I stand with nature
Odigwe Gloria Okpara
- 1 Post
It was going to be my first time traveling to the Northern part of Nigeria and I was looking forward to an actual Savannah experience; to see and feel for myself, all that my Geography text said. I would see a real baobab, take some shots with rocks and hills, feel the scorching Northern sun, and cool my parched throat with some delicious, local Fulani milk drink, kunu. I heard some of my companions talk about getting straw hats for the heat and I got one too. We were on an excursion to the Yankari Game Reserve - reputed for being the most visited tourist spot in Nigeria.
As we crossed the rainforest zones of the South, I began to see how the dry Sahara climate of the North played out. At first, there were just little boulders but soon enough, I could see the monstrous hills and from their tops, fire smoking from the settlements there. I knew we had crossed over to the North when I stopped seeing the tall palm trees and instead, sparse trees, deficient in leaves, and rocky grasslands. We passed a Cement factory in one of the communities and I felt my nose clog up. I was surprised how the people living there managed to breathe at all.
From where I sat on the bus, I could see the signs of deforestation and desert encroachment. Northern Nigeria is close to the Sahara region, as the South is to the Atlantic Ocean and so, derived much of its environmental influence from there. I found myself thinking a lot more seriously about Global Warming and Climate Change. These are some of the foremost issues of concern affecting the world today. The UN reports that, Climate change is now affecting every country on every continent. It is disrupting national economies and affecting lives, costing people, communities, and countries dearly today and even more tomorrow.
According to reports submitted by the Nigerian Government to the UN, Nigeria is presently losing about 351,000 square kilometers of its land mass to the desert, which explains the several arid lands we passed. For the first time, I was faced with the reality of climate change, the effect of prolonged deforestation, gas flaring, and inappropriate industrial and agricultural practices - not just on the environment but also on the social and economic position of my country. We are a country with a National population of over 180 million people and more than 40% of those people are concentrated in the North. This, combined with of the unfavorably changing climate, accounts for the high level of poverty there. Our climate is changing and our world is changing with it, yet the resources to manage it are not available. The activities of man everyday such as deforestation, mining, gas flaring, air, water and land pollution by industries, have altered the course of nature in more ways than we could ever quantify and these problems did not happen in one day but by hundreds of years of relentless mismanagement.
My experience at the Reserve on the other hand was very different. The air was clean and it was almost difficult to believe the place was in the same region with the communities we had passed earlier and again, I found myself thinking, about climate change, but this time, with hope. These sharp contrasts I noticed in the two regions, portrayed the power of what we are capable of doing depending on the choices we allow ourselves to make. I remember reading somewhere, a long time ago that the Sahara desert had not always been a desert but due to deforestation and other activities of man, desert encroachment set in and centuries later, what is left is a barren wasteland.
The truth is, the power to create destruction and to let nature continue on its downhill slide to disaster, or the power to cease our activities and allow her to recover for the good of us all, lies in the choices we make. If individuals, Non-governmental organizations, Governments as well as National and International bodies consciously and actively become involved in the conversation of our environment and enact measures which will stall further environmental negligence for a long period of time, then our planet is sure to recover. Most people are not aware or not urgently concerned about the effect of climate change until they have had the opportunity to experience and connect with their natural environment, first hand.
Connecting people to nature and rediscovering its ability to heal begins with taking a different approach in our interaction with it. It means harnessing the resilient and enduring power of our natural environment to reverse the effects of climate change thus ensuring our continued presence on earth. By taking the time to treat our environment with a little more care like nursing a sick patient, we can go a long way to reverse the course of destruction. We can plant trees, use less environment-polluting means of generating energy, regulate more effective social and industrial laws to protect our lands, seas and the ozone layer. It may take a long time, perhaps thousands of years but I believe in the resilient power of nature to heal itself.
I stand with nature.