First of all, surprisingly, the year 2017 began on a high note. The series of blogs began with Sustainable Living Today. It came on the backdrop of increased discussions on the discourse of green and sustainable living. Even today, I still offer and agree with the concluding remarks of this article: “everyone has a role to play when it comes to sustainable and green living. Green living is more of a conscious effort than one would think; it involves everyday active steps and attempts to ensure that whatever is consumed has passed the sustainability test and whatever is disposed goes through the three Rs.”
The second article of the year dug deep into president Trumps controversy; especially his undeterred efforts to return America on the previous paths of production where energy is used extensively instead of being sustainable. His actions to authorize the completion and construction of Dakota Pipeline was his initial anti-environment move which got the entire nation talking and wondering on the future of the environment. My concern for this kind of authorization was and still is the lots and lots of vegetation, trees, and cultural sites that were destroyed and this would lead to soil erosion, deforestation and tons of soil around the pipeline would be rendered useless. The environmental health could grow worst yet these are just but a few examples of the many impacts the pipeline would generate.
Later on in February, I delved into methane levels that were increasing in Marcellus Shale Region despite a dip in well construction. Until today, methane levels are increasing globally, however, the level of increase in this region is more than the global average. This rapid increase is attributed to the increase in natural gas production. A quick analysis showed that although methane gas could be beneficial in cooking, its accumulation in the atmosphere is as much catastrophic or more than carbon dioxide and hence, its effect on climate change would be unforgiving. This is a concern until today and little seems to have been done in this regard.
In March, I began with looking at the Pasig River in the Philippines. The gist of the paper revolved around the pollution that has ravaged the goodness that the river brings to inhabitants in the riparian area of the river. Although efforts are being made to rehabilitate the river, there is still much more to be done in terms of policy and enforcement to ensure that the river maintains its present level and improve in the future. Pasig River was just an example of what numerous rivers across the world look like. Poor policies and laxity in legislation can turn a river into a pool of death.
Later on in April, the discussions on climate change were red hot; I decided to analyze President Trump’s focus on climate policies. From this instance, it was crystal clear that it was never going to get better at all. The previous signing of an executive order by President Trump at the EPA served to achieve two fundamental things: to curb the federal government’s spending towards climate regulations and to create jobs for the American people. During the signing ceremony, Pres. Trump said “My action today is latest in steps to grow American jobs” he further added that the executive order aimed at “ending the theft of prosperity.” Well, these views are consistent with his campaign pledges which suppressed climate change matters and even termed it as a “hoax.” By pushing for anti-climate change initiatives, the Trump administration aims to increase energy independence and primarily create jobs. This view has not change today and in my honest opinion, it is getting worst every day.
Later in June, the U.S. withdrew from the Paris Climate Agreement and things were really getting ugly for those, like me, who respected and believed that such an Agreement would liberate the world and apportion responsibility accordingly to those causing the most pollution. To this date, very accurate statistics show that the U.S. and China alone emit 45% of the entire global Carbon dioxide. Lucky enough before Pruitt was appointed as the new EPA director, the overview of greenhouse gasses and its sources for the US between 1990 and 2014 had been archived. It shows that in 2014, the GHGs totaled 6,870 million metric tons of carbon equivalents. Something important to note in this is that the 2014 emissions were below by 9% as compared to that of 2005. Electricity production is the leading emitter of the GHGs followed by transportation, then industry, residential, and agriculture. Has this reduced? No statistics…
In July, news that a huge mass of ice had broken from Antarctic hit the airwaves and I also got curious and looked into it. One thing was very clear though, that human-induced climate change played a central role in facilitating the break-off. The global climate change story has been floated out there for every person to judge and definitely, this event is one of the few visible ones that is attached to direct human impacts. Although such events are common and usual, such a big size was quite suspicious and there might be some huge facts that link climate change to this event which are yet to be unveiled. More studies need to go this direction so that we attain certainty as precaution should also be observed.
In August, I focused on Transboundary water resources management as a follow up to my class project focusing on Africa. The most important aspect of this paper was its focus on the challenges that these transboundary water resources faced; particularly the Nile, Senegal, and Niger Rivers. The Nile River is predominantly controlled by Egypt yet it passes through several poor countries. Also, its sustainability depends on the efforts of all the basin countries. Equally, River Niger gives its waters to 9 countries while River Senegal to four countries. It is vital, therefore, that the management of these rivers uses the model of ecosystem thinking to ensure that every country and part of the river basin plays its critical role in enhancing the quality and sustainability of the rivers. Furthermore in the same month, I also looked at resilience in SDGs. It seems as if the steam with which the SDGs were established is slowly losing momentum because the resilience in people keeps dwindling and losing direction. The confluence of efforts to manage the world ‘social and environmental’ state has never been serious before as it has been for the past three decades and especially in the recent decade. These efforts must yield into something sustainable especially if the rural poor achieve resilience in their livelihoods.
September was the month of hurricanes and thus was dedicated to both Hurricane Irma and Harvey. Irma developed on August 30, 2017 near Cape Verde Islands from a tropical wave which had moved off the west African coast three days prior. It further intensified under favorable conditions becoming firstly category 2 hurricane within 24 hours. Shortly afterward, it scaled up to category 3 status becoming a major storm as it were. It fluctuated between category 2 and 3 for the next few days due to a series of eyewall replacement cycles. On September 4th, the storm resumed intensification further becoming a category 5 hurricane reaching its peak on September 6th at 295km/h. Hurricane Harvey, since Wilma in 2005, was the first major hurricane to cause a landfall in the U.S in a while. Its occurrence marked an end to a 12-year-record of no major hurricanes on the coastlines of the U.S. Within a four-day period, many areas received more than 40 inches, which is equal to 1,000 mm, of rain water. The system slithered over the eastern Texas and adjacent waters causing catastrophic flooding that reached a peak accumulation of nearly 1,300 mm. Harvey is recorded as the wettest and the strongest tropical cyclone in the U.S. which resulted to large-scale destruction and displacement of people. Hundreds of thousands of homes were inundated and more than 30,000 people were forced out of their homes; this prompted more than 17,000 rescues.
In November, I participated in a citizen Science Project. It focused on conserving giraffes in Northern Kenya. I never had a close interest in giraffes but it was sparked through this assignment/project. I actually plan to travel to Kenya and witness them myself. The project was concerned with identifying the animals (particularly the giraffes) in the thousands of posted photos to help a local project team track and conserve the giraffes. I am glad to be part of this project. You can also get into the project through: Zooniverse.
I also delved into ecosystem destruction as a topic of concern. The ecosystem destruction is already happening and almost all ecosystems are affected in one way or another. For instance, 25% of all coral reefs have already disappeared and in 30 years time, 60% more is estimated to be gone. This is due to the ocean acidification, illegal fishing, and excessive water pollution. Equally, deforestation is caused by illegal logging plus the incessant human need for progress. To date, records indicate that close to 4.6 million hectares of forest have succumbed to deforestation. Now the begging question would be, how many species have disappeared in this destruction? And are we ready to take any action?
This December, I looked into California wildfires. Wildfires seem to have become part and parcel of normal life. Is there a way they can be mitigated or stopped? Although conservation biologists consider wildfires to be a natural process that renews and revamps vegetation, what about the lives and property lost? I hope solutions can be gotten through proactive measures such as curbing climate change.
The very last article of the year is on plastics in the Oceans. Studies have pointed to the fact that humans are the drivers of this absurd menace. About 80% of debris in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch comes from the land-based activities in North America and Asia (Foster, 2017). The remaining 20% comes from the boaters, large cargo ships, offshore oil rigs, and other ocean vessels. This means that humans are largely to blame for the predicament we face from these destructive events and processes. What have we done to contribute to ocean trash? And what can we do to correct the situation?
2017 seems to have been an eventful year for the environment considering the activities the international community and particularly the U.S. have engaged in so far. Unlike 2016 when we witnessed an unprecedented rise in the level and rate of ocean protections, climate change action, recovery in some endangered species like Panda and increased war on against poaching, 2017 seems to have glaring disappointments ranging from US’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate agreement to increased disasters across the globe. This year shall be remembered in history as one that was full of anti-environmentalism especially from the American policy makers.
The United States itself has had very little success towards the objectives and goals of environmentalism. We seem to be drifting back to energy-intensive systems and unsustainable patterns of life, and we do so ceremoniously and with a lot of confusion just to absent ourselves from the realities face in relation to environmental destruction. The third law of force by Newton is that, ‘for every action, there is an opposite and equal reaction.’ I am confident that the little we have invested in improving the manner in which we care for our environment shall be reflected in the much impacts we are due to face in future.
As a conscious people, we are obligated to think, project, and connect our small visions and outcomes to the bigger picture. Does the future/big picture look any better? Shall we vacate the earth, in 100 years or so, and leave behind a space that our future generations will be glad to inherit and get the most out of it? Is it okay when we become complacent and possibly compliant to erroneous views which treat climate change as a hoax? The answers to these questions can form part of New Year’s resolutions for a better earth in 2018.
PS: Happy Holidays and have an exciting new year 😛