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Environmental Hazards In Africa – Save Our Community of Africa
THRIVING COMMUNITY AND ENVIRONMENT: SAVE OUR COMMUNITY AFRICA
Humans have undoubtedly been changing their local environment since they arrived on the scene as a distinct species several hundred thousand years ago. Our debut as major actors on the world stage—actors comparable in influence to the classic roles played by erosion, volcanism, natural selection, and the like—is a much more recent phenomenon. This dates back at most to several thousand years, but has greatly accelerated in scope and influence over the past several centuries. According to Crutzen (2002) “We live today in what might be called the ‘Anthropocene’ – a new geological epoch in which the human species has emerged as a globally significant – and potentially intelligent – force capable of reshaping the face of the planet”. The Italian geologist Anthonio Stoppani (1873) described the activities of mankind as a “new telluric force, which in power and universality may be compared with the greatest forces of the Earth”. Many international conferences have been held to deal with environmental problems. Examples are the UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro Brazil, 1992, the World Summit on Sustainable Development, held in Johannesburg in 2002, etc. The need to harness science and technology to support efforts to achieve the goal of environmentally sustainable human development in the Anthropocene was generally recognized at the Johannesburg Summit. Environmental hazards are a contemporary issue in Africa, but before I delve into the causes of the problems and some solutions, I would like to give some definitions and characteristics of the environment. I will also use Nigeria (an African country) as a case study due to the limitations of the work.
DEFINITIONS AND CHARACTERISTICS OF ENVIRONMENT
The unfortunate older, incorrect and simplistic definition of the environment is that it is the resource created for human use. It is this mechanical aspect that exists to serve people. This definition is unfortunate and wrong because it explained the environment as something inanimate. something that exists solely for human pleasures and recreational needs. The background of this definition includes the anthropological, religious, psychological, economic and philosophical explanations of the origin and nature of the environment. Environment is also defined as the natural environment in which people, animals and plants live. Uchebu (1998) categorized the environment into natural and non-natural. The natural environment includes terrestrial (Soils) Gases, Aquatic (Aquatic) environments and non-natural – cultural and socio-economic environment. The environment therefore functions according to Kankwenda (2001) as:
(1) Source of raw materials and energy (non-renewable sources).
(2) Provider of services such as maintaining the climate system/stability and ecological cycle (renewable energy sources), including forests, agricultural land, water, etc.
(3) And sink for waste.
Environmental problems are the central issue of the twentieth and twenty-first (20th-21st) centuries. This is because the risks involved in it are both deep and serious and long-lasting to MAN and the ecosystem itself. According to “Awake” magazine, humanity is currently in a ticking time bomb due to environmental impacts either in the form of weapons and/or pollutants and hazards such as floods, drought, soil erosion, deforestation, volcano, earthquakes, radio- chemical hazards etc.
Nigeria as a nation encompasses multiple climates that require and encompass various physiographic units. There are various ecological zones ranging from Sahel Savanna, Sudan Savanna and Guinea Savanna to rainforest to mangrove and swamp forest. Different ecological zones respond differently to the impact of human activities due to their natural stress response capacities and inherent transport capacities. The Sahelian Savanna is very sensitive to desertification. the Sudan Savannah can barely cope with human pressures from rapidly growing populations, fuelwood, harvesting and cattle grazing. The Guinea belt is usually under pressure as a natural barrier between the desert and the forest zone. The rainforest zone is under excessive pressure due to poor regulation and overexploitation of forest products and other economic activities resulting in the clearing of large areas of land. This is compounded, especially in the Niger Delta region, by the large-scale exploration, exploitation and processing activities by the oil industry, which have had their impact through spills of crude oil and petroleum products, problems related to gas flaring, land degradation and exhaustion of the farm. soils, water pollution and degradation of critical habitats for fish stock. The occurrence of soil and stream erosion, especially in the eastern part of Nigeria, flooding in the low-lying zone of mangroves and freshwater swamps, and uncontrolled logging with its inherent problems of destruction and loss of biodiversity have contributed significantly to further exacerbating the scenario of environmental deterioration.
The above are the various causes and effects of environmental hazards in Nigeria. But there are significant noticeable changes in the environment as a result of human pressure on it. These include i.e
(1) Loss of biodiversity resulting in reduced variety of genetic strains, species and ecosystems, depletion and extinction of species, etc.
(2) Increasing the rate of land degradation and desertification as well as air and water pollution.
(3) An increase in greenhouse gases that is expected to lead to an increase in the average global temperature of 200 to 500 C. (Global warming)
(4) Mass release of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) into the stratosphere resulting in increased UV radiation from the sun due to ozone depletion
FORECAST FOR THE FUTURE
The prognosis for sustained and sustainable improvements in human well-being in a transformed environment is, at best, guarded. The two main causes of environmental hazards are industrially caused environmental pollution and wasteful private consumption by the entire population living under modern urban conditions. While the first evil is committed by a very limited number of humanity, the second is committed by the whole of humanity whose greed has been fueled by post-industrial advertising to want more and more things and waste nature’s resources. Consequently, while political regulations, laws, citizen movements/pressure groups can force industries to protect the environment. Such coercive and institutional measures cannot work for the pollution of citizens as a whole. Rather a change of attitude and action for environmental sustainability would be based on the voluntary action of individuals. Because everything that affects and pollutes the environment also has an effect on us. Therefore, I am looking for an approach or relationship between man and environment called “Ecocentrism”. The spirit behind this approach is to assume that the environment is truly alive in the sense of being alive. Therefore, it is a mistake to interpret the environment as inert or lifeless.
Thus, the practical way for man to control environmental pollution and hazards according to Chigbo Joseph is that
– Keep resource consumption to a minimum and devise ways to use waste in production.
– Maximizing the natural energy of the human body to maintain greater human health.
– Beware of the use of artificial additives in food and other chemical products and be aware that harm almost always accompanies the good these substances do.
– Scientists and technologists to focus ethically/humbly on their research and production
– Leaders should be imbued with the consciousness of the salvation of man and planet earth in their decisions.
In addition to the above, regulatory bodies with various powers should be created to monitor and effectively control the sources of pollutants. An example is FEPA – Federal Environmental Protection Agency/Federal Ministry of the Environment.
In short, the environment is a complex and sensitive system which (i) if managed properly can be adapted to productive and domestic aesthetic and even intellectual requirements (ii) when mismanaged, the environment could easily become dangerous and threatening to human survival.
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