By Ebele Orakpo
Worried by the rapid population growth, unpredictable weather conditions, flooding, desert encroachment, sea level rise, incessant herders/farmers clashes, displacement of people, unsustainable agricultural practices and waste disposal systems, stakeholders gathered on September 24 for the 2019 Environmental Sustainability Summit with theme: Let’s save the Earth.
The summit, which took place at the Robert Pastor Library Auditorium of the AUN was organised by the Sustainability Unit of the American University of Nigeria, AUN in conjunction with the Environmental Care Foundation, ECF, saw stakeholders and experts bringing home the devastating effects of climate change exacerbated by human activities. They concluded that there are better and healthier ways of doing things and the earlier people embrace these, the better. Some of the topics featured included: Flood: Excess water in our homes and streets; Waste management and recycling – Wealth and health creation; Organic agriculture – Our soil, our life; Climate Change and Adaptation – A lost course or Joint Course?, anchored by the Manager, AUN Sustainability Office, Raymond Obindu.
According to Mrs Jennifer Che, an Instructor at AUN and former Coordinator for the Office of Sustainability who spoke on Climate Change and Adaptation – A lost course or Joint Course?, “Six, seven years ago, we were not sure whether or not climate change will happen, but today, it is happening!” Painting a scary picture of what to expect if we continue doing things the usual way, she said by 2050, the world population would be 9.7 b and Nigeria’s population currently put at 200m, will double. “If you think Lagos is tight now, wait for another 29 years,” she said, adding: “If we don’t do anything now, with another sea level rise of 1.5m minimum and desert encroachment in the north, we may no longer have land to farm so what happens? People in the southern part of Nigeria will be forced to move towards the Middle Belt because of sea level rise and those in the north will move to the Middle Belt due to desert encroachment; that will be disastrous!”
Climate Change, according to Che, “is a change in the pattern of weather, and related changes in oceans, land surfaces and ice sheets, occurring over time scales of decades or longer. Changes in climate can occur through both natural and human-induced causes.
“Australian Academy of Science has stated that human activities are directly increasing atmospheric concentrations of carbon-dioxide , methane and nitrous oxide, which enhance the natural greenhouse effect and further warm the surface.”
For those still doubting climate change phenomenon, Che said they need not look very far. According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, NASA, number one is Global Temperature Rise – planet’s average surface temperature has risen about 0.9C since the 19th Century, warming oceans; Shrinking ice sheets: The rate of Antarctica ice mass loss has tripled in the last decade.
Glacial retreat at a global scale: Alps, Himalayas, Andes, Rockies, Alaska and Africa. Decreased snow cover. Seal level rise: Global sea level rose about 20 cm (8 inches) in the last century. Declining Arctic Sea Ice. Extreme Events. Ocean Acidification etc.
Speaking on Waste management and recycling, the Waste Manager, AUN, Mr. Matthew Abedoh defined waste as “any unwanted material or substance that results from a human activity or process.” He classified waste into Municipal waste (from homes and businesses); Industrial waste (from manufacturing, agriculture and mining); Hazardous waste (toxic, reactive, flammable and corrosive waste) and Waste Water which include used, discard and run-off water.
On reasons why waste must be managed, Abedoh said: “The most important reason why we all need to manage our waste properly is for the protection of the environment and the health of the population and also for economic reason. Some of the common diseases that can be transmitted from waste are diarrhea, cholera, dysentery, typhoid, malaria, polio, etc.
Proffering solutions to the menace of improper waste disposal, Abedoh listed the three Rs employed by the Sustainability Unit of AUN in managing their waste.
“The three Rs system – Reduce, Reuse and Recycle, is the best way to manage waste. All help to cut down on the amount of waste we throw away. They conserve natural resources, landfill space and energy and also reduce the cost of waste disposal.” He said instead of using polyethylene bags for shopping, paper bags should be used.
He noted that in 2014, the recycling industry employed more than 1.1 million people, generated over $236 billion in gross annual revenues and saved municipal budgets over $3 billion in avoided landfill disposal fees,” according to www.greenbiz.com.
On his part, Sustainability Field Research Manager, Office of Sustainability, AUN, Mr. Olurotimi Ogundijo while speaking on Organic Agriculture: Our Soil, Our Life Prospects , Problems and Solution to Agricultural Food Production in Nigeria said: “Organic agriculture is a production system that sustains the health of soils, ecosystems and people. It relies on ecological processes, biodiversity and cycles adapted to local conditions rather than the use of inputs with adverse effects. Organic agric combines tradition, innovation and science to benefit the shared environment and promote fair relationships and a good quality of life for all involved.”
Noting that the world’s population is likely to be over 9 billion by the middle of this century, “FAO believes that 60 per cent more food will be needed by 2050 to sustain all these people. In many places, soil has already suffered lasting damage while water resources are often overused or polluted by fertilizers and pesticides. Agricultural biodiversity has dwindled as farming has become industrialized. These negative effects have heightened global awareness of the fact that agriculture does more than simply produce food, animal feed and energy. It also has impacts on the climate, human health, and global ecosystems.”
He listed problems caused by chemical farming system to include cancer , cardio-vascular disease, birth defects, morbidity, impaired immune function, groundwater pollution , mortality of soil and beneficial organisms, destruction of biodiversity; increase in soil ph, leaching etc.
On the essence of organic farming, Ogundijo said it helps to grow and nurture a living soil
Proffering solutions to the menace of chemical farming system, Ogundijo said people should say no to the use of chemical farming inputs and embrace compost, bio-pesticides, zero and minimum tillage, agro-forestry etc. They should treat the soil as a living component, create awareness, increase advocacy and above all, live by example.