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How SAGE Innovation Centre is tackling climate crisis – Nazanin Alakija

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Alakija

Through her climate advocacy outfit, SAGE Innovation Centre, Nazanin Alakija has been at the forefront of the campaign for a Green Economy in Nigeria. The body recently partnered with Art X Lagos, West Africa’s premier international art fair, on its fourth edition. In this interview she talks about her passion for the environment, efforts to forestall a climate crisis in Nigeria, the collaboration with Art X and sundry issues.

Please talk to us about your non-profit organisation, SAGE Innovation Centre and what you hope to achieve with this initiative?
SAGE innovation centre is a non-profit organisation that aims to empower young individuals in establishing new technology and bold solutions in tackling the adverse issues we face with the climate crisis. We are aiding in the transition into a greener economy. Globally we are also facing higher rates of unemployment with youths. Through our public service and by funding new start-ups, we aim to create more jobs and an environment where sustainable SMEs can thrive.

Talk to us about the collaboration with Art X and how you hope that will improve our approach to dealing with climate change?
Our collaboration with Art X was to raise awareness as this topic is not discussed nearly as much as it should be. We are facing an existential crisis, and we are driving vehemently towards the sixth mass extinction. Using virtual reality technology, we brought images to life to show the environmental risks that plague different areas of Lagos, Nigeria.

For those of us who do not understand this crisis, please explain what exactly is climate change.
Well for starters, I don’t refer to it as climate change, it is a climate crisis. But it is the term used to describe the long-term change in our weather patterns like storms, humidity, and temperature. A changing climate means we are susceptible to severe storms, forest fires, and more extreme and unpredictable weather patterns. Furthermore, there has been an increase in natural disasters. Mozambique’s cyclone Idai in April 2018 is a perfect example of this.

What is causing this to happen and why should we be concerned about it?
The climate crisis has the potential to eradicate all socioeconomic development which we have made, in terms of global health, education and poverty reduction. It has detrimental consequences for those who live in poverty. Millions of people will face food insecurity, an increase in diseases, forced migration and conflict. It is without a doubt that the drought was one of the underlying issues that led to Syria’s civil war.

What are some of the challenges that relate to dealing with climate change in Nigeria?
In certain areas of Nigeria, individuals are suffering from droughts, farmers are also having to adapt to the changing weather patterns and seasons. But really, when have we ever experienced such sporadic rainfall this time of year in Lagos? With this rainfall also comes floods which result in outbreaks of cholera and malaria. We are also facing issues of waste management and plastic pollution. Our waters are filthy. The country’s population is continuously increasing and if nothing is done, we will face a catastrophe. The government needs to address this issue urgently before it sets Nigeria back further.

How does Sage Innovation Centre hope to tackle some of these challenges?
Through our public service and through funding we aim to push ‘green jobs’ forward. We are still early in Nigeria’s development and if we plug in innovative solutions that promote sustainable living, we will create a harmonious environment that is built to last.

What can we do to help the fight against climate change?
This really is a collective effort on all of our parts. Planting trees is a very efficient way of carbon capturing, saving water, consuming less red meat, recycling and reusing plastic, aluminium, cardboard and paper are some ways in which you can directly have an impact.

Talk to us about some of your advocacy work with the UN?
This year I have been supporting UNICEF in their emergency crisis in Yemen. They are facing the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, and it is barely being spoken about. They are at the brink of famine, not due to natural causes but because of war. And although peace agreements have been made, none have actually been implemented. In a time where we are facing a global climate crisis, I find it crazy that governments are investing billions of dollars on weapons to create instability and vacuums that ultimately lead to terrorism, as opposed to investing that money into a green economy.

Why do you have such a passion for the environment?
How can you not? How can we expect our children to thrive in an environment where they don’t even have access to clean air? How can we bring children in the world that is running low on drinking water? It is important to understand that the earth’s resources are finite. If we continue on this current trajectory, the youths of this generation will face a very dark future with instability, war, and famine. Nature has all of the resources for humanity to thrive, all it asks is that we protect it in return. We need planet earth, the earth does not need us.

How can government policy improve climate change in Nigeria?
Government policy on the climate crisis requires serious reform. We need to implement early warning systems for natural disasters, we need resilient infrastructure and most importantly, education. People need to understand what is actually going on. Although Africa has done very little to contribute to climate change, they are one of the continents that are suffering with it the most. Bangladesh has implemented climate education into school policy, and they have emergency disaster drills. The government urgently needs to implement this. And since money and economics are what gets people’s attention, a natural disaster will set Nigeria’s economy back years. As I mentioned, we still have time, all we need to do now is plug these policies into the early stages. The green economy is stated to be a trillion-dollar economy and youth is our greatest commodity. Imagine the future that awaits, if we begin to release this into our economy now.


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