911 is probably the most recognized stress or emergency number, used to call the fire brigade, ambulance service or police personnel. You only call this number when there’s a problem. In these contemporary times, we are receiving a continuous call on this number – it is not a person calling, it is the environment.
For many years we have been sustained by the environment. It has ensured enough oxygen for us to breathe, enough rains to generate food, appropriate shield from the sun and healthy water for human consumption. Now, the environment can no longer do that. It is incapacitated to provide such services and functions and it needs our help.
The sea levels are rising and the oceans becoming warmer. The rainy seasons are becoming shorter and droughts more intense and prolonged. The heat on the earth’s surface is increasing each year and sources of clean drinking water are evaporating at an unprecedented speed. Our usual farming seasons are disrupted and crops threatened. The ecosystem is becoming dysfunctional each day. Pests are on the rise and other new variations evolving. The wildlife is losing freshwater supplies and is affected by high degrees of heat. The sea is becoming more acidic and salty threatening the water based life-forms. Earth is dying slowly.
The effects of climate change and environmental degradation on humans is equally shocking. Africa is faced with typhoid, cholera and other air and water borne diseases. Our skins are more susceptible to cancers and other dermatological infections. There is hunger everywhere and the percentages of affected people are increasing every day. Unemployment is on the increase, as many jobs rely on the existence of raw materials, which are no longer available. It is an emergency situation.
This February, I visited the CYNESA offices in Nairobi, hoping to get an improved appreciation of our environment. The network works tirelessly to raise awareness on the stress call from Mother Earth in Africa. CYNESA has initiatives in Kenya, Burundi, DRC, Zimbabwe, Tanzania and Zambia. Its efforts have been directed towards young people, motivating them and providing them with capacity to spearhead concrete – positive environmental and climate initiatives. Over the years, the movement has contributed in sensitizing the public and planting trees in different parts of Africa. The movement has also promoted green energy and technology. It has brought an appreciation of solar lamps and Heat bags to reduce the use of firewood and other earth-costly energies. As they briefed me on their efforts, I realized how their shoulders are heavy and few seem to notice. The world needs an awakening to the reality on the ground.
The Founding Executive Director of CYNESA, Allen Ottaro, indicated that one of the biggest challenges has been that of changing the attitudes of people towards environmentally friendly behaviours. This has driven their programming lately to focus on formation as one of their key interventions. In some countries such as Rwanda, legislative efforts have contributed to the positive uptake of environmental issues. Such governmental initiatives have brought the need to focus more on advocacy and mobilization of other stakeholders towards a more integral contribution on environment and sustainability in Africa.
As I left the CYNESA office, I realized that there is a profound need for the world to have a more direct and explicit imagery of the stress call from the Environment as it continuously sends the numbers 911—911—911.
Time Baluwa is a Zimbabwean national, Counsellor and Social Worker specialising in HIV, AIDS, behaviour formation, intellectual disabilities and development work.