THE DAY AFTER TOMMOROW – by GWYNNE

The Day After Tommorow

  THE DAY AFTER TOMMOROW[1]

  by GWYNNE[2]

Given the fast deterioration of environments around the world environmental education needs to focus on ensuring that people understand that the destruction of the environment is not tomorrow’s problem but one which we will in our lifetimes have to deal with. Environmental degradation must be seen not only as an environmental concern but as a growing threat to sustainable development and poverty reduction. The effects on the environment cannot so much be reversed but mitigated. The harsh truth is that even if global carbon emissions, water/ soil/ air pollution and deforestation stopped tomorrow the world would still be faced with the massive challenge of adapting to changes in the environment caused by these factors.

There is urgent need for realistic adaptation options to reduce the vulnerability of the environment, strengthen income generation techniques and national economies, as well as produce coping mechanisms to deal with current, environmental disasters and future changes in rainfall patterns, reduction in food and water security; decreasing natural resources due to over use, shifting vector-borne diseases; rising sea levels affecting low-lying coastal areas with large populations. Adapting to present and future environmental changes would require developing systems capable of absorbing the current shocks and at the same time integrate future change risks.

One of the main concerns; climate change, is not something that will occur at an appointed date. Climate change has begun and already the effects are being felt. The consequences of other environmental concerns, pollution, deforestation resulting in desertification, ozone depletion are also already taking their toll. In as much as global carbon emissions, water/ soil/ air pollution and deforestation are driven by global economy and world politics they will conversely also have a negative effect on economies and social development. Although Africa is least responsible for climate change, it is particularly susceptible to the effects, including: reduced agricultural production, worsening food security, the increased incidence of both flooding and drought, spreading disease and an increased risk of conflict over scarce land and water resources. Africa is vulnerable due its overdependence on rain-fed agriculture, compounded by factors such as widespread poverty and weak capacity. This has significantly reduced the competence of poor households in Africa to cope with shocks of extreme environmental events.

A relevant example is, Somalia which is currently experiencing almost all types of environmental concerns, both natural and man-made.  While there is little that can be done to prevent such things as drought, the famine element is avoidable. A case in point is that of the drought in Southern Africa 1991/1992 where drought and other natural disasters did not end in famine, this is pertinent because this is an example from developing countries that have succeeded in avoiding famine during lengthy drought. The drought placed millions of people at risk of starvation. A mix of politics, drought, preparedness, and means of adaptation is the cause for the famine in Somalia, whereas in Southern Africa these factors where controlled in order to avoid a famine.

One of the main concerns with the dilapidation of the environment is that if at all it is, it is not easily reversible. Mitigation and adaptation is the only way forward. Adaptation to environmental change should be understood as a continuous process which addresses current problems and extremes and future risks. Thus, for African governments in particular, managing environmental risk must rapidly shift from a purely environmental concern to addressing a growing threat to development. The evidence from past experience suggests that this is best achieved through integrating environmental issues into government policies and protecting the most vulnerable.  Environmental education needs to focus on ensuring that people understand that the destruction of the environment is not tomorrow’s problem but one which we will in our lifetimes have to deal with. Today and tomorrow maybe all right but what about the day after?


[1] This article opens a series of articles on “Environment and Humanitarian Disasters in Africa”.

[2] Gwynne is a new research fellow in Green Compass Research. Ms. Mhalanga can be reached at – gwynne04@gmailcom

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