By Olaleye Abimfoluwa.
In this age of information communications and technology, our environment has become more threatened than ever. Increased population growth and urbanization has led to humans stretching the balance of the environment to its limits, if not breaking point.
People nowadays are more conversant with global warming and its inherent consequences on human life. The sun has never been more scorching than it is now, land is becoming increasingly unproductive, people are starving, water is more polluted, people are thirsty, and even the air seems as though it carries less than 21% oxygen.
In 1990, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change declared that the greatest single consequence of climate change could be migration, with millions of people displaced by shoreline erosion, coastal flooding and severe drought. People affected by this are referred to as environmental refugees, they are people who can no longer gain a secured livelihood in their homelands because of droughts, soil erosion, desertification and other environmental problems. Experts said there were 25 million environmental refugees in the mid 1990s and could be doubled (up to about 50 million) by 2010 with an upper limit of 200 million by 2050. In Africa, some 440 million people are expected to experience up to 25% shortfall in food supplies with a projected 75 million to face more severe deficits. In short, if there is any time to crave and campaign for environmental sustainability, it is now.
What is environmental sustainability? Environmental sustainability is best understood from its direct opposite which is environmental degradation.Environmental degradation has a variety of definitions. It is the deterioration of the environment through depletion of resources such as air, water and soil; the destruction of ecosystems and the extinction of wild life. It is also any change or disturbance to the environment that is deleterious or undesirable. It is the reduction of the capacity of the environment to meet social and ecological objectives and needs. Therefore, environmental sustainability involves making responsible decisions and taking actions that are in the interest of protecting the natural world, with particular emphasis on preserving the capability of the environment to support human life.
Air, Water and Soil
Air refers to the gases around the earth which we breathe. Air normally consists of 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen, 0.9% argon, 0.03% carbon dioxide, 0.002% neon and the rest are minor gases such as methane. Air quality is degraded when unwanted chemicals or other materials such as gases, vapors dust, smoke, soot, cigarette smoke, and formaldehyde and so on are released into the air in large enough amounts to harm the health of people, plants and animals. Polluted air when inhaled can cause deadly air-borne diseases such as Ebola, SARS, anthrax, pulmonary tuberculosis, lung and other intestinal infections and so on.
Water is an exceptionally important resource as life on earth ultimately depends on it. Water transports nutrients and chemicals to all forms of life; it sustains both plants and animals. Only 2.5% of the earth’s water is fresh (the rest is salt water). Of the 2.5% fresh water, 69% is frozen in ice caps (Antarctica and Greenland), therefore only 30% of the 2.5% of the fresh water is available for consumption. Currently, one-fifth of the world’s population live in areas of physical water scarcity, 1 in 3 people globally are facing water shortage, and a quarter of the world live in developing countries that lack the necessary infrastructure to use water from rivers and aquifers. People are thirsty. Increased rate of population growth and urbanization, higher standards of living has lead to overcrowding and unsanitary living conditions which contaminates water. Climate change has increased the mean global temperature which consequently increased evaporation that has now reduced the amount of water available to replenish ground water supplies.
The productivity of the soil is strongly affected by the availability of soil water as water is very important in transporting nutrients and chemicals to plants and in plants. No water, no life, if we want to reduce the growing population of environmental refugees, we need to start making informed and responsible decisions towards protecting our natural world.
Farmers should quit their cultural/traditional practice of slashing and burning of weeds and embrace the new ‘Green Agriculture’ as well as other environmentally friendly and sustainably productive methods of farming. The use of recyclable products should be encouraged. Industries should adopt eco-friendly means of producing environmental friendly goods or services as the case may be. As currently practiced in America and Europe, Carbon emission credits should be given to industries and heavy fines can be charged any company that exceeds the allotted carbon credit, while the credits of companies that do not exhaust theirs can be purchased by the necessary environmental enforcement agency.
Also, individuals should be more responsible for the environment, particularly in the area of emptying and burning of trash, smoking in public, and use of scrap vehicles that emit lots of smoke. Sensitization campaigns can be carried out to educate people on how to dispose of their domestic wastes, smoking in non-smoking zones can be made a punishable offence, use of fuel efficient cars should be encouraged, urinating and defecating in any form of water body should be discouraged and indiscriminate hunting should be made an offence.
It is our responsibility to protect our environment, and if we want to reduce the current population of environmental refugees, reduce starvation, hunger and thirst as well as make this planet live-able for years to come, we have to start leading an environmentally conscious life.
Olaleye Abimfoluwa Gideon is a multi-talented cheerful and easy going young man; very thoughtful, God-fearing and an ambassador of progressive courses. He is a graduate of Soil Science from Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife and has a huge passion for the conservation and sustainability of the environment, as well as eradicating poverty and starvation. His hobbies are reading, writing thought-provoking articles, singing and watching football. He tweets from @olabimfolu and can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.