite our faces, we might just find the mirror too repulsive to look in someday.
Obiezu writes from Abuja