By Ebele Orakpo
“Just look at the vast land wasting away and we are here crying over unemployment, poverty, food insufficiency and the rest of them,” noted Joe, a passenger in the Onitsha-bound commuter bus. The bus was moving slowly on the Lagos-Benin Expressway as traffic was beginning to build up due to bad road worsened by the heavy rains being experienced in the country.
“What else do we want God to do for us? He has given us vast fertile land, clement weather, natural and human resources, everything we need to excel. Are we all right?” he asked rhetorically.
“May be we need to be spoon-fed. We don’t seem to be able to put our act together,” said Phil to which Martin replied thus: “Then we may have to wait forever because God will not do that for us. He gave us thinking faculty to be able to use what He has given us to improve our lives and the lives of others.”
“So all this talk about climate change and the need to preserve our forests to mitigate the effects of climate change means nothing to you? Are you saying we should destroy these forests? We should be talking about reforestation. Don’t you know that the torrential rains we are experiencing this year is a result of climate change?” asked Abu.
Joe, visibly angered by Abu’s assertion retorted: “So food crops are not plants ehn? Do you listen to yourself at all?”
Replied Abu: “They are different from these huge trees in the forests. Moreover, you will end up destroying all these plant species some of which are not found anywhere else but Nigeria and could be miracle plants waiting to be discovered.”
“That is not an issue. Preserve forests and die of hunger? Besides, I think the food crops can do the work of these forests,” replied Joe.
“I think Abu has a point,” said Ben, adding: “We don’t need to destroy the forests. We must have forest reserves and that is where our scientists come in. We should have a biodiversity data for Nigeria. A friend of mine once said we should stop destroying our vegetation because one of the plants we destroy may be the answer to HIV/AIDS.”
“Exactly!” exclaimed Abu. “We are made to understand that these forests save us from toxic chemicals released by the industries which can impair our health by absorbing them. They also serve as carbon zinc by taking up the carbon dioxide from industries and from our breathing. They take it up and use it for photosynthesis. So you see, we really need the forests.”
Said Joe: “I agree. If you followed my argument, I did not say we should just cut down trees. I said we should use most of the land for agriculture. Abi maize, sorghum, rice, mango, oil palm trees, coconut trees, rubber, vegetables, yam, potatoes, etc, don’t need carbon dioxide for photosynthesis?
We are saying the same thing. Instead of these trees that are not economically useful, we should plant those that are useful to us. But like Ben pointed out, we should have forest reserves in all the six geo-political zones.”
“Point of correction! They are all useful,” stated Jimoh.
“Yes, but some are more useful to us now than others,” noted Joe.