Every year, 22nd April is a day on which Earth Day is observed. This day is extremely important in our lives.
Christian teachings tell us that we came from earth and to earth we shall return. Certainly there is no dispute in this regard. This means that the relationship of human beings with earth is solid and inseparable. Interestingly there is nowhere anyone can avoid earth. When alive, we live on earth, we feed on products from earth, we enjoy air and water whose source and place is earth and finally when God calls us we are placed in earth. Therefore, earth is so important to us that it deserves to be treated with dignity. We have for long mismanaged, manipulated, mutilated, vandalized, harassed, harmed and even killed earth knowingly or unknowingly. It is time we stepped back and think of how earth should be managed better.
The global theme for the year 2022 is “Invest in our planet”. I believe the foundation for the theme is that earth has been vandalised and it needs to recover which calls for deeper attention and resources to be invested in it for it to revert to its normality.
The United Nations (UNs) theme for this day is “Harmony with Nature” which in my understanding calls us to live in a good relationship with nature / earth by respecting it and using it not only in a friendly way but in a meticulous and sustainable way. The use of earth’s resources without control has messed up many things.
There is no doubt that the current environment and climate crisis is a result of a poorly managed earth. The deserts and arid areas are expanding very fast, temperatures are escalating very fast, seas/ oceans and lakes are overflowing and rivers are bursting their bunks and redirecting their routes etc. This crisis is creating unbearable suffering to several communities and it is likely to become worse if the desired actions are not taken.
I note with pleasure that the global attention to the crisis resulting from mishandling earth is very high. Global Climate Change meetings are some of the known initiatives which are keenly putting strategies together to address the crisis. The recent 2021 COP/ UNFCCC meeting in Glasgow, UK attracted world leaders who made commitments to work towards addressing the climate change crisis. The Climate Crisis is affecting a multitude of things but earth bears the deepest brunt. Therefore any effort meant to address the crisis is timely.
During COP 26 in Glasgow, leaders committed to increasing the forest cover in their respective countries and to reducing emissions with a goal to avoid temperature rise by beyond 1.5 Degrees Celsius. The developed countries also committed to increasing financing to the sector even beyond the 100 BN US Dollars.
Uganda is not only a signatory to the international arrangements like the UNFCCC / Paris agreement hence committed to implementing them but it is also passionately putting together and consolidating strategies and actions that are going to protect earth.
The updated Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) which are focusing on enhancing good practices in the management of the energy generation and mining sector, water resources, forests and biodiversity, transport and manufacturing with a view to reducing emissions will definitely go a long way in protecting mother earth. My wish is to see that government actualizes its commitments and not leave other actors behind. The vibrant civil society organisations like CAN-Uganda, the Cultural Institutions like Obwakabaka Bwa Buganda , Tieng Adhola , Obwakyabazinga bwa Busoga and Bunyoro Kingdom should be given space to work with government. “Agali awamu gegaluma enyama” a kiganda saying emphasizing team work.
The concern however is the attitude of our political leaders and citizens. The leaders giving away forests to be cut down for sugar cane plantation and other non-forest activities, giving away wetlands and water bodies to investors for investments that are destructive to earth, giving licenses for mining works that are destructive, allowing dangerous agricultural chemicals and appliances to be imported and used on Ugandas soils including the GMO products, and introducing land use policies that deviate from the what that particular land in meant for is an unforgiveable dis-service to mother earth and its creation.
On the hand the insensitivity, lack of adequate knowledge and harboring of “an I don’t care attitude” is also causing great harm to earth. Some communities take earth for granted. They litter plastics and dangerous substances at will and without regard of the likely consequences, use fake agriculture fertilizers for short term gains, practice poor agriculture etc. My fellow citizens the earth you are mistreating is your source of life. “Try to live without it and its products and see how long you will survive”. Treat earth with all the love and respect you can afford. In the Netherlands, Sweden and United Kingdom, every piece of earth with in their territory matters and is very much valued and is put to the best use. In United Kingdom there is an ongoing tree planting campaign which will end up in millions of trees planted and grown yet a quick scan at the tree coverage in the country shows lots of trees in fact even in cities like London and Scotland there are areas covered by forests.
As a way of protecting earth, in UK trees are harvested on plan and not at a mere thought and excitement of an individual and if a tree is in a public area, the community must consent before a tree is felled and with an assurance that there are others planted and grown in place of the one cut down.
Sometime back I learnt that the government of Uganda was getting external funding to replenish forests in Uganda but at the same time, government was guarding forest destroyers, using the national security forces, in Bugoma and other places.
Bugoma, one of the few natural tropical forests remaining in Uganda lost over 9 square miles to sugar cane planting and other non-forest activities erasing the valuable and rare biodiversity, habitat for several insects and reptiles plus wild animals and birds. The forest is also a source of herbal medicines and food for the local community.
Behind the scenes regarding the cutting down of Bugoma forest were / are Political and civic leaders. It is important for those involved in this malpractice to know that the effects of mismanaging earth and her resources are quite costly and the consequences are severe and do not choose who to affect. It is worth noting that the short lived happiness derived from manipulating earth for simple personal gains is a foundation for long-lasting and painful experiences to those who are responsible for the actions and to the future generation.
Let this earth day therefore remind us of our duty to protect earth and use it sustainably. Those with insatiable appetites for property and richness should remember that God was very wise to create everything the way he did. Being a glutton is not Godly and He knows that what is available on earth is sufficient for His people.
It is your duty, it my duty to invest in our planet and this can be done by any one of whatever status and let us strive to live in harmony with nature.
Save the planet.
John Mary Odoy
Senior Citizen and former Chair CAN-Uganda
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