Greta Thunberg, the 16-year old climate activist from Sweden, may not be a popular figure in this clime.
This could be partly explained by the fact that the focus of her campaign, climate change, is what the The Economist calls the “devilish problem of humanity.”
In a perceptive book review, the newspaper says climate change is “at once urgent and slow-moving, immediate and distant, real and abstract.”
What a dialectical formulation!
The assertion is aptly captured in the story of Thunberg who made a point of crossing the Atlantic in a solar-powered sailboat to ensure zero-carbon emission. She travelled a fortnight ago from Europe to America to attend the United Nations Summit on Climate Change. Air travels increase carbon emission into the environment.
On landing in New York, Thunberg admonished all the inhabitants of Planet Earth: “It is insane that a 16-year-old would have to cross the Atlantic to take a stand … [against] the climate and ecological crisis is a global crisis and the biggest humanity has ever faced.”
In specific terms, she appealed to President Donald Trump of the United States, a leading climate change denier, to “listen to science.”
The feat recorded by humanity in the December 2015 Climate Change Agreement signed in Paris, France, has suffered a great setback with the U.S. reneging on it. The setback is made more poignant because not only is America responsible for the 15% of global carbon emission, the superpower has a leadership role to play in galvanising the less endowed countries towards achieving the target of limiting global temperature rise to below 2 degrees celcious.
Although the climate crisis is reaching a proportion of an existential emergency, it is hardly an exciting topic of discussion in many informed quarters. Unless there is a disaster, environment policy news doesn’t hit the headlines.
By projecting Thunberg as the symbol of the global campaign for action on climate change, environmentalists of divergent philosophical hues are merely pricking the conscience of those political and economic powers promoting climate change denial at the expense of this habitat for humanity, the mother earth.
Mankind is indubitably faced with the chilling consequences of the recklessness of capitalist civilisation with its greedy exploitation of natural resources and excessive consumerism.
Perhaps, it is a measure of the moral weight of Thunberg’s voice that this girl from Stockholm has been a target of vitriolic attacks from callous climate deniers. Some have even ignorantly mocked her for being diagnosed of Asperger’s on the autism spectrum. Some call her “freakishly influential” while to some others, she looks “like a cult member.”
In any case, no one detests creating cult figures in the climate change campaign more than Thunberg herself. She once said: “I think we should focus more on the climate issue because this is not about me.”
Yet, you wonder why any government should need to be persuaded on the centrality of environment for sustainable development with environmental emergencies plaguing the world.
While the politics of allocation of shrinking resources continues fiercely within each nation, the categorical threat of climate change to human civilisation is still dismissed as the idle talks of alarmists in some quarters.
The melting of the arctic ice continues as heat waves rule many of the parts of world with some countries recording higher temperatures yearly. Coastal cities are being washed way by rising oceans. From Beijing to London to Brasilia, air pollution is causing health hazards.
The symbolism of Thunberg is that ecological issues should be taken more seriously by governments and the people. Some experts would even insist that climate change should be treated as a matter of emergency.
As David Wallace puts it brutally in his important book, The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming, “it is worse, much worse, than you think.” In response to critics who accuse him of being alarmist, Wallace says everyone should indeed be alarmed by climate change. Distress calls are already being made to policymakers from sober and convinced defenders of the environment.
In Nigeria, the national environmental policy suffers from a conceptual limitation given the nature of the problem at hand. Even then, there is hardly any enthusiasm about implementing the existing policies especially at the state and local government levels.
With worsening desertification in the north, floods in the costal and riverine communities and menacing erosion especially in the eastern parts, environment ought to be a priority of governments at all levels in Nigeria.
When you add sanitation and air and noise pollution, it becomes clear that the response to the crisis of environment is defined more by indifference than action. For months now, the federal agencies on the environment have been warning against devastation of floods in some states. Like it happened in the past, it would not be a surprise if the inevitable floods wreak havocs again in the coming months due to the failure of environmental management at all levels including communities.
Nothing, perhaps, demonstrates the official irresponsibility towards the environment in Nigeria than the tragedy of the Niger Delta.
In fact, it was the campaign of Ken Saro-Wiwa and other great Nigerian environmentalists which gathered momentum about three decades ago environmentalists that actually draw the international attention to the despoliation of the Niger Delta environment.
Since then, however, there has been a criminal lack of a sense of urgency in driving the process of the regeneration of the environment degraded in the cause of mindless exploration of petroleum resources. Nigeria has been taking the rents of the oil explored in the Niger Delta. But with the lacklustre approach to the restoration of the Niger Delta to restoration of the Niger Delta mangroves, future generations of the people of the region would suffer the environmental consequences of today’s policy failures.
Nigeria certainly doesn’t have to wait for a local Thunberg before coming to terms with the reality of environmental emergency.
Xenophobia or Crisis of Governance?
By Issa Aremu
Let’s get it right! It’s the poor Africans that are up in arms against the poor in the guise of xenophobia!
Rich South Africans and Nigerian businesses do also cry but hardly on account of xenophobic attacks on each other’s enterprises and lives. At the height of the MTN’s scandalous SIMs infractions, which criminally fuelled insurgency in the North East, MTN masts were never pulled down but the communication giant was rightly slammed with some N330 billion fine by the National Communication Commission, NCC in 2015.
Poor-on-Poor xenophobic violence and looting which recently engulfed parts of Gauteng, Johannesburg, Cape Town and other cities of South Africa with attendant cycle of reprisal attacks on South Africa’s businesses in Nigeria points to deep crisis of governance and leadership in Africa.
In this case, one indifferent approach to conflicts involving the poor Africans, another rule for big businesses and private capital. SA’s President Cyril Ramaphosa belatedly addressed the nation on the fourth day, on the crisis which reportedly claimed some double-digit African lives (almost some 1000 since 2008!). You don’t assuage grief and prevent conflagration of reprisal anger with unacceptable slow response to an unacceptable serial madness, which xenophobic populism has tuned to be.
In 2008, late Nelson Mandela (though in retirement!) together with his Foundation promptly and spiritedly damned “Africans-on-Africans” violence.
A content analysis of the 20-minute address broadcast of President Cyril Ramaphosa on TV indicated that it was inspired by ever worsening domestic SA’s violence against women than a decade long orchestrated assault on African immigrants. Thousands of protesters had marched on Parliament two days in a row demanding a more urgent response to violence against women, the recent casualty being the murdered University of Cape Town (UCT) student Udinese Mrwetyana.
I just returned from Cape Town and Durban. I bear witness that there is a perception that President Cyril Ramaphosa just recently elected is fatigued on arrival. “There can be no excuse for the attacks on the homes and businesses of foreign nationals, just as there can be no excuse for xenophobia or any other form of intolerance,” Ramaphosa said.
He added further: “Equally, there is no justification for the looting and destruction of businesses owned by South Africans”. And that is the real problem! Are Africans “foreign nationals” in Africa, South of Africa?
The ANC is the oldest political party on the continent formed in 1912. It was so-named African National Congress, (not South African National Congress) by the founding fathers who are all Africans. The Freedom Charter opens with the declaration that: “South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white”. Same with SA’s celebrated 1994 non-racial, non-sexist democratic constitution.
What has then happened to pan-Africanism just 25 years apartheid was proclaimed constitutionally dead? Are Malawians, Ruwandans and Nigerians foreigners in Africa? Are Afrikaners and British more African than Zimbabweans and Somalis?
Kwame Nkrumah, on the 24 May 1963 envisioned a continental Union of African States, when Organization of African Unity (OAU) was formed. Kwame Nkrumah, a key proponent of OAU must be alarmed in his grave to hear that Africans in 2019 are erecting new Apartheid walls against each other. As far back as 1973, Europeans copied Nkrumah’s idea, signed the treaty of Rome that led to the formation of European Union (EU). Today, Europe parades common citizenship, common market, common currency and common front against individual African countries with adverse implication for worsening terms of trade.
More frightening was the alleged official sponsorship of xenophobia by some SA’s politicians and leaders. In a statement issued, “Right2Know” a non-governmental Organization, NGO, said it held Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba, Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini and Ramaphosa personally responsible for the violence. The group said: “The recent xenophobic attacks on non-South Africans can be directly linked to calls by politicians to ‘defend the sovereignty of the state’ and confirms a dangerous emerging trend of xenophobic populism which leads to attacks on foreign nationals. The xenophobic intent was, and still is, very clear. It wanted to do what the state had failed to do: remove foreigners from the city.”
President Muhammadu Buhari’s visit to South Africa next month is very timely. After the recent diplomatic heat, Buhari must shed light on the new reformed relations between the two biggest economies in Africa. The President must do some quality control of the current incoherent official responses informed by legitimate anger against senseless xenophobic attacks. It’s time for an informed foreign policy and strategy.
Buhari must offer some concrete initiatives that would facilitate movement of labour and capital in Africa on the continent within the context of the new African Continental Free Trade Agreement, ACFTA, the Constitutive Act of the Africa Union (AU) launched in 2002 by the Heads of State and Government of the Member States of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) and of course NEPAD.
Where Ramaphosa miserably failed in initiatives, Buhari must make a difference.
The point cannot be overstated: AU was inspired by the noble ideals of African unity, solidarity, cohesion and cooperation among the peoples of Africa and African States.
Buhari must also offer to urgently revive Nigeria- South Africa Nigeria-South Africa bi-National Commission. The commission must address all issues between the two countries. It must also involve organized businesses and organized labour. So far, the relations between the two biggest economies has been transactional between businesses driven by profits, profits and profits, not the PEOPLE.
Buhari must champion peoples-to- people relations with eye on investment, trade and mass job creation in the two countries. Both SA and Nigeria need a new development agenda different from the existing neo-liberal market economy which has produced almost 60 per cent youth unemployment, 70 per cent in poverty, shameless inequality and the great-divide between the two countries’ 1 per cent super rich and 99 per cent poor. Xenophobia will persist as long as many Africans hunt for limited indecent jobs as industries close down.
Nigeria and SA are the only two countries better positioned to ensure the implementation of AU’s Agenda 2063, the Africa’s strategic framework aimed to delivering on inclusive and sustainable development.