#WorldEnvironmentalDay

BEAT PLASTIC POLLUTION: WORLD ENVIRONMENT DAY 2018

Pollution is posing a great threat to the existence of life on this planet. Plastic pollution magnifies this problem. The number of plastic waste disposed on a yearly basis can go around the earth three times and over. Unfortunately, the final destination of most of these plastic wastes are the oceans as 8 million plastics are estimated to get into the ocean yearly.

Plastic pollution poses challenges to wildlife, plants and even humans. Since 2004, about 4 billion plastics have been produced. The extensive use of plastics in clothing, automobiles, electronic gadgets, storage facilities, food packages shows how important the use of plastics can be which accounts for such a rise in production. Sadly, they play a vital role in polluting the environment as they are not biodegradable since they are meant for durability. It is established that 78% of hazardous wastes are plastics. Apart from the threat which improper management of plastics pose to our ecology, our health is also at risk. Plastics, a product of refined crude oil containing Bisphenol-A -a chemical functioning as plasticizers, responsible for the flexibility and durability of the material poses health risks when in contact with food.

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Africa is no stranger to pollution. The continent has battled with garbage disposal issues for many years. The use of plastic bags account for a large number of landfill dilemmas. The Nile and Niger have been listed amongst the chief culprits of disastrous pollutions of the environment by a recent study conducted in 2017. The large populations living on the river banks are responsible for why the rivers entry points of plastics into the ocean.

The devastating effects of poor waste management are so evident in the continent. In Lagos, Nigeria, only 40% of 10,000 tonnes of waste are collected. Nigeria has also had an estimated 349 oil spills, and has lost 80% of the country's forest.

The expansion of the middle class in the continent has seen the consumption of more plastics and items contained in plastics than any other time in the history of the continent. Mismanaged wastes from maritime and shipping activities in the continent also find its way into the oceans. Polystyrene buoys that form significant amounts of plastic debris from agricultural processes also end up in oceans or beaches.

Other factors identified to influence the movement of plastics into the oceans include human behaviour such as littering, wind, water flows, vehicular transport. The primary sources found to be caused by human practices.

Beating plastic pollution

In a bid to address the alarming rise of plastic wastes, many countries have adopted different policies. Many African countries are banning the use of plastic bags. After losing 70% of its livestock to the ingestion of plastics, Mauritania was the first African country to ban plastic wastes. Mali, Cote d'Ivoire, Kenya, Ghana, Ethiopia, Senegal, Uganda and Tanzania have followed suit, while South Africa and Cameroon placed taxes for its use.

Retail serves as a great opportunity by which plastic pollution can be beaten. Plastic wastes are being transformed into marketable products for retail. For instance, plastic bags are transformed into school bags for kids; tires are turned to shoes and plastic bottles are being recycled for further use by appropriate agencies.

Trash for education is another concept in play to beat plastic pollution. This process involves tapping into informal waste collection and exchanging it for educational vouchers which can be redeemed for online/offline courses or educational materials. The heavier the weight of the trash, the higher the value of the educational voucher awarded to the student. The scheme which is designed by Green Campus Initiative creates value for participants by generating revenue through recycling and reuse of materials, which serves as an employment avenue. To what effect? Let's consider a case study of Grace, a Gambian-born Nigerian living in the western part of the country.

Grace Otemuyiwa

Grace Otemuyiwa

Like every other fresher preparing for resumption, Grace had prepared a lengthy list of needs for her first year in higher institution. Grace whose childhood dream has always been to become a Civil Engineer hopes to build sustainable buildings in local communities. Though her farmer dad and her trader mum can be said to be lower middle-class, they have strongly influenced and supported her ambitious dreams.

Determined to prepare herself in the best possible way, she made an exhaustive list of items needed to excel in her studies. In a quest to assist her parents as she knew they might not be able to afford all she needed, she enrolled in a paid internship with Green Campus Initiative (GCI). It was during the internship she learnt about the ‘Trash for Education’ programme; a system designed to reward people who trade their valuable wastes and other unused materials with formal education, educational materials and vocational training.

That waste could serve as a substitute for money seemed foreign to Grace. However, she saw this as an opportunity to get some items off her list of needs; waste is everywhere, after all! Her parents were super excited when they heard as well. She signed up for the programme. Grace and her parents did not break a sweat fetching the amount of waste that will get her the most coveted item on her list – the Calculus TextBook. Beyond the bargain, Grace was also presented a solar lamp to enable her read at night. Grace vowed to be a vanguard of Trash for education, as she truly believes it is a great scheme that can provide access to education, especially for those struggling to afford it.

Grace exchanging her plastic bottles

Grace exchanging her plastic bottles

Why the need to beat plastic pollution arises

Plastic pollution affects the food chain as microorganisms become poisoned from ingestion. This poses a bigger problem when fishes and larger animals feed on them which brings plastic poisoning further up the food chain. Clean drinking water is also at risk as plastic poisoning can find its way to humans. This can be due to the interaction of plastics with water in landfills which seeps underground, degrading the water quality. The burning of plastic also releases poisonous chemicals into the atmosphere which leads to respiratory problems when inhaled by humans and animals.

The effects of the improper management of plastic wastes are far-reaching, and it is imperative that we start acting fast to curb these effects for the ultimate good of sustaining life and making it better for the planet. We all need to get involved in the process of managing plastic waste. Recycling is an excellent point to start, but it cannot be done solely by a section of society. The world's environmental day gives us a perfect opportunity to remind ourselves to stand up and make more moves in cleaning the planet. We all have a role to play in ensuring that government legislations and independent environmental initiatives come to a realisation. Then and only then, can we truly have a cleaner, safer and better earth.

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BellaNaija Feature: Our World is Going Mad

I have fought all temptation to write an article about Donald Trump or our remote president, Buhari. Well, until now!

Mr Trump announced a few days to World Environment Day (WED) that the US is exiting the Paris Agreement. For someone who wants to make the US great again, I am not sure he is putting the people first. What Nation can be great without its people? Ironically, this year’s WED’s theme is connecting people to Nature.

Climate change is a moral issue. It is not just science. The World Bank estimated that climate change could drive more than 100 million people into extreme poverty by 2030. The United States is currently the world’s second-largest carbon polluter, and it is estimated that its withdrawal from the Paris Agreement Accord would add up to 3 billion tones of extra carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. By the end of the century, this would have raised global temperature by 0.1 – 0.3oC. How about making our planet great again?

Now, let’s address this even more locally. President Buhari did sign the Paris Agreement in March of this year, committing to reducing greenhouse gas emissions unconditionally by 20 per cent and conditionally by 45 per cent.

Of course, this sounds good on paper or when you hear it in the news. The practicality of it, however, is what we need to examine.

I was at the United Nations General Assembly meeting in September 2016, and I attended a side event on Lake Chad. Truth be told, there was a lack of interest from both the president and the Nigerian delegates (or is it entourage) present. This lack of will or comprehension makes it all the more difficult to have a sustained and viable national policy on the environment. The president soon left the meeting and pitifully, all other delegates followed him and exited the hall, while the meeting was still in full swing. No meaningful contributions came from Nigeria. It was embarrassing. For these delegates, it was merely a photo-op to show that they were with Mr President. What I saw was a group of entitled, lazy sycophants whose last thoughts were the Nigerian people. But, it is expected from our government- they show face but their consciousness was absent.

Most people will tell you they need lots of funding before they can take action on climate change. These so-called Environment organisations that have even received funding, what have they done with it? They push for policies with no strategy and when they get grants from international bodies, they are never adequately utilised. It is the new “green” business.

We should care the most about the environment. That’s what the green on our flag symbolizes. But, Nigeria is an archetypical oil nation. According to Energy Information Agency, we are the 10th largest producer of oil in the world, but we lack strong regulatory infrastructure on environmental protection. Currently, Nigeria ranks 6th on the list of vulnerable countries in the world. What is more; by 2030, the country would ranks among the countries which will experience environmental disaster induced poverty

We are the 6th most vulnerable country in the world. Worst, by the year 2030, Nigeria would be one country out of 10 in the world that will have disaster induced poverty.

I have done extensive research in the oil producing regions of Ondo State. In the past 30 years, over 400, 000 tonnes of oil has spilt into creeks, sediments and soil. The core occupation of residents in this area is subsistence fishing and farming. And these oil spills occurs every year, causing major harm to the environment, obliterating livelihoods and placing human health at serious risk.

The human rights consequences are thus, severe. In such vein, Heinrich Boll Stiftung (a Germany based organization) conducted a research in 2015 and highlighted the challenges in Nigeria’s in the following order; Climate change and its impacts, extremism and the pursuance of ethnic interests, rising inequality and persistent poverty in the midst of increasing wealth, social unrest and insecurity, food insecurity, corruption and governance through political clienteles, weak regional integration, lack of energy access and a shift in global energy needs, poor education, population trends, such as the growing body of young Nigerians.

Of all the challenges listed above, I think the lack of energy is the most overriding because it is interrelated to the other challenges. Energy is an essential need. Yet in Nigeria, we do not have stable electricity. Businesses are failing; people are getting sick from kerosene fumes and generator exhausts, education is getting weaker due to lack of access to information technology and reliable light source to research and innovate.

Even relationships are affected because everything is just ridiculously harsh.

Our world is going mad. President Trump may think climate change is a hoax, while Buhari may sign a document he doesn’t fully comprehend. However, that should not stop us from doing our part. This planet is ours. When it thrives, we do the same.

How can we stay sane in a world that feels fully intent on caving in on itself?

For me, it involves connecting more with nature. Going outside and stepping into nature. Experiencing its beauty and its importance. It is only when we appreciate alluring essence of Mother Nature, then, together, we would have the urge to make our planet great again.

This, however, is not a difficult endeavor. You can simply connect with nature by:

  • Taking off your shoes and kissing the earth with your feet
  • Planting vegetables somewhere in your yard
  • Jumping into that beautiful lake
  • Looking up to the sky, appreciating the shape of the clouds and the sounds of the birds
  • Taking a hike
  • Picking up those plastic bottles on the road while walking or jogging
  • Supporting the Trash for Education Scheme by donating valuable wastes such as old clothes, plastic bottles, used tires, etc. to provide education to people who cannot afford them.

It is already hard being a Nigerian. Do not let the hardships take away your basic rights.

Nature is closer than you think.

Credit: Adenike Akinsemolu for BellaNaija

World Environment Day 2016: Be an Agent of Change!

The World Environment Day (WED) is the United Nations’ most important day for encouraging worldwide awareness and action for the protection of our environment. Since it began in 1974, it has grown to become a global platform for public outreach that is celebrated widely in over 100 countries. It serves as a ‘people’s day’ for doing something to care for the earth or become an agent of change. Actions can be taken by individuals or a group of people, locally, nationally, or globally and through decades, WED has generated incredibly positive impacts on the planet.

Annually, WED is celebrated on the 5th of June and it is usually organised around a theme and has different host countries. This year, it is themed on the illegal trade in wildlife under the slogan ‘Go Wild for Life’ and the host country is Angola. The Green Campus Initiative decided to be a part of this year’s WED celebration and create positive impacts locally. The first step was to go in search of a dilapidated primary school in a rural area of Ondo town to renovate and Orimolade Community Primary School in ‘Litaye Community’ fit just perfectly into the picture. As soon as the proper authorities were informed about our intentions, the publicity began and the set day for the event was 3rd June. E-fliers were made and posted on our online platforms and volunteers were implored to join in the movement.

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As the day gradually approached, several volunteers, ambassadors, and even lecturers began showing their interest. Letters were sent out to solicit for financial support as it is a capital intensive project and on the 3rd to 5th of June, about 60 volunteers including some students from the Green Kids Club moved into Litaye Community with cutlasses, hoes, flowers, paints, brushes and other materials needed for the task ahead. Work began immediately and a short while later, everyone went to pay a respect visit to the ‘Baale’ that is, community ruler. He gave words of advice and blessing. Work resumed; clearing unkempt grasses, planting flowers, painting classrooms and exterior walls.

Lots of the community children came around to help out, some older ones also checked in to show their pleasure and give encouragements. The volunteers had a lot fun while working. They understood better the effectiveness of teamwork, some even newly learnt how to paint. Some others visited the close by palm oil making site in the community to see and learn how its production processes. There was also an exceptional and very attractive mural painting, artistically created by one of our talented ambassadors.

The volunteers also learnt and played local games with the community kids, some others played football with them and it was very exciting. The last batch of volunteers left the community at about 5:30 pm with the intention of fixing another date to put finishing touches on the almost completed renovation.

It is also very interesting to know that about twenty (20) Green Ambassadors at Ahmadu Bello University enthusiastically celebrated WED in Zaria on the 5th of June. They visited Barewa College, a college that is very important in the history of Nigeria as it has produced five (5) Nigerian Presidents. They cleared the environment, planted trees, and organised a lecture on Climate Change given by Jafar Abdulahi from Kaduna State University.

Indeed, we are change agents doing it locally, one impact at a time till a ripple effect spread all through the nation and beyond. WE ARE OFFICIALLY GREEN!