The title of this article was conceived in 2008, about half a decade ago. It came up in my undergraduate climatology class at the University of Lagos, where I learnt to identify different cloud types. Indeed, that lecture gave me an appreciation of clouds whenever I saw them in the sky. I was fairly able to name particular clouds when I saw them, and sometimes I could tell from the clouds whether it would rain or not. But, it did not just end there. Subsequently, I often caught my eyes looking skyward whenever I was outdoors, trying to see if I could still identify the clouds. It became a part of me, a habit I enjoyed.
Day after day, I saw clouds in the skies, clouds that would eventually bring rain or dew, just like everyone else did. But everyone seemed to see much more, much differently. They saw clouds that would bring rain, really heavy rains like we often have in tropical Africa; rains that would ruin their businesses and disrupt public gatherings. On the other hand, I saw beauteous clouds ranging from grey, to blue and white colours when others saw floods coming. Floods that would damage roads, slow down traffic, heighten transport fares or even destroy buildings, farmlands and properties. They saw floods that were destined to render people homeless and destitute.
While, I looked at the sky, appreciating the winds and how leaves and silt were lifted from the earth, cherishing how marvellous it was to see children’s kites sail majestically through it; others could only see storms coming. The sight sometimes also reminded them – particularly West Africans folks – that dreadful, chilly harmattan was approaching. With harmattan, they saw “harm”, dust, dryness, sickness, cold, cough, flu and all kinds of allergies. While I saw beauty and wonders of nature, they could only see gloomy disasters, in the same sky. Years have passed and the way I see the sky is nothing but a better appreciation of its characteristics, yet many of these gloomy views still persist among many till today.
While they see the disastrous nature of the skies, I could not help but see blessings, skies which supply the life-saving oxygen gas which we breathe, skies which absorb and protect us from harmful “ultra-violet” rays of the sun. I see the skies which prevent too much heat from escaping from the earth’s surface, thus keeping our world from freezing up (imagine life in a refrigerator!), skies which contain the gases that trees and crops – which we eat – need to survive. I see the skies that propagate our phone signals and our aircrafts, without which we would need several months on the ocean to go from say Africa to America; skies without which we can neither burn fuel nor generate electricity. I see skies with limitless benefits to mankind.
Therefore, I solemnly ask that we change the way we “see” the atmosphere (the “sky”), this calls for better and more optimistic view of our weather and climate. I am confident that this will go a long way in helping us to develop the right kind of attitude towards the value of the earth’s atmosphere, to better appreciate the life-saving and life-giving services it renders to us: not just the air we breathe, but the support it provides to other components of our environment which we subsist on. It will help us understand that much like the water we drink, the sky is a very precious resource to us. Despite recognizing the possible risks of hazards and disasters like thunderstorms, floods, droughts and hurricanes which we may face as a result of unusual environmental interactions, a positive view will enable us to understand that a good number of these occurrences can be prevented in future.
One thing we can do to reduce the scale of such disasters is to treasure the sky. As much as possible, we should stop and avoid anything that could cause damage to it, particularly by reducing the volume of harmful gases that pollute the atmosphere through our activities at home, work or anywhere else. We should always see the atmosphere as one of our greatest gifts without which we cannot survive on this planet. We should stop seeing it as a natural weapon of disaster waiting to strike us whenever it can. So, when next you look at the sky, my friend, see something positive, and do something positive. Shun all kinds of atmospheric (or air) pollution!
References: (Paragraph 4):
Thornes, J., Bloss, W., Bouzarovski, S., Cai, X., Chapman, L., Clark, J., Dessai, S., Du, S., van der Horst, D., Kendall, M., Kidd, C. and Randalls, S. (2010). Communicating the value of atmospheric services. Meteorological Applications, 17, 243-250.
—About Emmanuel Taiwo —
Emmanuel Taiwo is a postgraduate of natural resources at the University of Greenwich. Having grown up in Lagos, Nigeria’s most industrialized city where overpopulation and intensification of economic activity are causing significant environmental harm, he is passionate about helping individuals and corporate bodies change their practices to become more sustainable.