The central goal of the Paris Agreement is to keep the average global temperature rise well below 2 degrees Celsius and as close as possible to 1.5 degrees. About one degree of that rise has already happened, underlining the urgency to progress much further and faster with the global clean energy transformation. Off course, this is also tired to the success of the 2030 Agenda’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals, especially goal 9: to build resilient infrastructure, promote sustainable industrialization and foster innovation. To pursue this inclusively, the global south will need to actively involve its informal economy as well as add value to some of its primary products.
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.
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.
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.
The anti-plastic campaign has been formulated to build the capacity of coastal communities about the various effects of plastic waste on their ecosystem. This project was developed due to the acclimatized usage and habitual inappropriate disposal of polythene bags and other plastic items by community dwellers in coastal communities in and around Cape Coast.
Among the many coastal communities in central Ghana, Duakro was our first visited community. The Duakro community is only about 100 meters from the sea (Gulf of Guinea) and inhabits about 800 native people – they are well known for the production and selling of gari (a very common and favourite Ghanaian food) thus, their basic source of income aside fishing. The town also accommodates some mangroves as well as other coastal organisms.
Despite the sensitivity of the ecosystem Duakro and its inhabitants find themselves in, indiscriminate and inappropriate waste disposal is a habit of community folks. Upon visiting the town, plastic waste, especially used polythene bags, were found on in and around houses in the community. At the beach and shoreline were also plastic wastes which can easily find its way into the sea and destroy some aquatic species. Ghana depends so much on the fisheries sector and thus a need for an education program for coastal dwellers on the ecological function of the coastal ecosystem and its protection through proper waste handling and disposal.
To ensure effective communication and resourceful capacity building, Green Africa Youth Organization (GAYO) built partnership with Ghana Youth Climate Coalition (GYCC), A ROCHA – Ghana, Department of Environmental Science (ENSSA) and Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Science (FAS) of the University of Cape Coast. With a coalition of environmental groups with diverse focus and resources, the campaign which occurred on the 21st of September, 2015 was nothing else but a success.
The anti-plastic campaign and coastal community capacity building event brought together 63 volunteers – a mix up of students (youth) and adults who has interest in environmental advocacy. At 6:30 am, volunteers gathered at the University of Cape Coast where they were educated on the ecological function of coastal ecosystems by the department of fisheries and aquatic science and the department of environmental science. GYCC also gave a lecture on how inappropriate handling and disposal of waste contribute to air pollution and induce climate change. A-ROCHA Ghana highlighted and drew the attention of volunteers to some species in the coastal ecosystem which needs conservation.
At this point, volunteers were equipped with all the knowledge they will need to speak against the excessive use of plastics and proper disposal of its resulting waste. Green Africa Youth Organization led the last session by emphasizing on the need for environmental sustainability and the role of youth in environmental advocacy in Ghana. Joshua Amponsem, executive director of GAYO and the 15th Eco-generation Regional Ambassador to Ghana also announced support given by Samsung Engineering and United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP).
At 8:30 am, volunteers and organizers set out to Duakro community to campaign for a cleaner and safer environment. The community leader announced our presence and mission and pleaded that community members should welcome us for a fruitful interaction. Afterwards, we divided ourselves into 6 groups with at least 2 people in each group who understands and can speak proficiently, the local dialect of the people of Duakro. Two groups were assigned to the gari preparation site of the community, one group was assigned to children found wandering in the community and three groups were assigned to households. We campaigned for reuse of plastic items, reduction in the usage of plastics and refusing to use plastics.
We expected to spend at most 10 minutes in each house since we will be covering about 70 houses. However, low illiteracy on the side of community folks resulted in groups spending up to about 20 minutes in some houses. After 3 hours of outreach, our target of coverage had been met and Eco Generational Ambassador to Ghana, Joshua Amponsem, called for a gathering to document feedback from community inhabitants on the campaign and to discuss a long term sustainability project for Duakro.
Members of groups brought out community concerns:
- The community has one open dustbin and which is not being emptied frequently. During our campaign, the dustbin was full – open to flies and other insects – and about 50 meters away from the shore.
- Most adults in the community mentioned that the government should ban the production and importation of unnecessary plastic products.
- Youth, especially females, raised concerns about the lack of toilet facility in the community.
- Gari sellers and most women also pleaded that we provide them with jute bags which will serve as market and shopping bags for them in place of the polythene.
Joshua Amponsem, on behalf of GAYO suggested a joint project with the collaboration of all organizations present. This project was discussed and a stakeholders meeting has been scheduled for late October. The focus of the project is to solve the concerns and challenges faced by the people of Duakro community and enhance effective waste management and hygiene.
Dr. Michael Miyittah (Associate Professor in the Department of Environmental Science at University of Cape Coast) our dignitary, later graced the occasion with words of thanks to all volunteers and organizations who made the anti-campaign a reality.