Ever since the creation of man, natural resources have been exploited. Up to the industrial revolution, the negative impact of man’s activities has been bare minimum. With industrialisation coupled with scientific and technological advancements, man’s exploitative activities have increasingly devastating impact that not only threatens other species within his environment, but the survival of humanity.
Economic growth and healthy environment are very essential to the survival of humanity. It is well known that most governments and economists are interested in either increasing the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) or per capita income of people through production. In an attempt to increase production, the environment is subjected to undue pressure.
Some scholars have argued that economic growth is necessary regardless of environmental pressure. On the other side of the debate are those who argue that economic growth must be decoupled from environmental pressure. Decoupling economic growth from environmental pressure, they explained, involves ensuring that the latter does not deplete the natural resource on which future growth is predicated. To drive home their point, they say, social and economic developments must be pursued in a manner that does not prejudice options available to future generations for the use of natural resources.
Today, available evidence shows that serious environmental degradation is taking place in many parts of Africa. Desertification, soil erosion and deforestation degrade the quality of the environment. You may wish to recall that the World Economic Forum (WEF) in its 2018 Climate Change Vulnerability Index, predicts that half of Africa’s GDP is under threat as a result of climate change even though, Africa contributes least to global warming per capita. With rising sea levels, increasing temperatures and changes in rainfall patterns leading to floods or severe droughts, most cities in Africa will have their expanding population and investment opportunities threatened, according to experts.
It is true that industries pollute the air, land and water with solid and liquid wastes which pose serious danger to the health of humanity. The world’s largest emitter of global emission is China, followed by the U.S. in recent times. These are two most industrialized countries of the world. The rise in the earth’s temperature was alarming that world leaders from 195 countries converged in Paris in 2015 at the United Nations climate talks. The aim was to find ways to keep the increasing global average temperature to well below 2 degrees Celsius.
At the climate talks, it was agreed according to reports, that developed nations will pay a compensation of about $100 billion to developing countries by the year 2020. Thankfully, the year of our Lord 2020 is here, the WEF Annual Meeting in Davos was just concluded. This year’s forum marked 50 years of the WEF with the theme “Stakeholders for a Cohesive and Sustainable World.” World leaders, economic gurus among other professionals assembled Davos to address urgent climate and environmental challenges, the ecology and economy of most countries particularly, those in Africa.
This year’s forum equally addressed: “How to transform industries to achieve more sustainable and inclusive business models as new political, economic and societal priorities change trade and consumption patterns; how to govern the technologies driving the Fourth Industrial Revolution so that they can benefit businesses and society while minimizing their risks; and how to adapt to demographics, social, and technological trends reshaping education, employment and entrepreneurship.”
Reflecting on the 2020 WEF Annual Meeting, one observes that the issue of climate change and the future of works were at the front burner on the agenda. There are reports that the WEF took far-reaching decisions which some analysts call “ambitious goals” on climate and future work. For climate, the WEF came up with an “ambitious goal” of growing, restoring, and conserving one trillion trees over the next 10 years. And for the future of works, the forum equally outlined an “ambitious goal” of providing better jobs education and skills to one billion people by 2030.
Many have questioned these “ambitious goals” and the underlying motivation. Why focus on these “ambitious goals” above everything else? Why did WEF make such a potentially risky commitment? The end state of providing better jobs, education and skills cannot be overemphasized bearing in mind the future of work. These “ambitious goals” are warning shots that we must be thinking of bequeathing a healthy environment to future generations while the continued relevance of talents in a changing world of knowledge is not negotiable. A nation that is unable to develop the skills and knowledge of its people and utilize them effectively for industrial purposes will find it challenging to develop.
Globally, the business of government is to keep the economy healthy by creating an enabling environment so that businesses can thrive and ultimately, the people can be prosperous. The quality of people and stock of natural resources are principal assets of a country’s balance sheet. If we fail to protect the health of our people and the viability of our natural resources, then we have put everything else at risk. One of the ways of protecting the health of our people is for African governments and over one billion people to ensure that we have a healthy environment.
All things being equal, if Africa is able to muster good leaders with well-articulated but effectively implemented policies, the continent may witness some level of development. It is most likely that Africa’s population growth rate which is currently at 2 percent, with a prediction by the Africa Development Bank (AfDB) that the economy will grow by 3.9 percent in 2020, will give rise to poverty reduction in the continent that is home to high proportion of younger people. It is yet to be seen how the fourth Industrial Revolution will help solve one of the continent’s most pressing challenges- an unemployment rate almost running at around 30 percent. Some analysts have expressed fear that the Fourth Industrial Revolution will make jobs disappear.
In Nigeria, we are faced with various environmental-related challenges which include poverty, water and air pollution, coastal and marine pollution, waste management, soil erosion, deforestation and desertification amongst others. Bearing in mind these environmental challenges, we must quickly realise that we need to exercise some restraints in our relationship with the environment. Individually and collectively, we must guard and keep a close watch on our environment. We must keep our environment clean; observe and report to appropriate authorities any moves or activities capable of destroying our God-given environment. If we destroy our environment, there may be no economic growth. Thank you!