The need to care for the environment we share

As part of its mission to make the society a better place to live in, the Centre for Peace and Strategic Studies through its Association of Students of Peace and Strategic Studies (ASPASS), under the leadership of Abulfathi Ahmad Arabi, started to commemorate the World Environment Day last Wednesday (July 12, 2017). The main activity was a public lecture, ably delivered by the renowned Professor of Analytical and Environmental Chemistry, Folahan Amoo Adekola, then a rally complemented with neighbourhood cleanup to further create awareness. Though the Environment Day is marked on June 5 every year, the Association thoughtfully decided to shift the programme to last week since the actual date coincided with the month of fasting.

The World Environment Day is the biggest global event that takes place every year with a view to achieving positive environmental action. Since it began in 1972, it has become a global effort and a rallying point for all, commemorated from country to country with various themes that border on the environment we share. This year’s theme is “Connecting People to Nature” and it was hosted by Canada under the auspices of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

The environment is the planatory support on which all human activities depend. It includes the land we live on, the water we use, the air we breathe and the space we see everywhere. We are all products of the environment, with the earth being our forte. Our environment makes or mars us. Besides, without environmental security, a component of human security, which concerns living in a healthy physical environment spared from desertification, deforestation and other threats that endanger our survival, we are all in trouble.

Unfortunately, the trouble is here with us and it is therefore important we begin to connect more with nature. With climate change, global warming and their attendant disruption of life and its support systems, the need to nurture nature and be sensitive to the environment we share is urgent. The reality of today is that the sea level is rising, the artic sea ice is melting, glaciers and permafost are melting, sea surface temperatures are warming, heavier rainfall causing flooding in many regions is increasing, extreme drought is increasing and crops are withering. Besides, hurricanes have changed in frequency and intensity, there are more frequent heat waves and we witness deforestation and degradation. Then, we experience more changing ecosystems which cause competition and conflict among us.

To cite a single practical example, within the past two weeks, Lagos and Niger States were hit with the disaster of intense flooding which resulted in the loss of several lives and property. At the same time the Environment Day was holding at the University of Ilorin last Wednesday, the Minister of Water Resources, Suleiman Adamu, was warning in Abuja that about 30 states and 100 local government areas could experience flooding this year. The acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, only last week approved the immediate release of 1.6 billion Naira to 16 states already affected by flood, which is just one of the environmental disasters ensnaring Nigeria and the rest of the world.

With the event last week, which shall henceforth be held annually, the University of Ilorin, through the Centre and its students,  has further keyed into the UNEP’s mission “to provide leadership and encourage partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations.”

Already, the better by far University has a robust Environmental Policy, which aims at a) making and keeping the University campus beautifully landscaped, green, clean and pollution-free; providing safe and healthy working conditions for students and staff, reducing and discouraging avoidable impacts such as litter, graffiti, posting of bills on unauthorised places and noise pollution; c) protecting the environment and promoting the minimisation of its environmental impacts at all levels in relation to the generation and disposal of wastes and harmful emissions; d) promoting environmental awareness among its students and staff in the areas of resource use, design, maintenance and use of its buildings and other facilities through the provision of information, instruction and training; and e) encouraging a participatory approach to environmental management throughout the University community and adopting “best practice” environmental policies at individual, departmental, faculty, professional service and institutional levels.

It is necessary to domesticate and adapt this policy in our various homes and communities such that we shall have a cleaner, greener and safer environment for our collective wellbeing. It is also important that we take necessary actions and precautions against practices, habits and activities that degrade and despoil the environment.

Perhaps, it is apt to end this piece as I did on that occasion with the words of Prof. Niyi Osundare, in one his nature poems, “Ours to plough, not to plunder” in his The Eye of the Earth:

This earth is ours to plough and plant …

This earth is

Ours to work, not to waste

Ours to man, not to maim

This earth is ours to plough, not to plunder.