Wednesday, February 24, 2021 1:18 pm
By Nkrumah Bankong-Obi
The United States of America is undergoing a great and heartwarming healing. The world is witnessing a sort of interdependent reinvigoration that assures of the possibility of rebirth and regeneration. The inauguration of Joseph R. Biden Jr. as President of the US following the electoral rebuke of his immediate predecessor, Donald Trump, has opened new orifices as to what the world can do to renegotiate the path to self-redemption and rediscovery.
The Trump administration pursued some of the most bizarre policies ever known in public governance. At the heart of the self-damaging pursuits – besides trade wars with China, trade disagreements with Canada and Mexico, malignant immigration executive orders and his over simplified romance with archetypal enemies of democracy, was the relentless onslaught against the collective global alliance to halt climate change and its negative consequences. His bashesee to despots at the expense of building blocs to tackle common challenges, effectively confined him and his cronies at the White House into a garth for only for small, narrow and warped minded sophomores. Trump made America a pariah among nations based on his myopic view of American influence and how to deploy her vast powers and still retain her balance at home.
The reversal of gains made in curtailing global warming by the last US authorities implies that the world would suffer some consequences. And since no one else has the muscle comparable to the US’, the game to repudiate the democratic despot was hushed. Ideas on how to arrest the decline among allies flourished. But the firepower to snatch results out of the difficult situation was missing. Trump held the key but had no idea or presence of mind to turn the knob and save the world an impending catastrophe.
It was therefore heartwarming for those of us in the Third World, as majority of American voters scolded Trump with their votes. As they queues turned up on November 4 last year to deliver their verdict, we prayed for guidance and sent good wishes that somehow, the shackle on global multilateralism be broken. The Popular vote, the Electoral College and the Congress all answered the entreating calls. And today, it is a new dawn to begin again.
There is no a single challenge as dreadful as climate change confronting mankind today. Politically-induced wars, social upheavals and threats to democracy as we experienced in the last few months and weeks in the US can be addressed by the system or parties concerned. But climate? Where do we begin from? The impact of climate crises are felt all across the world. Climatologists tabulate how a shift in climate has resulted in rising temperatures. The rising seas levels and warmer weather have resulted to drought, thawing of icebergs, monsoons, flashfloods, storms, volcanic eruptions and erratic rain patterns. Wildfires, deforestation, carbon emissions/fossil fuels have caused the disappearance of natural food chains that previously enhanced the continuity of the valuable components of nature – man, plants and animals. The disequilibrium has dire implications for ecosystems across the living and non-living organism spectra.
It is already known that human actions have given great rise to these dangers. Most of these wrongdoings emanate from the developed world, where industralisation impacts climate on the downside. Also, while the developed economies build fortresses to defend their borders against climate, while they establish platforms to respond to environmental changes, they pay little attention to the Third World where raw materials for their industries are sourced. Our forests are playgrounds for international rackets. They rake profits, feed their development needs and leave us at the mercy of disease pandemics, famine, conflicts occasioned by disappearing land and the other vagaries of natural habitat displacement. The surging coronavirus disease, Covid-19 and Ebola virus disease before it, typify how we have been raped and left for the dead by those fiends of the earth.
It is therefore not difficult to see my excitement following the restoration of order and decency at the White House. It is More pleasing that Mr. Biden has promised to dismantle Trump’s intrepid individualism at the expense of the time-honoured collaborative spirit of multilateralism. Mr. Biden’s promise to instantly return to the Paris Accord, flashes a ray that Africa and indeed all people on the throes of climate catastrophe may have some respite. His instant appointment of Mr. John Kerry as his Climate Change envoy further solidifies our hope.
Again, leadership is returning to the world and the immediate gain will be how Nigeria and African can tap on this to redeem our environment. If anyone still lives in denial and urging that we lift no finger, just look at the croppers-herders conflicts in the Middle belt and the rapid disappearance of the Lake Chad, Goronyo dam and of course many other across the country. Those who hitherto earned a decent living from these resources have been left in quandary. Most have turned to crimes of different degrees and names.
Therefore, Nigerian-American relations must include, and at the top sheet too, the need for Nigeria to be considered for some form of environmental rehabilitation. Nigeria deserves a chunk from the climate financing. Projects like the toddling Green Wall, the restoration of the Lake Chad must be put forward by Nigerian officials at the highest level. Besides, we must find funding for afforestation projects across the country. Coppices that have been destroyed must be restored through aggressive tree-planting. As this goes on, there is need to find alternative sources of livelihood for people living around conservation hotspots. This way, we can stop the destruction of prized habitats while not loosing their means of livelihood.
Closely followed is that Nigeria should hasten to nudge the Biden administration to evidentially put the Light Africa project in motion. No need to State the gains we stand to reap from this. What is obvious is the new technologies in transportation, ICT, e-governance that could come as by-products of electrification using the best methods of natural power generation. I expect officials to easily put this on the agenda of any meetings between Nigeria and the US and indeed other member-nations that are signature to the Paris Agreement.
These projects are both cost intensive and energy sapping. Therefore, now that an opportunity has opened up nicely, we must move with the speed of the light. Adequate diplomatic pressure and a graphic presentation of the state of affairs is certain to make Washington look with massive concern on her most important ally in Africa. Let’s make progress before the skies fall on us.
Poet and journalist, Nkrumah Bankong-Obi is the author of the forthcoming collection, BurningSkies. He is reachable via [email protected]