Conservation of nature, a step towards building sustainable cities and communities
Conservation of nature and its endowments should be non-negotiable in our cosmopolitan society if we will effectively mitigate climate change. It is no news what great damage has been done to human and animals alike as a result of unpredictable weather patterns, in fact, it seems there is no dichotomy between raining season and harmattan again in sub-Saharan Africa.
Every element of nature seems to be at extreme levels, the heat is so much that drought and famine have become prevalent in every region of Africa. Recently there was a great drought in cape town with over 10 million residents daily seeking for water for human and animal use, the predominantly agrarian society are migrating to the city centers as a result of poor yield in crop and animal farming.
Africa is at risk of extreme hunger as a result of food shortages defined by falling production outputs of rural agriculture, which provides the largest percentage of food supplies to the continent. It’s the fourth month of the year and rains are still very erratic, in fact when they occasionally come they are accompanied with severe and fatal storms, damaging properties and rendering a lot of people homeless.
Recently in Ilorin Kwara State North Central Nigeria there was an enforcement drive by NNPC over the incursion of buildings into the statutory setback of about 10 Meter along with the pipeline area of the metropolis. Of course, the enforcement was after the residents have been warned of the incursion and advised to comply with relevant laws.
The management of the NNPC had earlier notified owners of buildings both residential and shops erected along pipeline route about three years ago to vacate them or risk being pulled down.
In all the demolition exercise what caught my attention was that nature actually suffered the brunt. A lot of trees that gave aesthetic beauty to the metropolis were pulled down. So many windbreakers were uprooted, the question on my mind, however, was what is the offense of nature? Why must nature suffer from every human activity? Don’t we actually need to have a ministry of natural resources that conserve these natural endowments? All these questions beg for answers.
Only a few days after the demolition, there came the return of the storm and torrential rainfall. Over 20 major electric poles were damaged by the wind, roofs of houses were damaged, communication masts were destroyed, even direction boards in the city center were also destroyed. It didn’t take long before residents had a feel of the consequences of the indiscriminate tree falling.
The damage brought out power loss for few days as the concerned parties rally round resources to salvage the precarious situation, economic resources that should have gone to more productive use were spent on rebuilding the ruins as both government and individuals count their losses. Trees are very important in our society, they are the lungs of the planet, they help keep our carbon excesses in check.
Let us quickly ponder on this; have you ever thought about what our world would be like without trees? The benefits of trees go beyond their beauty and the aesthetics they bring to the city landscape. The benefits of tree planting range from Economic, Social and likewise Environmental gains.
Considering the social benefits of trees is not limited only to enjoying their beauty, humans generally feel a calming effect from being near trees. On a very sunny day the relieve that a tree shade offers either while taking a walk or trying to catch a bus is beyond words.
The feeling of serenity can considerably reduce fatigue, stress, and even lower recovery time from illness. In urban environments, lush green areas can also help reduce the level of crime, as nature is quick to connect to the psyche of humans who daily seek serenity from the largely rowdy metropolitan lifestyle.
Trees in no little way alter the environment we live in by improving air quality, reducing the effect of the storm by breaking winds, it likewise protects wildlife and moderate climate.
For example, trees help regulate temperatures and serves as nature’s thermostat by neutralizing the heating effect of structures in an urban environment. Close-packed tree foliage can serve as a windbreak, as well as provide protection from rainfall. Also, leaves filter the air we breathe by removing dust and other particulates and releasing oxygen.
Trees absorb Carbon Dioxide and in return produce oxygen, intercept airborne particulates, and reduce smog, this way they improve respiratory health.
Green spaces and parks promote greater physical activity and reduce stress especially in metropolitan settings while improving the quality of life in cities and towns.
Trees have both direct and indirect economic benefits, aside from some notable economic trees whose fruits, leaves, stems or even barks directly give economic gains as a result of global trade or medicine research. In the world of real estates and property investments, landscaped homes values from about 10 to 20 percent higher than non-landscaped homes.
We all must commit to conserving the natural resources nature endowed us with. Nature must have a priority place in every risk assessment before activities such as demolition of illegal structures occur. Nature is not an illegal structure; the fact, however, is that we can’t have structure without nature.
Nigeria recently caught the bug of celebrating global action calls like World Malaria Day, Earth Day, World Environment Day and a host of others, it is commendable that as a country Nigeria is tuned to the global action “frequency and wavelength” but it must go beyond only the hash tags and rather solidarity celebrations to actually setting realistic goals and impact-driven objectives followed by decisive execution strategies to truly take actions that will advance sustainable development goals in every nooks and cranny of our society.
The seldom ambitious statements that characterize government agencies and parastatals on occasion of global action call celebrations should be put in check. Every society should have a genuine assessment of its current status in the hierarchy of nations working tirelessly to advance the global goals, we must, therefore, take one step at a time at solving local problems using local initiative with global perspectives.
Every nation is unique and the intricacies of individual nations’ challenges differ in a great deal because a nation of few populations was able to fully ban plastics does not mean a nation with huge population can achieve the same feat in no distant time. The successes of a society most times are not direct templates to determine the success of another society without adequate evaluation.
The place of real decisive government policies coupled with full cooperation of the citizens in raising a nation to the level of high flyers in advancing global goals cannot be overemphasized, however it will do our country good when we truly evaluate how well we are faring amongst other global goals proactive nations and with one step at a time seek to advance a step further.
Nigeria as a nation must step up its drive for advancing the global goals if it will ever score high by the year 2030. Laws that compel residents to plant trees in replacement of the ones felled need to be enacted across the nation, necessary sanctions must be enforced on residents who recklessly cut down trees or fail to conserve other natures’ endowment.
Deforestation has grievous consequences on the socio-economic life of the resident population. If Nigeria as a country will successfully mitigate climate change and its biting threats, reckless felling of trees must be outlawed, both state and non-state actors must be involved in the drive for a clean and green Nation. Government agencies and parastatals statutorily in charge of safeguarding the environment, together with a robust citizen participation and cooperation must start walking the talk.
A lot is expected of Nigeria if sub-Saharan Africa will excel in its pursuit of building sustainable cities and communities. While still in the mood of the celebration of 2018 Earth Day we all as residents of the earth must come to realize there is no two earth, we have no Planet B; we, therefore, need to protect this single planet that has magnanimously accommodated humans and therefore do our best at conserving every of its endowments.
• Amusa is an environmentalist, social entrepreneur, circular economist, and zero-waste advocate. He is the chief executive officer, Vicfold recyclers- a recycling firm based in IIorin Kwara State.