“Mother Nature is just and fair to all. But I am not sure whether we reciprocate her kind gesture as we often deal unjustly with nature”. Those were the disturbing words of my daughter as we recently drove round some parts of Lagos, observing man’s unbelievable thoughtless treatment of his environment. Being the commercial hub of West Africa, Lagos has obvious environmental concerns. But then, over the years, subsequent governments in the State have endeavored to make sustainable environmental regeneration a core part of the ultimate goal of transforming the City-State into a Smart city.
The United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction describes Environmental Degradation as “the lessening of the limit of the earth to meet environmental and social needs and destinations.” This basically means the act and process of disrespecting the environment. Particularly in Lagos State, the activities that render the environment unhealthy and unsuitable over time include littering, noise, water and air pollution, loss of green cover and biodiversity, giant landfills caused by indiscriminate dumping of refuse resulting in land damage, deforestation, overcrowded tenements and poor sanitation.
The effects of harmful actions on the environment are unwholesome and we all consciously or unconsciously responsible for it. When we purchase stuffs either in traffic or elsewhere and indiscriminately fling the remnants on the road or other such inappropriate places, what we do is to desecrate the environment. Unfortunately, what we fail to realize is that our seemingly harmless actions have far reaching consequences as it might take close to 900 years for such remnants to actually decompose. That is simply 900 years of infesting pests and trapping stale water which in turn comes with its own bacteria and then pathogens which all lead to life threatening diseases.
When you live in a neighbourhood and decide to blast music so much that the entire vicinity vibrates with amazing venom, unmindful of the peace of others, what you do constitutes serious injury to the health of others. As apparently not detrimental as some infamous environmental acts look, they can spur ripple effects on an entire community. The Ebola virus epidemic in some parts of West Africa and Lassa fever cases in some parts of our country are clear pointers to this. Thus, whenever anyone wants to embark on harmful practices with grievous implications on the environment, it is quite logical to think twice.
Environmental degradation can turn a bustling metropolis into a cluster of slums and a bustling crime zone. People need to realize that individuals who live in overcrowded spaces are more likelyto be exposed to scenes of violent schisms that inspire wild reactions like domestic and verbal abuse among others. Though these acts are not really limited to these areas, but they are most likely to occur there due to psychological effects of being deprived of private space.
The cost of our damaging behaviour against the environment is by no means minimal. For one, it makes government spend unnecessarily while trying to undo the harm done. And really, such fund could have been expended in meeting other crucial societal needs. Also, public health is sometimes seriously hampered as filthy practices tend to lead to outbreak of tragic epidemics which could lead to needless waste of lives.
The economy also takes a hit with instantaneous effects manifest across all sectors. Tourism, for instance, cannot thrive in any place where the environment is treated irresponsibly. Equally, potential investors will not make such a place a destination of choice. The bottom line is that insensitivity towards environmental issues would do us more harm than good.
What then can be done to positively alter our attitude towards the environment? First, we need to get a proper grasp of the way the environment works and the elements that form that complex whole. It is only when we truly understand what our environment means to us that we could see the danger inherent in its unwholesome treatment. In as much as the bulk of the responsibility seems to hang on the shoulder of all tiers of government with greater need for investment on infrastructural development alongside environmental rehabilitation, nevertheless, without the corresponding attitudinal change from the public such investments would amount to little or nothing.
Presently, in Lagos, the state government has come up with the Cleaner Lagos Initiative (CLI) to address solid waste management through massive emphasis on sensitization, regular checks and inspection, landscape beautification and rehabilitation and replacement of outdated machinery and infrastructure. With this new policy and many others, the Lagos State government has no doubt invested much into environmental conservation, preservation and development. It is, therefore, baffling to see some residents denigrate the environment in such abysmal manner.
The implication of this is that for our environment to sufficiently reflect the enormous government investment on it, both the government and the governed must be mutually involved. Japan did not get to the enviable position of having the cleanest cities in the world by leaving the business of environmental rehabilitation to the government alone. No! It really began when Japanese began to take responsibility over their environment.
Like Japan, with the needed discipline and conscious determination, we could also turn most of our cities into amazing haven of cleanliness. This could begin with a simple habit of not throwing dirt in unauthorized places. It could be as simple as not urinating in public places. It could also be as simple as not patronizing illicit waste disposal agents. It could be as simple as not turning parks and gardens into cattle ranches or party spots.
If advanced nations of the world such Australia, United States of America, China and others that pay utmost attention to environmental issues could be threatened with massive environmental hazards as some of them currently experience, it is a wakeup call for us to turn a new leaf by treating our environment fairly.
Consequently, we must jointly resolve to save our environment and, indeed, ourselves from the dreadful effects of environmental degradation. We must understand and appreciate that the survival of future generation depends on how well we treat the environment now. So, for everyone, this is the time to work and walk together in a renewed commitment to preserve our environment. God bless Nigeria.