Tag Archives: environment

Climate Change: Transiting to a Sustainable Future

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Author – Babajide Oluwase Submitted for Write for Change
Climate change is becoming an issue of rising importance around the world, and Africa is not left out in this. However, it seems many still do not understand the insidious nature of this phenomenon. One observable fact is that, many people won’t act on an issue unless they realise it has a direct impact on their lives and/or their communities. A recent prove of this is the case of Ebola outbreak.
Why are some people still sceptical about the reality of climate change, despite the overwhelming scientific evidence available today? It is natural to assume that many people do not accept the science of climate change, because they do not understand it, or perhaps need to know about it. Certainly, someone who knows very little or nothing about climate change is unlikely to care a great deal about its consequences. It is then important that facts about climate change should be widely circulated and well communicated to all and sundry.
Climate change is a long-term shift in weather pattern, especially a change due to increase in the average atmospheric temperature that is affecting the wellbeing of human and the environment. Several studies has shown that the burning of coal, oil, and greenhouse gases has led to warming up of the global environment, and it has even been projected to get worse in the coming years, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
When we look around us today, apparently, our climate is changing, and attached to it are various environmental challenges you can think of right now. As opined by the popular Stem Review on the Economics of Climate Change, “climate change is liable to affect the basic elements of life of people around the world – access to water, food production, health, and the environment. Hundreds of millions of people could suffer hunger, water shortages, and coastal flooding as the earth increasingly warms.”
Just imagine what we have done in the little time spent on the planet earth. I can confidently say the real crisis is not global warming, environmental destruction, or animal extinction, it is us. These problems are as a result of our unsustainable action overtime. Many of us might call this mistake, but future right does not accept it because an error does not become a mistake until you refuse to correct it. Simply put, human activity is causing the environment to get hotter than one can ever imagine.
In Nigeria for example, oil companies prefer to flare the associated gas due to cost. Nigeria flares more natural gas with oil extraction than any other country, with estimates suggesting that of the 100 million cubic metre of associated gas produced annually, about 70% is wasted via flaring. (Wikipedia, 2006) This equals about 25% of the UK’s total natural gas consumption, and is the equivalent to 40% of the entire African continent’s gas consumption in 2001.
Noticeably, the ripple down effect of this is evident in polluted water bodies, unclean air, and poor soil capacity due to soil acidification by various pollutants associated with gas flaring in affected communities across Nigeria. While air pollution in China, India, and other emerging economies has become a major area of concern for scientists and policy makers, it has gained little traction in Nigeria and even in Africa where it is a growing problem to sustainable living.
Fortunately, never in human history has there been a summit to negotiate and support a treaty as ambitious as the recent Paris climate deal. A summit that brought exactly 195 governments together. As listed by some agencies, that is the total number of independent nations on the planet. The scope of the treaty involves a total system overhaul to the lifeblood of the global economy: decarbonisation of energy. The best way to go is to significantly transit to renewable energy sources, and let it play a larger role in the supply of energy.
Regardless of whether the transition to renewable forms of energy will be easy or extremely difficult, sooner or later, we all have to face some major changes different from our current way of life. The challenge to adopting sustainable measures is not as a result of lack of knowledge, but because we are simply resisting such constraints, as many would call them. From a social perspective, the oil producing communities in Nigeria have experienced severe marginalization and neglect from concerned stakeholders (government and private oil companies).
A typical example of this scenario is the massive oil exploration in the Niger Delta, which has posed and still posing serious threats to human health, indigenous culture, and the environment. Whereas, the economic and political benefits are given more attention by the government rather than the resulting damage to our ecological balance. Sadly, this is the reality people in oil producing communities of a developing country like Nigeria have to deal with on daily basis.
“The risks from air pollution are now far greater than previously thought or understood, particularly for heart disease and stroke”, said Maria Neira, Director of WHO’s Department for Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health. “Few risks have greater impact on global health today than air pollution; the evidence signals the need for concerted action to clean up the air we all breathe.”
What then is the way forward? The solution is simply living the ‘green’ life. This can be achieved by reducing our dependence on fossil fuel products as well as decisively cut down environmental pollution in the society. Converting earth’s heat, sunlight, nuclear power, and wind could in the next century, meet most of our energy needs. Wind and solar do not create dangerous waste products and are secure, indigenous, and freely available in abundance.
Conclusively, we must realize that we are not apart from nature, we are a part of nature. To betray nature is to betray humanity, to save nature is to save humanity because whatever you are fighting for, be it racism, poverty, feminism, or any kind of equality, they won’t really matter because if we don’t work together to save the environment, we would be equally extinct someday. We all deserve air that is clean, water that is drinkable, and land that is free from contamination. Achieving this is not rocket science, but simply by commitment, political will, and collective action, it can be accomplished.

Climate Change and Livelihood: The Case of Oku Community, Cameroon

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Author: Tah Kennette Konsum Submitted for Write for Change
A customer of a popular financial house in Yaoundé, Cameroon goes for her routine financial transactions. She is distracted by a rush for what is known as the “White Gold from the Kilum/Ijim Mountain Forest”. She fails to make her usual deposit; and rather prefers to invest a good part of her income in the purchase of this product. What is this product and what gives it so much value? The “Oku White Honey” is the registered trademark name for this product. In Francophone Africa, this is a one and exceptional product that can be compared with the special wine from Bordeaux in France and other quality products around the world. Of recent, the Organization for African Intellectual Property Rights (OAIPR), the government of Cameroon, with the technical support of other international development partners such as CIRAD and AFC (French overseas agricultural research and development agencies) masterminded the certification of this honey as a Geographical Indication Product (GIP).
A GIP is characterized by the uniqueness of the region, climate or environment of origin, unique quality, and traditional methods of production or cultural and indigenous characteristics linked to its production and natural state. The Kilum/Ijim Mountain Range with a greater section (Kilum) in Bui division of the North West Region of Cameroon contains a unique biodiversity hotspot; one of the last and largest surviving patches of montane forests in the world known as the Kilum/Ijim Mountain Forest. The cloud forest has very rich endemic plant and animal species. For many years, the indigenous people around this mountain range have been exploiting its resources for a variety of uses.
However, the major threat to the survival of this unique arena has been unsustainable practices related to natural resources usage. Over the years, the government of Cameroon through the Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife, and other development stakeholders like BirdLife International and the Bamenda Highlands Forest Project has been able to employ indigenous and modern sustainable management practices to rescue the forest in an attempt to conserve its uniqueness.
The rich ecosystem of the Kilum/Ijim Forest is predominantly montane; trees are too small and inaccessible to be of interest to commercial loggers. The forest has a potential for non timber forest products like honey, mushrooms, medicinal plants (like Prunus africana, Pittosporum veridiflorum, Agauria salicifolia), alpine bamboos, spices, vegetables, herbs, food-based additives and others (colourings, preservatives and flavourings). The people depend on these products for their livelihoods. These services and products cannot be available if the forest is destroyed. The major recurrent problem of sustaining this biodiversity is driven by forest degradation due to domestic animal encroachment, farming, poaching and forest exploitation (mostly for firewood). Forest products could better serve the community and fight poverty if sustainable forest-based income generating activities are promoted and a workable benefit sharing mechanism put in place.
The forest has a high potential to improve the living standards of local people but this potential remains relatively unlocked and rudimentary. The region is also known nationally for its traditional healers and the forest is rich in Prunus africana (a commercial medicinal plant) whose bark is harvested by forest exploiters after paying meager fees to the community members. Bee farming could earn a lot of money for the people due to the vastness of the production basin. Organized bee farming groups in the region charged with promoting bee farming have a low membership despite the fact some buy honey upfront as well as provide technical and material support to its members and the community. There is more need to build the capacity of local people on sustainable bee farming and other sustainable forest income generating activities. With a good forest ecosystem benefit-sharing mechanism put in place the living standards of the local people will improve and they will see the need to engage in sustainable forest management.
The entire mountain range has been split into about six Community Forest concessions managed by Forestry Management Institutions (FMIs). This has helped to engage the local and indigenous people to participate in the forest management for their livelihood. Before then, the forest was managed by the local communities through indigenous rights and approaches implemented by the traditional authorities made up of the leaders called the “Fon” and the secret societies called the “Kwifon”. Traditional rites were performed in the forest to ensure its good health. The forest shrines were taboo areas or “sacred forest”.
Bee farming has been identified by the local community and other stakeholders as a major source of sustainable livelihood for the people. In the past Prunus africana bark was harvested for export for its use in the pharmaceutical industry for prostate cancer drug production. Despite all the technical know-how transferred to the community for sustainable exploitation, self interest amongst the beneficiary stakeholders brought in corruption, embezzlement, and illegal exploitation.
The management plans for the Forestry Management Institutions (FMIs) were breached severally. The elite, some local authorities and NGOs had to intervene and the exploitation process was banned till further notice. Local NGOs and government services have been championing the sustainable management of the forest by promoting sound environmental education, sustainable bee farming and forest regeneration activities. Some have been able to plant Prunus africana trees in the forest. Leading honey producer and marketing group within this forest range have engaged more local people in the practice of sustainable bee farming. Over 1,000 people have received training over the last three years from government departments such as the Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife (MINFOF), the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MINADER) and other stakeholders. Ownership of beehives by the community will help protect the forest, and save bee colonies while providing income to the local population. The Ministry of Livestock, Fisheries and Animal industries has constructed and is still to equip a honey collection centre in Oku. Other major producer groups have also been given a facelift all in an effort to ensure quality standards for honey production.
Nowadays, one kilogram of drained white honey costs at least 5.000 FCFA (US $ 10.00) in the community. Other byproducts such as bee wax, propolis and honey drinks are equally fetching valued added income and incentives from bee farming. The most interesting activity is the production phase of the honey value chain. Local hives constructed from bamboo and thatches are transported for colonization in the plains- about 10 kilometers from the mountain production zone. The very cold alpine climate of the Mountain Forest is uncomfortable for bee populations, so they often migrate to the warmer plains. After colonization, hives are again transported overnight mainly by head to the mountain forest where they are mounted. The plants that produce the nectar and pollen for the white honey occur above 2000 meters from sea level. Such plants include Prunus africana, Nuxia congesta, Schefflera abyssinica, and Podocarpus spp amongst others. In this high altitude, special care is taken to keep the hives insulated and warm due to the very cold alpine climate.
Mathew Nkeng, a local honey processor and retailer in Keyon Oku is very disturbed. According to him, over the last two years there has been a remarkable record drop in the quantity of honey available. He points an accusing finger at the strange climatic patterns witnessed by the community within the year. “The rains start early in February and the flowers do not stay on the plants sufficiently for the bees to collect nectar and pollen. ‘’I used to think that climate change was an issue for the western world, but now I see its consequences on us even in this our community where we have been struggling all these years to conserve the forest” he lamented. He is one amongst others whose families have depended on the income generated by the sale of the “White Gold”. “I have been able to offer university education to my two girls, I still have other children and family members who need a brighter future, and I feel so disturbed because honey production is declining at this time when it is supposed to fetch us more money” he further complained.
European and American markets have been identified as major export routes for the honey. While the government of Cameroon and the organizations charged with the protection of the GIP are putting in place all the necessary procedures for its vaporization, climate change remains just a major obstacle. “I have observed that the rates of absconding of bees from colonized hives in the forest are strongly linked to the new patterns of the climate we have been witnessing” commented Bang George, one of the most experienced bee farmers in the production belt. With much investment made by government and other development stakeholders, the conservation and sustainable management of the Community Forests remain so far the only solution to fighting climate change and sustaining the source of this gold. The local and indigenous people, especially the younger generation need to engage in this battle, they are the future and must sustain the resources for their livelihood” expressed Wirsiy Emmanuel Binyuy, an Environmentalist working with the communities around the white honey production basin.
Sound environmental education is important to tackle forest degradation through behavioral change and to instill in young people the spirit to grow and participate in forest management. Protecting the forest enables it to generate water, fresh air, service as a carbon sink, source of beneficial insects, and will protect endangered species like Bannerman’s Tauraco (an endemic and endangered bird species only found in the Bamenda Highland Forest region with Kilum-Ijim having its largest remaining forest). All of which are also having indirect benefits to village dwellers.

Conserving Biodiversity; Why is This Important?

endangeredspeciesBiodiversity means diversity in life. In simpler terms it means the total varieties of animals, plants and birds on planet Earth. Wider the diversity means perfect our eco system. Our ecosystem makes life on earth easier and healthier. It is a balance of all natural resources and their proportion with respect to each other. It keeps all natural resources including mountains, glaciers, rivers, seas, volcanoes, soil, deserts, plains and other types in their limit. Otherwise they all might have mixed with each other making this world a piece of disaster. So our concern is; if a true biodiversity conservation a real goal. It means can we conserve biodiversity.

How to conserve biodiversity?

We can conserve biodiversity by avoiding every step that may kill a living being including plants, animals and birds. It does not mean we let every living being go even if it harms us like snake, scorpion or lizard. First we have to check which animals, birds and plants population is a minimum in number. They are called endangered species. They are those living beings for whom this planet has not remained congenial for living. biodiversity conservation There is wildlife conservation service in every country. Both governments and conservation groups try hard to retain biodiversity. But environmental degradation makes it difficult for many endangered species to increase their population.

Environmental degradation the main hurdle

What is environmental degradation? It is a state in water, land or air where natural features of each are reduced by external encroachments of various elements not good for them.
 They may be in air, land or water. If something disturbs the natural features of land we say it a land pollutant. If it hits air we say it air pollutant like poisonous gases that come from vehicles and factories. If something harms the water we call it water pollutant like various chemicals that come with effluent of factories.
So, environmental degradation makes life difficult to survive on Earth.  Living beings don’t have clean air to breathe, pure water to drink and safe land to live on it. As a result various living species get weaker and sick. Most of them die earlier than their natural death. While many species with small population go to the brink of extinction. Then wildlife conservation groups and activists declare such species endangered and take extra efforts to conserve them. So to make biodiversity conservation a real goal we need to control environmental degradation that is main cause of concern.

Blind development another bottleneck

Development means make life easier. Life is made easier by facilities. They may be transport, buildings, gadgets, machines, equipment or anything that makes life happier. For building industries, energy generation units, hotels, resorts, homes and offices we need to construct buildings and install machineries. Here biodiversity gets big hit during the process of digging, construction and installation of machinery. While digging many living beings inside the soil may be crushed. So developers need to do thorough review of impact assessment on biodiversity before starting a project. Collectively it is called environmental impact assessment that is mandatory in all the countries of the world by green laws. But owing to poor enforcement mechanism of green laws in many countries many developers do their development projects without any environmental impact assessment and nobody notice their violation. In short we need to control environmental degradation and make our development sustainable in order to make biodiversity conservation a real goal.

Examining the Greenhouse Gases

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So, what are the greenhouse gases that are enhancing the greenhouse effect? As mentioned before, greenhouse gases naturally occur in the atmosphere, but human production has been increasing the concentration of certain ones faster than they can break down. This increase is mainly due to human activities such as burning fossil fuels (like coal, oil and natural gas) and excess methane production from livestock and landfills.
The most important greenhouse gases are water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, ozone and fluorinated gases.
Water vapor is the most abundant and possibly the most important greenhouse gas. Water vapor is not only very good at trapping heat on Earth but also amplifying the effects of other greenhouse gases. Water vapor does this through a vicious cycle: as the amount of water vapor increases in the atmosphere, the temperature on Earth increases as well, which then causes more water vapor absorption in the air, which again increases the warming of the earth…you can see how this is an issue!
Carbon dioxide (CO2) comes from the burning of fossil fuels and is important because even though it’s not the most potent greenhouse gas, it is one of the most abundant. CO2 concentrations naturally fluctuate over time, but recently reached a milestone concentration of 400 parts per million. To put this in perspective, in the past 800,000 years it has not been over 300 parts per million. The real worry though is how quickly CO2 is accumulating in the atmosphere. Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution (about 1750), human activity has continually increased atmospheric CO2 levels from 280 parts per million to the current high. There is no other period in the history of Earth where CO2 levels have increased so quickly.
Methane (CH4)is also rapidly increasing in the atmosphere. Methane is released into the air from fossil fuels and livestock. Atmospheric methane has increased 151% since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution and is currently at its highest concentration in at least 650,000 years.
Nitrous oxide (N2O) : Nitrous oxide is emitted during agricultural and industrial activities, as well as during combustion of fossil fuels and solid waste. Fluorinated gases : Hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, sulfur hexafluoride, and nitrogen trifluoride are synthetic, powerful greenhouse gases that are emitted from a variety of industrial processes. Fluorinated gases are sometimes used as substitutes for stratospheric ozone-depleting substances (e.g., chlorofluorocarbons, hydro chlorofluorocarbons, and halons). These gases are typically emitted in smaller quantities, but because they are potent greenhouse gases, they are sometimes referred to as High Global Warming Potential gases (“High GWP gases”).
Each gas’s effect on climate change depends on three main factors: How much of these gases are in the atmosphere?
Concentration, or abundance, is the amount of a particular gas in the air. Larger emissions of greenhouse gases lead to higher concentrations in the atmosphere. Greenhouse gas concentrations are measured in parts per million, parts per billion, and even parts per trillion. One part per million is equivalent to one drop of water diluted into about 13 gallons of liquid (roughly the fuel tank of a compact car). How long do they stay in the atmosphere?
Each of these gases can remain in the atmosphere for different amounts of time, ranging from a few years to thousands of years. All of these gases remain in the atmosphere long enough to become well mixed, meaning that the amount that is measured in the atmosphere is roughly the same all over the world, regardless of the source of the emissions.
How strongly do they impact global temperatures? Some gases are more effective than others at making the planet warmer and “thickening the Earth’s blanket.”
Source: EPA’s Climate Change Indicators (2014) The concept and science of Climate change by Glory Oguegbu www.study.com Epa.com