OPINION: Approach environmental care ethically

Mr. Davis Orishaba, an environmentalist and iElevate ambassador for Saving Earth Africa (SEA), carrying bamboo seedlings to be planted along Tokwe Riverbanks in order to restore and protect the degraded hotspot areas of Tokwe River sub-catchment area, Bundibugyo District, Uganda in September. PHOTO/Tanga Innocent.

The world in general is making efforts to care and conserve the environment.

In Kenya and Africa in general, individuals, organizations, environmental activists, environmental agencies and governments are having discussions on different methods and policies that can be adapted to conserve the natural surroundings.

Legislative measures have been put in place and environmental bills and amendments are given time to be discussed in national assemblies of different countries time to time.

More effort has been injected in the environmental conservation sector by different African countries.

Sadly, all this appears to yield minimum results.

Have we ever wondered why the outcomes of our efforts to conserve our environment are still minimum?

Human activities have a notable mark on the environment which cannot be ignored during the analysis of the Human Development Index.

Through human activities; pollution has increased, Green House Gases (GHCs) have increased in the atmosphere resulting into global warming.

This has brought about climate change.

Still, through human activities, the rate of deforestation has risen at a notable percentage as compared to that of afforestation.

Unfortunately, there is no particular way we can stop human activities from taking place so as to conserve the nature and still life moves on at the same time.

That is the funny scenario about environmental conservation.

The paradox remains, that human activities which destroy the environment cannot be completely stopped while at the same time life moves on and conservation still occurs.

This has always remained a challenge to environmental policy makers and activists together with other environmental bodies in making the right decision between conserving nature while at the same time maintaining the activities that enable human beings survival in a given area.

Obviously, one alternative has to win and in most cases conservation loses the game.

It is just a high time that environmental care campaigns be focusing more on ethical approach.

Destruction of our natural surrounding through pollution starts on a personal decision rather than at a national or continental decision.

Mr. Mahmoud Salim , an environmental activist from Mombasa and an official of Blue Earth Organisation, planting a seedling during a mangrove planting exercise recently at Amani Jipange Conservation Site. Mr. Salim and Sumaiya Harunany, Co-Founder of Blue Earth , uses the organisation in their environmental activism in the Coast. PHOTO/Courtesy.

Have you ever been a pedestrian on a busy road like the Thika superhighway or Langa’ta Road?

People who are considered as the most learned, those considered most civilized and reasonable will drop plastic water bottles among many other pollutants boldly through their car windows.

How many times have you chewed gum and stuck the remaining sugarless part on a desk or table somewhere?

How many times have you dropped biscuit packets anywhere provided you get the biscuits outside them?

Walk around Kenyan universities and all that you are likely to meet in the parks are juice plastic bottles dumped anywhere and anyhow.

Are we just breeding a dirty generation in the future that will not be able to teach their children on the importance of dustbins?

It is the simple mistakes that we do to our environment that integrate themselves into major environmental problems.

Ignorance is the first term that should be included in the discussions where the topic is causes of environmental pollution.

Ignorance seems to be engulfing Africa and particularly Kenya at a higher rate than ever seen anywhere else.

People have the information on what should be done and not done to our environment.

People know all they ought to know about the effects of polluting the environment.

Unfortunately, there exists an African ‘ghost’, born and raised in Kenya, called ignorance.

People raised under one hundred percent supervision lack the common knowledge of determining what is wrong and right when left alone.

A reasonable individual will not drink yoghurt and then leave the packet in a park somewhere.

He or she should dispose the packs responsibly in the nearest dustbin or carry them to the next established dumping place if it was in a vehicle.

We actually do not need a written policy or a drafted strategy to address ignorance as an environmental enemy number one.

We only need responsible parents and teachers to do their work maximumly in instilling environmental knowledge right away from childhood.

Imagine owning a cow that provides you milk every day; you must feed the cow, provide veterinary services to it, provide it with enough water and ensure it is safe.

All this implies taking good care of the asset that brings you profit every day.

It started raining on us when we stopped treating our environment as a valuable asset that enables our day to day activities and survival.

We became vipers to our natural surroundings, attacked it and still expected it to benefit us.

The moment you stop taking good care of your cow, the milk amount will slowly start dropping day by day.

At the end there will be no milk at all and if the situation persists, the cow will die.

And so, what happens after the cow dies?

You are likely to suffer from kwashiorkor or starve to death.

The good environment provided us with enough trees to use as timber, but the bad us did not consider giving back tree seedlings to the environment.

The good environment provided us enough water to use but the cruel us did not think of conserving the water catchment areas.

The good environment provided us with enough fertile land to carry on our agricultural activities but the judasness in us betrayed the nature by exposing the land to oil spillages, solid plastic dumpsites.

We did not think of controlling soil erosion.

The environment was once good and friendly to us but we never saw it since the spirit of ignorance and malice had covered us.

We became more advanced when we discovered oil and started exploring it.

The betrayal in us became worse when we realized that oil business was more profitable than any other ever known business.

We ushered in the oil century by adapting to a kind of life that was purely oil driven.

We forgot all about our environment and focused more on becoming rich and richer.

Oil exploration and use can be thought as the main source of environmental pollution.

Think of any pollutant you know and trace its origin backwards; the original source will mostly be oil.

Think of plastics, oil spills, exhauster fumes that origin from car engines among many other environmental pollutants.

Efforts have been made worldwide to minimize oil pollution but oil politics wins the game in most cases.

It is one of the forms of non-renewable energy that still controls the wheel that drives civilization.

There is no singular nation that can run even an hour without oil.

It controls how things run, it controls how the government moves, it controls transportation and it controls the economy.

Oil is gold on its own and to some extent it is more valuable than original gold.

Think of any developed country in the world and analyze it in form of oil exploration and usage; your thoughts and mine will obviously agree that the commodity still controls civilization.

Yes, we cannot exist without oil, but we can adjust the way we treat our environment when oil is mentioned.

The chemistry of oil will tell you that oil is majorly made up of carbon.

This element when combined with another element called oxygen forms carbon dioxide which is part of the GHGS that have been termed to result into climate change and overheating of the earth.

Environmental ethics have to be installed in oil sectors and be fully implemented.

This does not mean printing many written words and hanging posters on the walls of companies exploring oil.

It should mean changing a personal perspective towards the environment by ensuring responsible use of it.

Such a decision does not need the National Environmental Management Authority to come in and do some arrests first.

It simply requires you as an individual who consumes oil, as an individual who owns a refilling station, as an individual who owns an oil exploration company and as an individual who prepares environmental policies to have a personal meditation on the effects of the wrong thing you are about to do to the environment and take the right path.

Plastic paper bags were banned in Kenya a few years back because of their adverse pollution to nature.

It was done for the benefit of all Kenyans and not for the government.

Why do we find it easy to do something illegal than to do something legal?

So NEMA must impose a two-year jail or a two million fine on people before they realize the dangers of plastic paper bags?

I mean, what kind of a society are we existing in if we only view things from the financial benefit side?

Are we being a money-driven society and not a moral value-driven society?

Yes, I have seen vegetable sellers (mama mbogas) continuously use the banned plastic bags.

I have seen sugarcane vendors use the bags and I have seen many shopkeepers still packing rice and sugar in these bags.

Unfortunately, in my motherland, the big fish is never targeted in the net.

The nets are too small in such a way that they can only trap smaller fishes and filter out the bigger ones.

The question here should not be directed on smaller business people; the question here should be based on who still produces plastic bags on a large scale even after their manufacturing was banned?

We are not being ethical as a country and as Africa in general if we shall continue fighting the war against environmental pollution by trapping smaller fishes and filtering out the bigger ones.

We must start solving the problem from the top as we descend downwards.

The same should apply to industries that dispose their wastes into rivers and lakes. River Nairobi was once a clean river but walk along the riverside and you will shed tears for the sake of environment which cannot cry.

The City Council Officers are still being obsolete by targeting hawkers instead of reaching out to industry directors and managers to find a solution on how to reclaim River Nairobi.

We must be honest on what we are calling environmental care. We are not honest at all.

Bribery and corruption are two related things which are swallowing up Kenya and Africa in general so quickly.

The extension of corruption has adversely affected our environment.

Through corruption; plastic bags still exists in the Kenyan markets, leaded petrol is still occupying most of the spaces in African petrol stations, wildlife ivory is still a business of discussion in Africa and still through corruption, large scale manufacturing industries have no problem with directing industrial wastes including heavy metals like mercury into our water bodies, not to mention charcoal burning which was recently banned in Kenya that is still happening.

Corruption seems to be having a louder voice than ethics in Africa.

Bribing does negotiations quickly than meeting a board of environmental experts to negotiate on why you should be permitted to carry on with charcoal business.

Ohps! Maybe even the board I am talking about listens to bribe more than explanations.

However how best we may try to fight corruption so as to accelerate the war against environmental destruction, we will be doing nothing at all if we only aim at arresting individuals, jailing them and firing them.

At this rate, corruption seems to be a moral issue. It is an issue that can be approached from the ethical view.

Yes, those involved in bribery and corruption must be arrested and jailed not forgetting to fire them from offices, but what about the upcoming generation?

I mean what about those we are raising up?

Should we wait so that we can arrest them too during their time in offices over corruption?

Corruption starts at family level; we are all products of our families and we bare the name and characteristics of our families.

When many families come together, a community is formed, then a larger community is formed then a region is formed and so on until a nation, a continent and the world is formed.

Look, the truth here is that we cannot solve a worldwide or nationwide problem like corruption by assuming that the same problem at family level is minute to be solved.

Corruption at nationwide level is like a square of corruption at family level.

If we can harmonize the war against corruption and hence the victory towards environmental care from family level, then a change is coming, and the change is positive.

Higher learning institutions like universities, colleges and institutes have developed courses specifically to deal with environment.

This is a nice approach towards helping to reclaim our colonized environment from pollution.

Green energy like solar, geothermal, hydro, wind and so on is emphasized in these programs.

This still great and recommendable; we need to have green energy to lower carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

This has been happening over some years back, we have seen graduates in various environmental courses come out of campuses after completing their course curriculum, but the positive change towards environmental care has been very minimal to an extend of assuming that it has been zero or in negatives.

Why? The reasons to this sounds very common; the students are being taught with an aim of passing examinations being tested so as to avoid supplementary exams and retakes, the power of graduating with first-class degree is soon equating higher learning institutions into secondary school level where candidates mainly focus on scoring higher grades to get a chance in a university.

The second reason could be that students are being taught to enable them graduate so as to seek jobs in a system that has lower employability rate.

I should put this disclaimer before I proceed with my article; that I am not against graduating with a first-class degree neither am I against seeking jobs after graduation. I strongly support the two reasons but more strongly stand for the course value. What value should you pump into the nature after investing your four or more years studying it?

You should not be surprised when you move around campuses and found a final year student taking environmental science course dumping plastic yoghurt tin on a Blaze-branded seat in the middle of a resting park, don’t be surprised at all, it happens, it’s a norm, especially in Kenya.

Inasmuch as teachers and lecturers are struggling to cover the syllabus before the term or the semester comes to an end, we will move a step ahead in environmental care process if they will examine the practical approach of their students towards the environment, unless they are preaching the Christian or Islamic religions to a group of atheists.

Ethical approach towards environmental care should be the point number one to be discussed in environmental meetings and conferences.

Yes, you can tell people to plant trees so as to conserve water catchment areas but you cannot know what their minds are thinking about, unless they decide it in their minds, they may not follow your advice.

Environmentalism should be taught at schools right away from pre-primary education all the way to university level. It should be emphasized at home.

Teachers and lecturers may do their part but parents at home may fail it or vice versa.

We must include environmental care in our list of ethics and not just a discipline, a unit or a topic of study.

We are quick to give unreasonable reasons when the environment replies to our bad behavior towards it but this doesn’t solve the menace at all.

Desert locusts recently invaded parts of Eastern Africa, Kenya and Ethiopia being the epitome and the reasons being given are all excuses of our indiscipline towards environment.

Let us face the reality and take a positive step, let’s put environmental care first before money and politics.

All will not exist if we fail to win the war against environmental destruction.

Tetrapak Marketing Director Jackline Arao (centre), NEMA Director General Mamo Boru (left) and Friends of Oloolua Forest (FOF) Chair Mwai Wa Kihu (right) plant a tree at Oloolua Forest during the October 19, 2021 tree-planting event. The exercise was part of Tetrapak’s recycling campaign dubbed “Go Nature, Go Carton”. PHOTO/Aggrey Omboki, The Scholar Media Africa.
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