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From street to gallery, Nigerian creatives sing for ailing planet – Part 2

By Gregory Austin Nwakunor
12 March 2023   |   4:03 am
From panel discussions at art fairs to art projects and institutional commitments, the creative sector has come around to actually walk the talk after years of silence.

The Face of the City (made from recycled materials) by Junkman

From panel discussions at art fairs to art projects and institutional commitments, the creative sector has come around to actually walk the talk after years of silence.

Organisations have galvanised the sudden shift towards public awareness of climate-change science, and more and more people now recognise that the earth is on the precipice of an important historical moment and the actions taken over the next decade could be the key to avoiding climate disaster.

Aside from Foluke Michael’s initiative, leaders across the creative sector are facilitating behavioural change and reshaping the inputs required for a sustainable planet. Late last year, climate change activists converged on Didi Museum, Victoria Island, Lagos for an exhibition organised by Our Tomorrow, a pollution and climate change organisation, with the verdict that more urgent steps needed to be taken to save the planet from threat of climate change.

The show, which aimed at creating awareness among young ones about dangers of climate change, saw presentations of works by students of both public and private secondary schools in Lagos depicting the threat of carbon emissions, and proffering solutions to the challenge.

Speaking at the event, Prince Emeka-Obasi Jnr, founder of the NGO, said the idea was to create awareness among younger generation about the danger climate change poses to the society, so that they would begin early to adopt behavioural changes, and add their voices to the demand for governments to take more action.

“We decided to launch this initiative, because we are aware of the dangers climate change poses to our environment. The idea is to create awareness, especially among the young people, because it’s important that we begin to address this problem,” Emeka-Obasi said.

“Of course, if climate change is not tackled, it is going to significantly affect the quality of lives that we live. We are going to see more floods, more droughts, conflicts and so on. So, it is important that governments across the world speed up effort to tackle these issues.

“On our part, we’ve been trying to create awareness; to bring attention to these issues with a view to compelling action. We believe that as more young people join their voices, more can be achieved in this regard.”

Issues surrounding impact of climate change and urgent need to find measures that would ensure environmental sustainability was also the focal point of a roundtable by the Ben Enwonwu Foundation in collaboration with the Society of Nigerian Artists and supported by Alliance Francaise/Mike Adenuga Centre.

Themed, Point of view: Art as a Driver for Environmental sustainability, the event featured presentation and panel discussion sessions examining how creatives are utilising their talents to deal with threats of climate change and sustainable ways to ensure art becomes a major driver of environmental sustainability.

Desmond Majekodunmi, who preferred to be addressed as the Chief Gardener, said owing to climate change, a factual prediction indicated “rising sea may wipe off Lagos by 2050. Lagos is at risk of being partially submerged and if we don’t start doing the right things, we will be under water.”

Citing examples of works by artistes such as late American pop musician Michael Jackson’s Earth Song and others, Majekodunmi called on more artists to join the fight.

Speaking on the sub theme, ‘Waste to Wealth’, founder and Director, SMO Contemporary Art, Mrs. Sandra Mbanefo-Obiago, said one area to also look at is how art has brought humanity close to wealth and sustainability through recycled materials.

In recent times, she noted, African art has done well in the global art market with Professor El Anatsui, the king of recycled art, taking the lead adding that most Nigerian artists doing well in the global art market are using recycled materials.

Prof Bruce Onabrakpeya, according to Mrs Mbanefo-Obiago, has used recycled objects from the environment to revolutionise his art.

Others are Nnenna Okore, Peju Alatise, Kainebi Osahenye, Kolade Oshinowo and Dil Humphrey-Umezulike, popularly known of Junkman of Africa.

Africa’s Tragedy
DESPITE contributing only a minute amount of global greenhouse gas emissions, the African continent suffers the deleterious effects of climate change to a disproportionate degree.

The heavy carbon emitters, like China and the United States, have a moral obligation to help the nations of Africa, particularly the rural areas of these countries, mitigate the impact of climate change, not just to help Africa, but to help the rest of the world.

The data tells an ugly story that should make everyone—including the leaders of the major polluting nations and donor countries, as well as the leaders of African nations — commit to implementing policies, allocating resources, and taking the necessary actions to address the situation. Increased temperatures cause deadly heat waves.

With temperatures expected to increase 1.5 times higher than the rest of the world by the end of the 21st century, African countries will see shorter wet spells (leading to droughts) or heavier rains (causing floods), leading to reduced food production because they lack the infrastructure and support systems present in wealthier nations.

Houses taken over by the 2022 flood

Climate change threatens the lives and livelihoods of over 100 million in extreme poverty. Global warming is expected to melt Africa’s remaining glaciers in the next few decades, and the reduction in water essential to agricultural production will create food insecurity, poverty, and population displacement.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, the gross domestic product (GDP) could be reduced by up to three percent by 2050. Agriculture is critical to Africa’s economic growth. Climate change could destabilise local markets, increase food insecurity, limit economic growth, and increase risk for agriculture sector investors.

African agriculture is particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change because it is heavily dependent on rainfall, and climate change has seriously affected rainfall throughout the continent. The Sahel, for instance, is largely dependent on rain-fed agriculture, and droughts and floods, both of which kill crops and reduce yield, already hit it regularly.

By 2030, crop yields across the continent are projected to decrease by varying amounts depending upon the region. Southern Africa, for example, is expected to experience a 20 per cent decrease in rainfall.

According to a 2017 report by the United Nations, more than half the global population lives in urban areas. The African continent has the world’s fastest rate of urbanisation.

In 1960, only 20 per cent of the populations lived in cities. The current rate is over 40 per cent, and, by 2050, the number is projected to be 60 per cent. Sub-Saharan Africa is regarded as the world’s fastest urbanising region, with an urban population of 472 million in 2018, which is expected to double by 2043.

Failure to reduce global warming hurts all countries on the globe, but African countries, because they are most vulnerable, will be hurt most.

Africa warmed at an average rate of around +0.3 °C/decade between 1991 and 2021, faster than the warming from 1961-1990, at +0.2°C/decade.

The year 2021 was either the third or fourth warmest years on record for Africa.

Sea level rise is increasing along the African coastlines is at a higher rate than the global mean rate, especially along the Red Sea and southwest Indian Ocean where the rate is close to 4 mm/year. This is likely to continue in the future, contributing to increased frequency and severity of coastal flooding in low-lying cities and increased salinity of groundwater due to sea water intrusion. By 2030, 108-116 million people in Africa are expected to be exposed to sea level rise risk.

Severe Floods affected South Sudan, Nigeria, Republic of Congo, DRC and Burundi. South Sudan recorded the third straight year of extreme floods leading to elevated water levels of Lakes and rivers, resulting from the intense rainfall in 2020, 2021 and 2022.

Climate-related hazards continued to be a major driver of new displacement in Africa. Chronic floods and droughts, sea level rise, and extreme weather events all influence displacement patterns within borders and across international borders. In 2021, around 14.1 million people were internally displaced in Sub-Saharan Africa, including around 11.5 million due to conflict and violence and 2.5 million due to disasters.

Increased temperature contributed to a 34% reduction in agricultural productivity growth in Africa since 1961 – more than any other region in the world. This trend is expected to continue in the future, increasing the risk of acute food insecurity and malnutrition. A global warming of 1.5 °C is projected to be accompanied by a decline of 9% of the maize yield in West Africa and 20%-60% of the wheat yield in southern and northern Africa.

High levels of poverty, dependence on rainfall for agricultural production, weak or missing infrastructure, and lack of social safety nets combine to exacerbate an already dire situation. While some of the responsibility to address these problems rests with African governments, climate justice demands that there be international cooperation to tackle this existential threat. African governments, in partnership with the international community, should commit to sustained action to mitigate the impact of climate change, in particular the effects on the most vulnerable within their countries.

Deepening Climate Awareness, Tackling Environment Sustainability Challenge
IN November 2021, Nigeria passed the Climate Change Act that seeks to achieve low greenhouse gas emission, and green and sustainable growth by providing the framework to set a target to reach net zero between 2050 and 2070.

The Act includes provisions to adopt National Climate Change Action Plans in five-year cycles.

The Action Plans, produced by the National Council on Climate Change established by the Act, are meant to ensure national emissions are consistent with a carbon budget. The carbon budgets are to be set by the federal ministries responsible for the environment and national planning and periodically reviewed.

It is unclear if the government is on track to achieve the initial deadlines set in the Act. Under the Act, the first Action Plan and the pilot carbon budget should be published by November 2022; while, the Director General of the National Council on Climate Change, who is expected to drive implementation of the Act, was only appointed in July 2022.

In 2021, the government approved the Petroleum Industry Bill to reform the oil and gas sector and attract investment in the sector. While expected improvements in transparency are welcome, new investment into oil and gas infrastructure is not in line with the Paris Agreement temperature limit and will increase the risk of stranded assets. According to the IEA, no new oilfield development is needed if the world is serious about reaching net zero emissions in 2050.

In its 2021 NDC update, Nigeria committed to reducing emissions by 47% below BAU by 2030, conditional on international support. This is equivalent to an emissions level 1 per cent above to 23 per cent below 2010 levels excluding LULUCF by 2030. While this is a strong conditional target, Nigeria will need to strengthen its policies to make sure it has the enabling conditions in place to meet the target, in addition to receiving international support.

By August 2022, Nigeria released its Energy Transition Plan (ETP) to achieve the 2060 net zero emissions target that President Buhari announced at COP26; however, the plan relies on significant action after 2030. The government has declared the period to 2030 the “Decade of Gas”.

According to the IEA, no new oil or gas field development is needed to reach net zero emissions (NZE) in 2050. The IEA’s 2022 update on its NZE scenario indicates that African oil and gas production needs to decline by 41 and 13 per cent below 2021 levels by 2030 respectively, and 82 per cent for oil and 78 per cent for gas by 2050. In other words, expanding the availability of oil or gas in Nigeria or anywhere else in the world is inconsistent with limiting warming to 1.5°C and achieving net zero emissions by 2050.

Eco Artists And Sustainable Earth
IN Nigeria, Africa’s biggest oil producer with more than 200 million people, plastic waste in particular, in the form of discarded bags, food and drink packaging, is ubiquitous and dropping of litter is common place.

About 100 million tonnes of plastic waste are generated globally each year. Ninety percent of discarded plastic isn’t recycled and ends up in landfills, drainages or oceans, which, in addition to polluting the environment, exacerbates the climate emergency through the release of methane and ethylene.

The move is part of a larger global effort to stem the tide of plastic pollution. Every year, an estimated 11 million tonnes of plastic enter the world’s oceans, according to a recent report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), From Pollution to Solution.

Approximately 300 million tonnes of plastic waste (an amount equivalent to the weight of the human population) are produced every year. However, only 9 per cent is recycled; the vast majority of the rest accumulates in landfills or the natural environment. Over time, these materials break down into microplastics that ease additional pollutants into the human food chain, freshwater systems, and air.

Once plastic enters the environment, it can go global with environmental impacts that can last hundreds of years.

According to the World Bank, Nigeria is the biggest generator of plastic waste in Africa, and has the fastest growing e-waste problem in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Over 88 per cent of about 2.5 million tonnes of plastic waste generated in Nigeria annually is not recycled, and the crisis only appears to be worsening due to the country’s growing population rate, low waste management capacity and lean investment in recycling and upcycling.

Capturing the climate crisis in their work requires eco-artists to confront the daily realities of drought, heat, wildfires, and pollution. These conditions converge in Nigeria.

Today, many people already recognise that climate change is a pressing issue, which humanity has to move fast enough to mitigate its effects. Eco-artists are now faced with a new challenge: How do you move people past their fatigue and grief, and galvanize action?

IN textile and fashion, designers are increasingly using locally sourced, recycled items for production. Today, Abuja-based fashion designer, Vivian Zadok, owner of VZ Creations, through her ‘Fashion Rebirth’, an eco-friendly brand, is advocating for a sustainable earth. She is providing answers to uestions of climate crisis.

She uses her creativity to ensure a sustainable planet and its social responsibility.

Her pieces raise awareness towards a sustainable and eco-friendly fashion industry and preservation of the earth.

“Textiles thrown into the landfills have become a big global problem. Natural fibers take years to decompose, whereas man-made fibers do not decompose. Woolen clothes do decompose, but release methane and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This contributes towards global warming. Synthetic fabrics in the landfill release nitrous oxide, which is a powerful greenhouse gas. Besides, toxic substances pollute groundwater and surrounding soil,” she said.

She added, “recycling and reusing textiles, fibres and waste materials is an effective method to build sustainability in the apparel industry. It is our collective duty to do the little we can to encourage eco friendly fashion in other to protect our environment.”

According to Zadok, “VZ Creations aims to address the adverse effects of garments on the environment, the ethical treatment, pay and occupational health standards of garment workers.”

She said, “the brand improves all stages of the garment life cycle to use, reuse, repair, remake and recycle the product and its components. Our goal is to increase the value of our production and products, to prolong the life cycle of materials, to increase the value of timeless garments and to reduce the amount of waste and harm to the environment.”

JUMOKE Olowookere, an ecoPreneur and initiator of #PP40WastetoPlayground, is on a mission to create a sustainable world without wastes through education and upcycling wastes into functional, durable and affordable products towards achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 1, 4, 8, 11, 12, 13 and 17.

A 2019 alumna of the U.S. Consulate’s Academy for Women Entrepreneurs, Olowookere has opened the first of its kind waste museum and upcycling training centre in Nigeria with support from the United States Africa Development Foundation.

The Waste Museum provides environmental education and equip women and youth from underserved communities with upcycling skills, a statement from the U.S. Consulate read.

Olowookere, who says her museum is the first of its kind in Africa, joins a growing number of Nigerians who are using waste material to make art and fashion to highlight the damaging impact of waste on the environment.

“Environmental risk factors of indiscriminate disposal of waste and the rising pile of garbage in our cities are huge. With the Waste Museum, we are showcasing the value of waste,” Olowookere said.

“We want people to see how waste can be turned into wealth. Our ultimate goal is to ensure that no waste goes into the landfill –– a zero waste future is possible.”