Saving the earth is our collective responsibility

By Elsie Udoh

23 hours, 56 minutes and 4.09053 seconds, this is how long it takes for the earth to rotate once. Only a very few men and women have had the opportunity to look at earth from space firsthand and they confess that it is truly a beauty.

Interestingly, the earth recycles herself. Recycling occurs because the planet is constantly in motion. The recycling process occurs in stages. For example, the earth’s rotation causes it to be covered in large moving pieces known as tectonic plates. These plates can move toward or away from each other and the movement of these plates drives the earth’s recycling system. Humans can never see the entire recycling process because this takes many millions of years.

The earth’s recycling process reveals the rigorous efforts the earth undergoes to ensure the sustainability of life. However, this effort seems to go unnoticed by its inhabitants who expose the earth to harmful substances that weaken its survival process.

In 2021, a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reveals that emissions of greenhouse gases from human activities are responsible for approximately 1.1°C of global warming since 1850-1900. The report states that averaged over the next 20 years, global temperature is expected to reach or exceed 1.5°C of warming. This is greatly due to human activities.

Activities such as the cutting down of trees, to building of houses, estates, and industries keeps carbon dioxide trapped in the atmosphere which pollutes the air making it unfit for humans. Also, many inventions including cars, trains, planes, and electric power plants burn fossil fuels which release large quantities of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide into the air. These gases increase the greenhouse effect and contribute to global warming.

Global warming in turn affects the earth by melting glaciers and ice caps faster than usual. Glaciers and ice caps hold about 75 per cent of the world’s fresh water. If all the ice covering Antarctica, Greenland, and in mountain glaciers around the world were to melt, sea level would rise about 70 meters and this would be catastrophic.

In 2022 in Nigeria, the country was hit by climate change that resulted in floods that affected some parts of the country; including Lagos, Rivers, Kogi, Benue and other states in the northeast region. The number of people affected by widespread flooding across Nigeria has rose to over 3.2 million, with over 600 fatalities. Over 1.4 million people have been displaced and thirty-four of the country’s 36 states have been affected.

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The earth seems to be in a state of climatic despair and she is desperately in need of an antidote. Pollution surrounds the air, land, water and environment. The survival of the earth is being threatened by global pollution and a more definite approach needs to be implemented to enable the earth heal.

Pollution knows no borders

Lagos state, known for her megacity status stands as the most populated city in Nigeria with an estimated 20 million people living. The major sources of pollution in Lagos are road transport, industrial emissions, blocked drainages and generators aggravated by open burning and illegal dumping of waste.

With over 5 million cars and 200,000 commercial vehicles on the roads of Lagos releasing harmful sulphuric contents into the air, generators that service homes and commercial buildings, solid waste from snack wrappers, nylons and plastics, mostly non-biodegradable, on the streets and blocking drainages, Lagos State’s PM2.5 concentration stands at 5.9 times the WHO annual air quality guideline value.

Countries curbing pollution

In Africa, the city of Ghana is taking an active role in curbing pollution. Accra was the first African city to join the BreatheLife campaign to tackle air pollution.  This campaign was carried out in a bid to educate people about the health dangers of indoor cook stoves and to discourage locals from burning their waste. Accra, the capital of Ghana has a PM2.5 concentrations at currently 2.2 times the WHO annual air quality guideline value, which is good.

The Asian city, Bangkok in Thailand launched the Green Bangkok 2030 project in 2019 to increase the ratio of green space in the city to 10sqm per person, as well as to have trees covering 30 percent of the city’s total area and ensure footpaths meet international standards. All of these were done in a bid to reduce pollution.

Companies in Nigeria taking a stand against pollution

Some companies in Nigeria have also taken an active role in dealing with the problem of pollution. For example, the world’s largest non-alcoholic beverage company, Coca Cola in a bid to curb the harmful effects of plastics on the environment developed sustainability projects aimed at reducing plastic waste. The company in February 2022 announced the use of refillable containers and redesigned its bottles to make them recyclable. Coca-Cola has also been involved in beach cleanup campaigns in partnership with key government and non-governmental stakeholders alongside community volunteers. The goal of this initiative is to engender better waste disposal habits among residents of coastal communities.

Another notable move to solving the problem of pollution was done by Sterling Bank Plc. The commercial bank carried out an environmental cleaning exercise in 23 states simultaneously across Nigeria. This was part of its commitment to creating a cleaner and safer environment for the citizenry and aquatic life under its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiative known as Sterling Bank Environmental Makeover (STEM).

Unilever PLC also developed sustainability goals to reduce the total waste footprint from the use of their products by 32% and achieve zero waste to landfill across all factories. Also included in its sustainability goals is the plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from its manufacturing by 65%, and achieve 100% renewable grid electricity across its sites.

How you can help the earth from Nigeria

There is a great need now more than ever to contribute to the preservation of the earth. This calls for a collective effort on the part of the inhabitants of Nigeria.

Governments should create more awareness of the need to adopt the use of alternative sources of energy to reduce the level of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere and also propagate tree planting initiatives.

At home, energy should be conserved by turning off lights in areas where they are not in use. Keep in mind that it takes over 450 years for plastic to decompose, so avoid dumping plastics on the ground and especially in drainages. Rather, displace them properly in waste bins.

Also, avoid excessive burning of leaves, trash and other materials. Remember, we have an individual responsibility to ensure we leave the earth in a better condition than we met it and this depends on the little steps we take now.

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