In September 2019, world leaders and environmental activists gathered in New York for the United Nations Climate Change Summit. Young people from around the world are concerned about the fate of our planet, and Nigerian youth are not exempt. BellaNaija is joining the conversation as we chat with a few environmental activists in Nigeria, in order to bring it all home.
Today we’re sharing our conversation with Funmi Oyatogun a trained geographer and environmental scientist. She designed a revolutionary program that combines climate change and environmental science expertise with educational skills. She is an entrepreneur at TVP Adventures, a company that simplifies travel. Funmi is passionate about our environment, sustainable living and Nigerians effecting change.
How important is climate change and how high should it be prioritized in Nigeria?
Climate Change should be a priority to Nigeria; it is erroneously seen as an issue that plagues first world countries and something that should not feature prominently on the policy planning for a country like Nigeria. However, this is because there is very poor environmental education.
Even though countries like Nigeria contribute minimally to CO2 emissions, Nigeria’s contribution is one of the highest in the developing world and developing countries are most likely to suffer more than developed countries. As CO2 and other greenhouse gases are increasingly emitted into atmosphere, the planet is warming and we can already see the repercussions – rising sea levels, depleting forests, erratic storms and rains and an overall de-stabilization of the ecosystem. Climate Change threatens our food security and livelihoods. Climate Change is not an issue for the future, it is happening now.
Let’s talk a little bit more about the real impact of Climate Change
Last year, we saw first hand what this could mean for Lagos, with the flooding. All the things we are doing as humans, to release CO2 into the air, is making the temperature hotter. It causing so much damage. Just like when your body has a fever and things are upset in your body, that’s what’s happening in the Earth’s systems. It is affecting our rain, our agriculture, etc.
We have started feeling the impact of climate change and this will only get worse. Humans have always adapted and resilience is perhaps one of our most prized skills as a species. However, it is questionable how quickly our resilience can catch up with the devastation that Climate Change will bring to the balance of our earth.
What should we incorporate into our daily lives to stave off the negative impact of Climate Change?
We will need policies that combat gas flaring, prioritize forest restoration (forests act as a natural sink for all the CO2 that’s causing temperature rise) and a fair balance of people, profit and balance when making economic decisions. Majority of our concerns are at the policy level. We know that for such changes to be made, the ordinary voice of the citizen counts. So, vote for officials who care about the environment.
Furthermore, every Nigerian should focus on reducing plastic consumption. In fact, we need to shift away from a disposable lifestyle to a renewable one.
You can reduce your carbon footprint by purchasing items that have come from local sources (products that have traveled shorter distances); support reforestation efforts (plant trees, engage in tree-planting drives; support politicians with climate-friendly manifestos) and use reusable substitutes for plastic.
Also, renewable energy sources are worth considering, even though they may be more expensive upfront. However, the long term benefits are worth it.
There are Nigerians who are already environmentally friendly, Nigerians who live sustainably. However, they face challenges, like one you just mentioned – cost. How can they overcome this?
The most affordable products are often cheap in money terms but harmful to the environment or health. We need to be more intentional in building the true cost of things into our decision to purchase them. This item may cost much less, but what did it cost as a whole? What was destroyed for it to be produced? Also, the same kinds of subsidies that exist for fossil fuels should be made available for renewable energy sources such as solar. That’s when we can truly compare what’s cheaper and what’s not.
What would you say to people who believe that Nigerians have bigger problems like hunger, no healthcare, no education, and Climate Change should be the least of our worries?
All of the ‘bigger problems’ are affected by climate change and will only get worse if we do not solve it. When peoples’ homes are destroyed from extreme weather events, they will go hungry and their health and education will be at stake.
Are there any bodies – non-profits, businesses, religious organisations within Nigeria that you know championing this cause? How can our readers support them?
Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) and Susty Vibes are doing incredible work with climate change research and making the information available and easily digestible to Nigerians.
What is one thing you want anyone reading this to take away?
Climate Change is affecting the whole world, even though it is affecting each country differently. In Nigeria, we have already seen record-breaking temperatures and extreme weather events and if we don’t do something about it, we will threaten the stability of our country.