Ecological Footprint

Have you heard the word before, “Ecological Footprint”? Do you understand it? Do you know your footprint or that of your country or continent?

I will like to introduce you to Ecological Footprint:
Conceived in 1990 by Mathis Wackernagel and William Rees at the University of British Columbia, the Ecological Footprint launched the broader Footprint movement, including the carbon Footprint, and is now widely used by scientists, businesses, governments, individuals and institutions working to monitor ecological resource use and advance sustainable development.

Ecological footprint is the amount of biologically productive land (land that is sufficiently fertile to accommodate forests or agriculture or fishing grounds– they do not include deserts, glaciers and open oceans) and water needed to supply the people in a particular country or area with renewable resources and to absorb and recycle the wastes and pollution produced by resource use. It is measured in million/global hectares.

If a country’s or the world’s total ecological footprint is larger than its biological capacity to replenish its renewable resources and absorb the resulting waste products and pollution, it is said to have an ecological deficit.

The per capita ecological footprint is the average ecological footprint of an individual in a given country or area or how much of the earth?s renewable resources an individual consumes. In 2005 there were 13.4 billion hectares of biologically productive land and water available and 6.5 billion people on the planet. This is an average of 2.1 global hectares per person. Due to rapid population growth, this figure is decreasing.

Causes of global increase in ecological footprint:

Cultural changes have increased our ecological footprints. Culture is the whole of a society?s knowledge, beliefs, technology and practices. Man used to live by hunting and gathering but in recent times three major cultural changes have occurred:

  • Agricultural revolution (About 10,000-12,000 years ago)
  • Industrial-medical revolution (About 275 years ago) and
  • The information-globalization revolution (beginning about 50 years ago).

Each of these cultural changes gave man more energy and new technologies with which to alter and control more of the planet to meet our basic needs and increasing wants. Increase in food supply, longer life span, pollution, etc. have increased our footprints.

Current Situation:

Our current global situation: Since the 1970s, humanity has been in ecological overshoot with annual demand on resources exceeding what Earth can regenerate each year.

It now takes the Earth one year and six months to regenerate what we use in a year.

We maintain this overshoot by liquidating the Earth’s resources. Overshoot is a vastly underestimated threat to human well-being and the health of the planet, and one that is not adequately addressed.

By measuring the Footprint of a population—an individual, city, business, nation, or all of humanity—we can assess our pressure on the planet, which helps us manage our ecological assets more wisely and take personal and collective action in support of a world where humanity lives within the Earth’s bounds. (http://www.footprintnetwork.org/en/index.php/GFN/page/footprint_basics_overview/)

According to Global Footprint Network and World Wildlife Fund, if the current exponential growth in the use of renewable resources continues, it is estimated that by 2050, humanity will use twice as many renewable resources as the planet can supply. This means that by 34 years from now, all of us on Eco-generation will need another earth to survive. For example, USA has exceeded the earth’s biological capacity by 25% since 2006.

Global Footprint ecological footprints are grouped under the following thematic areas: Food, Building and living, Gardening, Mobility, Energy, Recreation / holidays, Personal care.

Which of these thematic areas do you fall victim to? Which of these thematic areas increases your daily footprint? I am guessing Energy (electrical gadgets, phone, laptop, etc.) and Personal Care (Soap, detergent, earring, clothing, make-up kits, pomade, etc) will be the answer to most youth on this platform.

By: Joshua Amponsem.

Recycling In Africa

Globally over 1 million plastic bags are used and disposed every minute but I think the quota of India and Africa of the 1 million trash is much larger than that of America, Europe and Australia – comparing population. In Africa, I will congratulate Rwanda as the only country which has been able to ban plastic bags. Other countries like Ghana has once mentioned and made an attempt to ban plastics but to no avail.

In Ghana, drinking water comes in plastic sachets rather than bottle, amounting a large amount of plastic waste in the country. In 2013, a report conducted by the Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) indicates that 1,200,000 Ghana Cedis (/ $400,000) can be generated in the country every a month, if the plastics go through various stages towards recycling. According a local news platform “The Ghanaian Times”, the research was submitted to the local Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology’s Committee on the Ban of Plastics in Ghana and following that, a there has been a rise in plastic recycling initiatives.

The Accra Compost and Recycling, Jekora Ventures, EnviroPlast, are some of the performing companies dealing with recycling and composting in Ghana. Additionally, there are some amazing initiatives by NGOs, Non-Profits and other small and medium scale enterprises that are championing recycling at small scale. Trash Bag is one of these organizations. Trash Bags collects water sachets from streets and recycle them into sustainable fashion products – handbags, laptop bags, market bags, etc. In other parts of Africa, these sachets are used in art making.

Plastic waste recycled into handy bags and laptop bags.

In Kenya, group of individuals are converting plastics waste into poles and road posts. Started in 2015 and documented by Aljazeera, this initiative in Kenya is gradually creating employment and reducing (if not eliminating) plastic waste – Watch video here:

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http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2015/11/recycling-kenya-plastic-poles-manufacturing-151123051310205.html
In Central and East Africa, a paper recycling industry is also recycling waste paper into toilet rolls, tissue paper, egg crates and many more usable products. Chandaria Industries Limited provide livelihood and employment for over 5,000 people in Kenya from waste paper recycling. Comparatively, paper and metal recycling in Africa is much industrious than plastic and e-waste recycling.

South Africa is another country that is performing relatively better than most countries in Africa – with over 50 recycling firms operating at a larger scale and converting plastic waste into chairs, pipes, polythene bags, etc.

Waste generated in middle income country is somewhat much than high income countries and I realized it is so because developed countries have more recycling initiatives than middle income countries. In Central, East, West and some parts of Northern Africa, waste is a menace. It filth our streets, choke our gutters and causes land pollution. In 2014, Agbogbloshie dumpsite in Ghana was listed as the World?s largest e-waste dumpsite. Despite several reports concerning the health hazard of the electronic waste dumpsite, the site is still home to thousands of individuals – including scavengers, smelters and market women.

Gradually, I anticipate investors and entrepreneurs to see the business opportunity in recycling electronic waste in Africa.

ANGOLA: ILLIGAL WILDLIFE TRADE HIGHER THAN ARMS SMUGGLING

United Nation’s Environment Programme (UNEP) and Interpol has revealed through a report on Environmental Crime that inability to prevent and halt wildlife/environmental crime will make it impossible to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

During this year’s World Environmental Day, all strength and vigor was headed towards Angola – Africa’s biggest ivory and bush meat market, as stated by a recent report by Karren Alan from Angola.

On such a world recognized day, with the slogan ‘Go Wild for Life’, world’s environmentalists and conservationist were all in to develop strategies to fight illegal wildlife trade in the World. With Angola as the leading illegal wildlife trade country in Africa, UNEP celebrated World Environmental Day in Angola.

In phase of such celebration, Angola’s is putting up efforts to end illegal bush meat and wildlife trade to show their commitment towards the global goals. In Angola, it is literally a war between poachers and conservationist. A report by UNEP, shows that 100,000 African elephants were killed (by poachers) between 2010 and 2012 – this also tells how crucial it is for environmental and conservation investors to consider Africa as a top place to develop eco-tourism and other related initiatives that will enhance the closure and end of the poaching revolution.

According to Karren Allan, a reporter from Luanda, a project termed ‘Okavango Wilderness Project’ and Angola’s National Geographical Society expeditionary team have been studying the illegal trade of wildlife. The Okavango Wilderness Project is already proposing a reserve of about 175,000 kilometer square – a monitored but yet protected/reserved field where wildlife will have a better habitat to live and grow without being threatened by poachers. More so, such developments is accompanied with high infrastructural and administrative costs. The project also stated that there are existing wild regions with lots of wildlife which can be protected before it gets very late.

The leader of the National Geographical Society had mentioned that fighting the illegal wildlife trade is ideally a cause of conservation and sustainability. Additionally, he revealed the cost of some bush meat in the country. According to him, a monkey costs 6 USD while it costs 60 USD to purchase a cut of snake.

In recent times, through support from international agencies and the Government of Angola, commenced an initiative to recruit soldiers and military personnel as wildlife guards in an effort to end the wildlife trade while promoting conservation. Culprits found trading/smuggling ivory are to face a 3 years jail sentence which has been backed by law, however, the initiative is not yielding its full potential – citizens says.

According some citizens and history, bush meat became a favorite during the times of war in Angola. People will resort in bushes and feed on bush meat; after the war, they see no reason to restrain from consuming bush meat. The concept of conservation is not well understood by citizens and the income generated from trading bush meat is so lucrative such that it wouldn’t be easy to just end the era. Per UN and Interpol report, illegal wildlife trade is cumulatively functioning on a larger industrial scale and is possibly dominating arms smuggling.

Ghana Postpones Construction of Coal Power Plant

The Government of Ghana is expected to solve the country’s energy crisis through the construction of a 2x350MW supercritical coal fired power plant in Ekumfi Aboano in the Central Region of Ghana.

The project, which was initially scheduled to commence in August 2016 has been postponed to April 2017. The first phase of the project will see the import of 2 million tons per year of coal from South Africa and Colombia, and the construction of an administration block, offices, networks, turbines and a coal handling bay. According to Volta River Authority, the second phase of the project will generate 1,300MW of power and finally about 2,00MW of power to be generated during the final stages of the project.

The concept of supercritical coal power plants is basically to eliminate pollution from power plants and ensure air quality. However, there are severe environmental concerns on behalf of citizens since the concept of ‘supercritical coal power’ or ‘clean coal technology’ is very expensive and difficult to be practiced. With a current investment of $1.5bn, many energy access practitioners are having doubts on the utilization of funds to reduce externalities and ensure proper environmental and social performance.

The VRA has been very transparent in incorporating the concerns of the general public into the project development. VRA invited a number of advocacy groups to explain the concept of supercritical coal power plant and also to enhance public acceptance of the project. At the meeting, VRA confirmed that they cannot ensure zero pollution, however, they will do their best to reduce pollution to the very minimal. Despite the promise, the ‘#NoCoal2Ghana’ campaign being led by the Ghana Youth Environmental Movement, Green Africa Youth Organization and the Ghana Youth Climate Coalition, is continuously growing over the social media and threatening the prevalence of the commencement of the project.

According to VRA, it has become necessary to invest in coal power primary to meet the country‘s increasing demands (7% Growth – GRIDCo) resulting in energy demand of 47,342 GWh by 2030 and a peak load of 7000MW. It also seeks to improve supply reliability with a base load plant, matured and proven in technology to provide electricity with unrestricted fuel.

The supercritical coal power plant is a joint venture between the Volta River Authority (VRA) and Shenzhen Energy Group of China and estimated to cost $US1.5bn – funded by the China African Development Fund.

POWER SHIFT – GHANA, 2016.

POWER SHIFT – GHANA, tagged as the nation’s largest environmental youth gathering was held on May 14th at KNUST.  The event was organized by the Ghana Youth Climate Coalition (GYCC), Ghana Youth Environmental Movement (GYEM) and partnered Green Africa Youth Organization (GAYO). Power Shift – Ghana 2016, attracted over 400 students, about 100 environmental activists, and solar energy practitioners to engineer Ghana’s transition towards clean energy.

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At the event, Mr. Kobina Nyanteh of Translight Energy (a solar firm) mentioned that Ghana needs to strengthen its policy to promote renewable energy investment. In his speech, he made known that students with interest in renewable energy should focus their research on some of the current hurdles faced by the solar sector – such as a pre/post-paid meter system. Mr. Maxmillian Kwarteng of Gramax energy also exposed participants to some of the advances in the solar industry in Ghana. According to him, solar panels are currently being manufactured in Ghana and that is expected to reduce the cost of solar installations in houses and offices.

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Dr. Kofi Boah, a renowned agriculturalist, asked young people to live a greener lifestyle and also focus on sustainable agriculture as a way of adapting to the changing climate.

Gideon Commey, founder of GYEM, led a climate reality presentation and explained the science, impact, and known solutions to climate change. The audience and students had a lot of misconception on solar energy, climate change and fossil fuel energy production Joshua Amponsem (Executive Director, GAYO) led the last session of the conference and answered the many questions the students had on fossil fuel.

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At the end of the event, GYCC collected over 500 signatures to support the petition of the environmental movement to the VRA and EPA of Ghana to reject the proposed supercritical coal plant.

Fossil fuel still remains the world’s largest contributor to the planet’s changing climate and thus, efforts to reduce carbon emissions means that energy production from fossil fuel (most importantly, coal) must be phased out and replaced with clean energy – renewables. However, the Government of Ghana (GoG) has advanced plans to construct a 2x350MW supercritical coal fired power plant in Ekumfi Aboano in the Central Region of Ghana. The project, initially scheduled to commence in August 2016 and now postponed to April 2017, will see the import of 2 million tons per year of coal from South Africa. It is a joint venture between the Volta River Authority (VRA) and Shenzhen Energy Group of China and estimated to cost $US1.5bn.

Environmental activists from GYEM, GAYO and GYCC has persistently campaigned against the GoG proposed supercritical coal fired power plant. The most recent events include the ‘Walk for Solar Campaign’ held in Accra right after COP 21 staged a in December, 2015 and the ‘Street Press Conference on Coal’ held on Earth Day 2016.

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Earth Day 2016 – No Coal; Our Goal.

On Earth Day, Ghana Youth Environmental Movement – led by Gideon Commey, and Green Africa Youth Organization – led by Tunza ambassador, Joshua Amponsem held a street press conference to educate the public on coal fired power plants, its associated health implications, and ecological impacts.

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For the first time, an environmental street campaign in Ghana attracted foreign journalists and local media houses. The press conference witnessed journalists from China Central Television (CCTV), SET TV from Taiwan, Pulse TV, TV3 in Ghana, Graphic Ghana, and many other local radio stations.

The event commenced with a welcome address from Joshua Amponsem (Tunza Eco-Generation Ambassador), Nat Martin (Canadian Environmental and Human Rights activists) and Gideon Commey (Founder, Ghana Youth Environmental Movement). A press release article on coal power was read out to the general public, following which we took questions from the media and public concerning their understanding and awareness on coal power plants.

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Nat Martin addressing audience at the street press conference on coal.

Most of the questions were geared towards economic stability which will arise if the country possess a constant power supply. However, this argument was disputed by Joshua. He iterated that, power generation from coal is not cheap as presented. Coal waste – particulate matter from the power plants causes health and ecological hazards that could cost the country twice the amount being spent on coal power generation. He also furthered to say, Ghanaians are hungry for constant power supply but the solution is not coal but #renewables.

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Joshua responding to questions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Media houses present at the event asked series of questions concerning the position of the country during COP21 and the current quest to introduce coal into the country. Climate advocate, Gideon Commey, responded that the country’s decision to bring coal to Ghana contradicts with the commitment of global leaders to fight against global warming and climate change.

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Gideon M. Commey answering questions from media.

He mentioned that the President of Ghana, HE John Dramani Mahama, should be mindful of his role as the Co-Chair of a group of 16 influential global figures supporting the UN in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.

 

When asked by the media about the next step of action if government does not heed to the protagonism of environmental activists for solar instead of coal, Joshua Amponsem responded that, activists will travel to the proposed coal project community and educate the community on adverse effects of the project they about to receive. Joshua stressed that the ecological impacts of coal fired plants were so high and therefore, as passionate environmental activists, they will push to the limit until renewable energy is considered as the best alternative to fixing Ghana’s energy crisis.

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The event ended with a loud campaign song led by guitarist and environmental enthusiast, Seyram Gh, who composed the song during our walk for solar campaign last year.

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