UNDER THE RADAR – SIGNS OF ENVIRONMENTAL DEGRADATION

At an early age while I was growing up, the entrance door to my father’s house was at the street level. I used to crawl in and out; ran in and out each day without tripping over due to differential heights of the two surfaces. Slowly but steadily, the street level eroded significantly with time and carved a steep slope such that seven layers of concrete steps were added to assist occupants ascend and descent the heights that had now developed. Since then, this and other environmental degrading phenomena have constituted a dangerous threat to the liveliness of the people.

I also noticed that the run-off of rain water followed human footpaths to farm lands and carved them into deep gullies with time. Next, is the incessant over-flowing of the banks of the Uduma River and the resultant flooding of community farms during the rainy seasons. The destructive force of the raging current uprooted economic trees, flattened buildings, sacked communities from their ancestral homes, and carved new courses for itself.  This and many other signs buttresses the assertion that over the Earth’s history, the climate keep changing for many reasons including changes in the orbit of the       Earth around the sun, changes in the energy from the sun and geological changes.

What is different now is that human activities, that release emissions of gases and other pollutants into the atmosphere, are changing the energy balance of the planet and causing our climate to change. The gases, which are known as greenhouse gases, trap energy which then warm the planet somewhat akin to what happens in a greenhouse. The impact of this warming includes increased air and ocean temperatures, drought, melting ice and snow, rising sea levels, changes in rainfall patterns and flooding. All these phenomena have been happening since the earth began but has just been given prominence by science due to its present magnitude and destructive force.

Fig 1.0 Green House Effect

Yet there are provoking arguments for and against the issue of climate change. In some quarters, it is humorous and a malicious deception by those who have invaded our privacy and made us to live on the fringes of modern digital foot print. They project, propagate and defend their argument, believe and conviction fiercely, and with all the scientific arsenal at their disposal prove opposing arguments wrong. You cannot for now beat their electronic eye in space that attest to the claim. Can you?

In other quarters, they also argue that the earth and its resources above and below the earth crust are infinite and solely reserved to support and sustain humanity. To them, mother earth is designed to recover and replenish itself regardless the degree of exploitation of the resources and the resultant consequences if any. They sit on the fence and fiercely defend their position too.

“Are Human Activities responsible for Environmental Degradation and Climate Change?”

The answer to this somewhat contentious issue is that it is very likely that Anthropogenic activities are responsible for a substantial fraction of the observed climate change. The natural greenhouse effect is a well-known phenomenon. It is well established that human activities have led to large increases in the atmospheric concentrations of the three most important long-lived greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2, Methane (CH4), Ozone (O3).

Let us further securitize the Anthropogenic Activities.

Again, let me take you back to the village of my birth which I said is in God’s own State. Each farming season thousands of hectares of thick vegetation are cleared; timbers are harvested while branches and leaves burned to ashes, and within one year plus, land surfaces are laid bare and exposed to ultraviolet radiation and rain water. While we cultivate, weed and harvest the crops, the surface soil is eroded. In due time land forms previously sheltered from ultra violet radiation and run-off by rain water are altered and transformed permanently due to farming activities.

To dwellers of my village it is and remains a natural phenomenon. But it is said that when an ordinary handshake goes beyond the palm and reaches the elbow joint, it has turned into a brawl. This seemingly ordinary natural phenomenon that has shaped our lives over centuries has become extra-ordinary and portends serious threat to the earth’s ecological balance.

Over the Earth’s history, the climate has changed for many reasons including changes in the orbit of the Earth around the sun, changes in the energy from the sun and geological changes. What’s different now is that human activities, that release emissions of gases and other pollutants into the atmosphere, are changing the energy balance of the planet and causing our climate to change.