January 3, 2020

Ben Enwonwu Foundation Point of View: When experts query environmental degradation

Ben Enwonwu Foundation Point of View: When experts query environmental degradation

By Chris Onuoha

In recent times, the issue of climate change has taken over the front row of global discuss because of its reoccurring challenges on humanity and nature.

Not even the world leaders are left out in this all important issue as global warming and climate change attracted much attention at the recent ‘World Economic Forum’ held in Davos, Switzerland.

The world leaders, all in turn, lent their voices in solidarity to what seems a unified effort to draw more attention on the impact of global warming, with need to put it in check.

However, ‘Point of View’ (POV), a discussants’ platform instituted by the Ben Enwonwu Foundation (BEF) is also timely on that pedestal, as the recent 2020 debut of the platform, held on January 24 at the usual venue, Alliance Française, Mike Adenuga Centre in Lagos, being the fourth edition in the series, focused on climate change.

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The discuss advocates for sustainable ecosystem in the cities and rural communities, and by so doing, promote interdisciplinary collaboration between professionals across diverse sector who shed lights on the significant role of visual art in ensuing policy frameworks that addresses climate change.  There was a call for action on the different aspects and dimension of the above phenomenon by the panelists, and also conveying to the government some recommendations and solutions to thwart the impact.

With a theme: “Art as a driver for Environmental Sustainability”, the platform painstakingly brought on board,  four environmental experts from different fields – Desmond Majekodunmi, Chairman, Lagos State Urban Forest and Animal Shelter Initiative (LUFASI);  Polly Alakija, Chairman, Lagos State Council for Art and Culture; Sandra Mbanefo-Obiago, Founder and Director SMO Gallery and Lucy Latham, Policy and City Programme Lead, Julie’s Bicycle, United Kingdom who all made presentations to draw attention on the impacts of climate change and environmental degradation.

This was also followed by discussants’ session, made up of knowledgeable personalities on environmental issues. They include Dr. Andrew S. Nevin, Advisory Partner and Chief Economist, Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC) West Africa; Professor Toyin Adejunwo-Osho, Faculty of Law, University of Lagos and Sean Melbourne, Head of Climate Change and Energy West Africa, British High Commission, Abuja, while Tunde Arogunmati, Principal Consultant, Toff Resources Nigeria Limited moderated.

A strong believer in keeping God’s creation as it should be is Desmond Majekodunmi, environmental activist, farmer, multimedia specialist and founder, LUFASI Nature Park, Lekki, Lagos. Majekodunmi is a certified experimental extension farmer for International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ibadan and operates Majekodunmi Agricultural Project (MAP), an agro forestry based conservation farm in Lagos. The ecological management expert and tourism development consultant has all his life, devoted passionately on environmental sustainable development through education, awareness campaign and advocacy. His wealth of experience on ecosystem is enormous. Any wonder his presentation tagged: “Making Our Futures The Intersection of Culture and the Environment” held the audience spellbound.

Speaking to Vanguard correspondent on the sideline about the tree-planting initiative, he said, “Government initiated 25 million tree planting exercise across the country backed up with a ministerial commission. LUFASI have already started the symbolic planting with Uzoma Philip Asiodu. The Nigerian conservation Foundation is driving it in a big way and LUFASI Nature Park is playing a small role.”

He stressed that the 25 million tree estimate is a good number but not enough, saying he wants to see it doubled. On his take on the viability of the project, Majekodunmi added; “It is all about awareness, and once we let all the people know how important tree planting is – that it gives us food, medicine, shelter and eco-friendly atmosphere among other things, the better it becomes.”

He also talked about the need to take it serious and hoped that corporate bodies will be willing to finance the grassroot intervention of the tree planting initiative.

On the impact of burning fossil fuels, he noted, “What we should do is to start loving the God that we profess to love. We saw that his creation is good and how can we then be destroying the good nature he had created which is our very life support system.”

“When we say, don’t burn fossil fuels, it is because burning it is poisonous to people and very damaging to the environment. But we are not saying do not drill it. In fact, it is too valuable a resource to be burnt because if you think of all the by-products from fossil fuel: electronic gadgets, mobile phones, pharmaceuticals, make-up products and others, then, we need to start using the product very responsibly.”

“For global warming and climate change, the reality is based on the science. If I hold an apple in my hand, based on science, if I release my fingers from the apple, it will drop because science tells me that there is a law of gravity. Likewise science is telling us that green house gases create more heat for the planet and the planet in turn, will react very negatively to the heat. It is all based on science and we have to stop it, otherwise we will have more trouble,” Majekodunmi added.

Polly Alakija is a visual artist and cultural expert with passion and focus on environmental management. She is the founder of Five Cowries, an art education initiative whose mission is to use arts education to provide educators with an inclusive means of conveying complex issues, from conservation, citizenship, health and migration to pollution. Five Cowries target has been young people across the States of Nigeria, using art as a veritable tool of learning to improve numeracy and literacy as well as transferable skills.

Her presentation titled, “The Role of Education in Propelling Climate Change” gave an insight of how young people felt maginalised when the issues of climate change and environmental sustainability are discussed.

According to her, “Art is a reflection of our culture.” She disclosed that education and educator role in empowering the young ones about the sustainable future cannot be overemphasised. “One cultural challenge we have in this country is not listening to the children,” says Alakija.

Polly’s slide illustrations showed many of her art projects created on the spot at strategic places to sustain space values, such as the paintings at Falomo flyover bridge pillars, hanging installations at the Lagos State Waterway Ferry terminals and some works exhibited in London. Her enriching presentation indicates that we cannot separate children from the knowledge of keeping the earth save for sustainable development.

Sandra Mbanefo-Obiago is the founder of SMO space gallery. She is a film maker, photographer, social activist and art curator. In using ‘waste to wealth’ as a focal point, she illustrated how that has become a growing market for recycled art. SMO in a way is a mobile gallery without permanent home. Sandra’s initiative in using available spaces to carry out art fair is one that promotes space management. For Lucy Latham who delivered her speech via Skype from London, she spoke on how Julie’s Bicycle, a British company engages youth more, on sensitizing drive about climate change.

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On the panel discussion session, Arogunmati challenged the panel to give insight on what the public should know about the dangers of environmental mismanagement. Professor Adejunwo-Osho in her contribution points to education as the most important tool to create awareness. She stressed that academic research and data gathering done in a proper way will help. She also said that inadequate information dissemination is a huge gap on that process.

Sean Melbourne disclosed the UK’s impact in creating massive awareness over the challenges. According to him, UK is partnering with relevant organisation in driving the course forward and would host a Climate Conference in November 2020 for that purpose. “Our awareness drive is yielding positive results as behavioural change of people in the UK is making a huge difference,” says Melbourne. He disclosed that people are now using coffee cup material against plastic bottle to package soft drinks which according to him is encouraging.

Dr. Nevin, an economist explained how the financial sector can come in and salvage the situation. Among other things he mentioned including education, sufficient capital to drive the course, he disclosed that the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Bond created by the world body is a sure way of tackling a long term global challenge and it is borrower friendly.

Ever since the inception of the POV events, notable personalities, policy influencers, artists and art enthusiasts have graced the occasions with more yearning to get connected. According to Oliver Enwonwu, President, Ben Enwonwu Foundation, “The core aim of this initiative is to interrogate the evolving role of the visual arts in addressing pressing issues affecting Africa and the rest of the world. These, we do by drawing from other creative disciplines and such diverse sectors in the society to impact policy by raising awareness, advocating for change and inspiring action. This is the fourth edition in the series, and we will continue to bring to the fore, every month, topical issues in the polity for discuss.