Friday, March 4, 2011
EVALUATING SOCIAL DISLOCATION AND ENVIROMENTAL DEGRADATION IN AFRICA
Social dislocation in relation to environmental degradation is quite a pertinent issue on the continent of Africa today. This matter, though has been in existence since recorded history, seems to be excercebated by the discovery of minerals and the vast natural resources located in the various regions of the continent. However, this has been encouraged chiefly by the colonial masters & early pioneers of independence who lived basically by the “divide and conquer mentality”. This was concretely supported by Slack (2010), when he suggested that early hunter-gatherers used fire to turn dry woodland areas into savanna grassland, whilst the frantic colonial exploitation of resources characterized by slave, rubber and Ivory trades in addition to the introduction of exotic crop species catalyzed great changes in Africa environment.
In contrast, this does not however conclude that environmental degradation which results in a social dislocation arises solely from exploitation of resources only, but that other factors are also involved. Lang (1996) suggests that the issue of over cropping and similar means of livelihood may have been the cause of social dislocation amongst the people of Tigray and wollo provinces in the Ethiopian highlands.
In totality, social dislocation and environmental degradation in Africa are convergent and intertwined, almost being inseparable in the African setting.
1.2 DEFINITION OF BASIC TERMS
Environmental Degradation – There are several suitable definitions to the term environmental degradation, but perhaps Wikepedia (2010) gives a more appropriate definition in line with the idea of the text. It defines environmental degradation as the deterioration of the environment through depletion of her resources such as air, water and soil including the destruction of the ecosystem and the extinction of wild life. It further explains the concept by describing environmental degradation as any change or disturbance to the environment perceived to be deleterious or undesirable.
In common sense, environmental degradation can be linked to pollution which entails making the environmental uninhabitable.
Social dislocation – The term social dislocation is defined by the free online dictionary (2011), as the act of disrupting an established order so it fails to continue. It can also be referred to as social displacement, evacuation, relocation etc.
It basically involves the movement of people of group of people form their place of habitation. This might be due to war, environmental pollution, drought, starvation etc. of which one of its causes “environmental degradation” is being examined in this text.
The Ecosystem – Milley, Sherwood and Wolverton(2010), defines the ecosystem as a self regulating biological community and its associated physical and chemical environment.
In biological sense ecosystem consist of both biotic (living) and a biotic (non-living) thing in an environment. Each has a crucial role to play in the environment an upset of which may lead to imbalance in the system and subsequently deterioration of the environment.
Biodiversity - Wikepedia (2011), defines biodiversity as the degree of variation of life forms within an ecosystem, biome or an entire planet. This implies that biodiversity is a measure of the health of an ecosystem.
2.1 CAUSES OF ENVIRONMENTAL DEGRADATION
Numerous factors are responsible for cases environmental degradation. This could be be either humans, cultural, political, Economics or even social. However amongst these causes the human effect seems to be the major agent of the deteriorating environment. More details are discussed in earnest below.
The Human Effect
Humans the prime beings of the ecosystem, in no small way contribute to the phenomenon of environmental degradation. There are several ways in which this is done with each resulting in its own adverse effect on the continent. Wikepedia (2011) asserts that the growing cultures of consumerism, materialistic views on minerals for example preference of gold, diamond etc, results in over exploitation of these limited minerals thus degrading the environment in turn. This could summarily be called mentality. Human’s choices or rather mentality might be the sole reason why people would prefer the use of firewood’s over other means of generating heat. These choices might also be the reason why most Africans prefer larger families, thus increasing dependency on limited natural resources.
Human actions also matter in the case of poaching of wild animals. This is the main reason for its drastic decline. Slack (2002), reports that the influx of over 60,000 people into the Ngara district of north west Tanzania due to the Rwandan genocide resulted in the drastic decline of wild gorillas and forest trees as desperate people invaded the forest to survival.
Advancements in technology have proportionately resulted in increased levels of environmental degradation. Slack (2002) reports that there has been more destruction of trees in the last sixty years then in the preceding 10,000 years. This knowledge was concurrently supported by Wikepedia (2011) which believes that technological advancements have greatly increased the rate of deforestation on the content.
Most plants (industries) specializing in science and technology also constitute a major problem in developing African countries. These metallurgical plants emit highly concentrated and toxic wastes that contributes majority to the contamination of ground water and air.
Most Africans seek a better life which they feel are available in the cities. This may be in the form of amusement or white color jobs. However, the movement of people to cities increases the risk of its environments becoming degraded if not properly handled. This was the case in Lagos in the early 90’s when the influx of people where in their thousands. Slack (2002) asserts that urbanization and industrialization has raised the demand for wood products in some cities in the continent. This may be in the form of furniture, firewood or charcoal. In its own way consuming a lot of forest products. He goes further to exemplify that between 1970 and 1974, consumption of forest products nearly doubled and infact Africa lost about 39 million hectare of forest land in the 1980’s and over 70 million more hectares by 1995 due to urbanization. Note that apart from using the forest reserves, as more people arrive in a particular place, there is an expansion of the city to accommodate them, which may involve building homes and clearing out more of the forests.
The vast majority of African farmers still practice crude agricultural techniques, notably the slash and burn system of agriculture. This was accused by Slack (2002) as being responsible for some African grassland formation as our fore fathers made use of it to clear thickets and trees.
2.2 FORMS OF ENVIRONMENTAL DEGRADATION IN AFRICA
There are various forms of environmental degradation on the content “Africa”, but the under listed are based on document published by the democratic republic of Congo in December 2010 and my initiative.
Acidification; This involves the lowing of soil pH through acid precipitation and deposition which may result in acid rain.
Acid Rain; This refers to a rainfall below pH 7 and containing toxic chemical like SO2. NO2 etc in high proportion common to oil producing areas.
Aerosols; Involves collection of dare borne particles dispensed in gas and smoke
Desertification; This refers to the spread of desert like conditions in arid and semi-arid areas, due to overgrazing, loss of agriculturally productive soils or climate change. In addition, a report by the international institute for environment cited from slack (2002), estimates that desertification threaten more than one third of Africa. It is especially bad in places south of the Sahara where it is said to be growing at several miles per year.
Deforestation ; Involves converting a place formerly occupied by trees an natural vegetation for agricultural or manual use it is a major contributor to desertification. In addition, a report by the international institute for environment cited from Slack (2002), estimates that desertification threatens more than one third of Africa. It is especially bad in places south of the Sahara where it is said to be growing at several per year.
Effluents; Waste materials, such as smoke, sewage or industrial waste which are released into the environment, subsequently polluting it.
Green House gases; A gas that “traps” infrared radiation in the lower atmosphere, causing surface warming; water vapor, carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide methane, hydroflourocarbons, and Ozone are the primary greenhouse gases on the earth’s atmosphere.
Noxious substances; Substances that are influences or very harmful to human beings.
Overgrazing; The grazing of animals on plant material faster then it can naturally regrow leading to permanent loss of plant cover this is common effect of two many animals grazing on limited range.
Poaching; Involves the illegal killing of animals or fishing, a great concern with respect to endangered or threatened species.
Salination; The process through which fresh (drinkable) water becomes salt (Undrinkable) water; hence, it reduces the viability of weather for both manual, commercial and industrial use. This is a major problem in the rule banks of Egypt.
Siltation; Occurs when water channels and reservoirs become clothed with silt and mud, a side effect of deforestation and soil erosion. Can also and in agriculture as in the case of Egypt.
Soil Erosion; The removal of the soil by the degradation of water or wind, compounded by poor agricultural practices, deforestation, overgrazing & densification. Auchi in south west Nigeria Edo state is a major sufferer of this situation.
3.1 EFFECTS OF SOCIAL DISLOCATION IN AFRICA DUE TO ENVIRONMENTAL DEGRADATION
The effects associated social dislocation in references to environmental degradation in present African state can not be overemphasized. This was no wonder why “Achim Steiner” a former executive of the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), lamented during a speech on degradation of African lakes in 2006, that “if poverty is to be overcome and the millennium goals are to be met by 2015, lakes had to be prevented from degradation otherwise there would be increased tensions and instability among population”. In this vane, only the most consequential effects of environmental degradation and social displacement would be discussed below.
Environmental deterioration leads to social dislocation, chiefly through a community’s economic stratum. Ikechukwu (2009), believes that on indirect relationship exist between economic development and political turmoil through social dislocation. This notwithstanding, the degradation of the environment also effects the livelihood of the region wherein it occurs. This implies that for example a country “say which relies on mainly exploitation for its survival would experiences residence if it were to run out.
Migration is get another way in which environmental degradation can play a role in social dislocation, thereby affecting the economy’s. A situation where people mostly of working class age have to migrate from their place of residence due to the degraded environment not only carries economic implications but brings about divisions in the extended family system commonly practiced on the continent. In addition the value of a degraded land can be a burden to the nation. This is because no one wants to visit, spend time or recreate in such a hazardous place. If for example the famous Oguta lake of Imo state became polluted with say crude oil, it would not only loose its tourist presence but also economic value to the nation, in addition to displacing people residing close to it. Lastly, the money spent towards revamping a degraded environment also affects a countries budget. Finance that could have been channeled towards education women empowerment electricity etc is now used for afforestation, water schemes etc.
No rational thinking human being would like to reside in an environmentally degraded area. This may be due to majority the health implications associated with a polluted environment. Gas flares, polluted waterways, or radioactive commissions may leave residents with little or no option them to relocate or Shah (2010), reports that in Congo Brazzaville alone, about 45,000 people die every moment from treatable communicable diseases such as cholera. This may be attributed to the massive deforestation in that country and struggle of resources which has lead to the displacement of millions.
Africa is well known for her numerous tribes and tongues. This differences in language and culture may be “psyched us” when the environment on which the livelihood for survival is being depleted conflicts are likely to arise in a case or environmental pollution in a struggle to control the limited available resources, resulting for the displacement of people. This may have been the situation on the Ethiopia highlands, where the Tigray and wollo provinces clashed due to their similar life style and exhaustion of limited resources as reported by Lanz (1996). In addition, the degraded environment and conflict are not usually resolved on time owing to the African situation this indirectly encourages future clashes among the generations to come, therefore creating more disintegration. Shah (2010), reports the conflict in Congo to have been the deadliest since world war coming 5.4 million lives and displaced million more. This is chiefly due to the fight over natural resources which on exploitation results in degradation, notably deforestation. Furthermore, a statement released by the African Initiative on Mining, Environment and Society (AIMES) on May 15th 2004, posits that increased social conflict which included civil strives of different intensity levels, destruction of sources of livelihood and dislocation of individuals may arise due to environmental degradation.
Increased Poverty Level
Slack (2002) asserts, that the prevalent poverty in Africa, combines with exploding population growth and lack of enforced environmental regulation to produce the ecological degradation & cry of great human suffering domination the continent today this no doubt shows that poverty works hand in hand with environmental degradation. Desertification for example robs many tribal communities in countries like Niger, Namibia etc of their sources of livelihood (farmlands), this leaving them in the state of near poverty. It can then be said conclusively that a degraded environment reduces.
4.1 EFFORTS TOWARDS TACKLING SOCIAL DISLOCATION AND ENVIRONMENTAL DEGREDATION IN AFRICA
Considering the burden of both social dislocation and environmental degradation several African governments, International Organizations has taken drastic measures towards addressing the issue. This notwithstanding the situation seems to be largely out of control notable strides are briefly enumerated.
- Okhuriria (2006;25), reports that the Edo state house of assembly had to tackle the situation of environmental regulatory to the form of Erosion at Auchi, which destroyed several houses displaced residents.
- An editorial published on January 31 2006, on the guardian newspaper disclosed meetings held by African council of the great lake region. They met to discuss ways in which to best resolve resource based and ethnic indeed violence. Among their agenda, where various measures to be put in place by the African council to enable then effectively utilize the special funds meant for reconstruction and development.
- Another edition on Environment and poor nations seeking funds to stop desertification published on Monday 8th September, 2003 for discusses the strives of African government. Here, it reports about a meeting attended by head of governments of ten nations which held on Tuesday September 2 2003; at which several issues on combating desertification where discussed.
The document further enumerates on the actions taken by the United Nations convention to combat desertification (UNCCD). Which is a global environment fund, funded by 32 donor countries, which are mainly industrialized nations.
In the course of this research work; social dislocation with respect to environmental degradation, has been critically analyzed from many perspectives. This has led t the conclusion that the impact of environmental degradation resulting in social dislocation in Africa is quite alarming, be it in the North, East, West or South. However, the government of African states seems to have taken or drafted several measures to combat the situation, though the matter seems to be growing at a geometric proportion.
This no doubt convinces the reader, that environmental degradation has no border and could breed social dislocation in a once ecologically viable region. In summary the slow response of the various governments of states to a case of such occurrence quite compounds the issue; this it would take divine intervention to rescue our great continent Africa from her present state.
The first attempt towards combating the menace should be initiated by the various governments of states but propounded to the locals of the various communities where these forms of degradation and dislocation occur. This would not only bring about an improvement in the environment as only the locals can manage it better, but would also foster government people relationship chiefly lacking in Africa. Several steps could be taken of which an alternative source of energy ranks highest on the list. Various African governments could offer incentives to communities who mange their “forest reserves” for example, better. Government could also enforce strict laws with respect to agricultural practices, fishing, hunting, mining etc. this would in no small way discourage defaulters as anyone caught flaunting it would be prosecuted.
The issue of solid waste disposal in urbanized areas should also be taken into consideration. Techniques such as recycling and composting must be encouraged. In countries like South Africa, composting is carried out in the form of land filling, whereby the dugout ground is plastered with clay to prevent contamination of ground water. This process is called “the leach ate” should be copied by other African countries like Togo, Benin, Congo and Nigeria, where solid waste disposal seems to be a pressing issue.
Regional organizations and sub regional organizations like African Union (AU), Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and South African Development Cooperation (SADC) could also play important roles in resolving issues of conflict, social dislocation and environmental degradation in Africa. Inter regional contests, essay competitions. And awards should be encouraged especially among the youths to prepare them to tackle the enormity of the problem ahead.
In finality, each individual has the most crucial role to play as they are the determinate factors to the situations. Our choices and decisions today could be modified to bring about changes in the environment and betterment of lie tomorrow.
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