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A cry for the planet: Is man’s concern for Earth going to change his behaviour?

deforestation
deforestation

Since time immemorial, man and nature have mutually co-existed in a symbiotic way.

However, this relationship is under threat from destruction of the ecosystems by human activities, mostly related to the planet’s natural resources exploitation for economic gain.

Activities such as clearing of virgin land for agriculture, urban expansion and settlement, industrial extraction and deforestation are contributing to depletion of the planet’s biodiversity.

Global warming, the increase of earth’s temperature, is a contributing factor to climate change, due to greenhouse gases disrupting the ozone layer, which acts as earth’s protection shield from excessive sun heat and damaging rays. The result has been cases of heat wave being reported in several parts of the world, the most recent one being in Canada in June, where at least 130 deaths were reported, with temperatures soaring to 50 degrees Celsius.

Part of the solution is to find ways of reducing greenhouse emissions through seeking alternative livelihoods to highly dependable economic activities such as fossil fuel combustion which releases carbon dioxide, and agriculture contributing significantly large amounts of methane. However, this may prove difficult to implement considering that most people particularly in developing countries lack “clean energy” and depend on fossil fuels such as wood and charcoal. As for agriculture, it is an income generating activity and the way families put food on the table.

However, all is not lost as environmental experts join hands with like-minded planners in developing policy guidelines that will offer speedy solutions to government actors to protect Mother Nature.

This follows a meeting held recently by environmental scientists, researchers and economists to deliberate on a world ecosystems status report titled “Global Review on the Economics of Biodiversity”.

The report, by Prof Partha Dasgupta, a Frank Ramsey Professor Emeritus of Economics at University of Cambridge United Kingdom, states the planet is entering a risky stage due to global warming and climate change, and controlling ecosystems’ destruction should be top priority.

“By interfering with the ecosystem, we are provoking micro-organisms that have not evolved with us. These will become active and pose threat to human health by triggering a pandemic from zoonotic pathogens,” says Prof Dasgupta.

Dr Philip Osano, Director of Stockholm Environment Institute – Africa Centre says, as global warming and climate change take toll on the planet, governments will be forced to scale up national budgets to astronomical level to cater for basic needs such as food, water, nutrition, security and public health.

Insecurity is bound to increase as communities compete to safeguard dwindling resources such as water and clean air.

Dr Osano’s views are supported by Dr Moses Gichua from Botany department, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, who calls for better policies in environmental management to protect ecosystems and biodiversity.

“The fact that land as a factor of production continues to diminish as population increases presents a challenge in its management and alternative uses. Already, people living in areas once considered being agriculturally highly productive, have started feeling the heat of ecosystem disruption. As degradation of agricultural land and forest depletion within government and community forests manifest themselves, this is resulting in drying of rivers and reduction of water table. In Kenya, there is need for immediate action in key water towers. A sustainable land management system that puts into account conservation practices is critical,” Dr Gichua advises.

As the world looks forward to hosting the forthcoming United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity under auspices of the 15th Conference of Parties (CoP) in Kumming, China in October this year, the Dasgupta report has opened further debate on the role of governments, the private sector, communities and individuals in tackling advancing global warming and climate change effects.

By PETER MUSA

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