Higher rates of drought, deforestation, unpredictable rainfall and more dangerous storms are among the stark indicators of a strained ecosystem. In Nigeria, people are generally aware of the recent rain seasons being too ‘early’ or the cold harmattan winds unusually blowing long into the first three months of the year. When we consider the UN sustainable goals (SDGs), the Paris Climate Accords, or the Kyoto Protocols, it is clear to see that there is more effort to cater to capitalist interests as opposed to holding environmentally destructive corporations responsible for their actions. Consider that the highest polluters like the multinational fossil energy companies and imperialist militaries are from the rich countries that also chair these committees and climate emergency hearings.
Earth Day is meant to be a celebration of the earth and the collective actions taken to protect vital ecosystems supporting life as we know it. But like a bad movie stuck on repeat, we keep hearing about conferences and accords that do nothing more than push neoliberal austerity policies.
Lagos city’s Victoria Island which is on the Atlantic coast of Nigeria, is an example where citizens use available media to express their worries about the intense floods they face during rainy seasons. The challenge according to Seyifunmi Adebote – a veritable Nigerian environmentalist – can be attributed to eroding coastlines and changing climate conditions. In the same vein, a spokesperson for the Nigerian Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) is quoted as saying “there is this problem of the river bank being washed away. The increase in water level is eating into the land”.
For extra context, while Nigerians complain about the floods, poor drainage and government inaction, South Energyx Nigeria Ltd, the developers of the Eko Atlantic City project plan to build an 8km long ‘great wall of Lagos’ to protect the new city and by extension Victoria Island. Without addressing the core issues of poor land use and rampant white elephant projects, and as far as no sustainable practices are collectively adopted to mitigate the immediate effects of poor city drainage and eroding coastlines, no ‘great wall’ will prevent nature from taking its course no matter how dire.
Across the Atlantic, while damage to the Amazon takes front stage in the media, the Caribbean has the Cockpit Country Forest which is the largest remaining natural forest in Jamaica. The forest through its freshwater springs, ponds, and streams, supplies Western Jamaica with roughly 40% of its water needs. As usual, such ecosystems are home to unique plants and animals found only in the forest, but aside from irregular rainfalls and drought problems, Cockpit Country is threatened by heavy bauxite mining – the primary ore for aluminum- and in this regard, the Jamaica Environment Trust published a 2020 report called ‘Red Dirt’ which details the impact of the Bauxite industry of the land, people, and economy of Jamaica.
It is of utmost importance to remember that Cockpit Country was also the haven for maroons resisting British imperialists during the maroon wars of the 16th century, and to this day the Accompong Maroons hold direct custodianship of the territorial lands of Cockpit Country. The importance of the forest as a cultural site and symbol of resistance and triumph cannot be overstated.
Solutions to the issues plaguing our environment and ecosystems are many, indigenous communities have always prioritized stewardship of the lands, through a kind of reciprocal relationship. Restorative farming techniques are still practiced by small-scale farmers and the focus is on organic soil management and away from excessive industrial chemicals for pest management. Fortunately, there are mounting numbers of Pan-African revolutionaries, community activists, and organizations that continue to struggle to educate us all about the importance of reclaiming the symbiotic relationship we have with the natural environment, as opposed to maintaining the capitalistic relationship which seeks to dominate in essence and place profit above delicate life-sustaining systems.
The earth as we know it deserves more than flashy neoliberal symbology and media exploitation, but it is the responsibility of we Africans to educate ourselves, and to the best of our ability, avoid being distracted when the liberal western media goes into overdrive come April. We always celebrate the earth, our ancestors lived and breathed the celebration of the earth through our religions, and traditional practices, we don’t need corporations to remind us. We just need to remember.