Africa’s Quest for a Green Revolt

EARLY in the morning, Mary Kanyaire, 33, collects water and firewood, and then prepares a meal for her two school-going children before she heads out to the fields, approximately 3 kilometers away from her homestead.

Alone, under the hot sun, she weeds groundnuts in a sandy field with a hoe. Although she knows she will not get a good yield, she strives on, buckets of sweat pouring down her face. Continue reading

In Zimbabwe, Subsistence Farmers Face Water Woes

At a public borehole in Zviyambe, a village in the backyard of Zimbabwe, approximately 250 kilometres away from Harare, the capital city, butterflies, goats, cattle and human beings mix and mingle in edenic fashion all in search of the precious liquid: water. Under a blazing sun, Sekai Mabika (not her real name) and her sister take turns to fill up buckets with water all the while shooing the goats away while the butterflies flutter hither and thither sipping at the water spilled to the ground and the cattle standby for their turn to drink water.

According to Sekai, she makes three trips everyday to fetch water at the public borehole, approximately four kilometers away from her homestead.

“It’s a painful trip, but it has to be done otherwise we will have no drinking water at home. All our homestead wells are dry,” she says, wiping sweat from her brow. “And, tomorrow, I have to do this again.”

The mid-afternoon sun, hot like a possessed devil, casts a shadow across her face as she balances the bucketful of water on her head and walks towards her homestead, her sister trailing her. Throughout the day the sun blasts across the landscape in this area literally skyrocketing daytime temperatures, and in the process, wilting young crops and drying up water sources, making subsistence farming very difficult. Continue reading

Governments should apologize for human rights abuse

In spite of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations 60 years ago, governments throughout the world continue to violate human rights with impunity.

Amnesty International reports that restless, angry and disillusioned, people will not remain silent if the gap continues to widen between their demand for equality and their governments’ denial.

As it is, governments have exhibited more interest in the abuse of power or in the pursuit of political self-interest, than in respecting the rights of those they lead.

US, the world’s most powerful state, has distinguished itself in recent years through a disregard of human rights thereby setting a bad example for other countries.

In fact, US’ disregard for human rights has resulted in the emergence of both leaders and movements in many parts of the world that abuse human rights.

“The human rights flashpoints in Darfur, Zimbabwe, Gaza, Iraq and Myanmar demand immediate action,” said Irene Khan, Secretary General of Amnesty International.

“Injustice, inequality and impunity are the hallmarks of our world today. Governments must act now to close the yawning gap between promise and performance,” she added. Continue reading

Bicycle Green Lessons From Zimbabwe

Bicycles have been touted as one of the best ways to stem the over-reliance oil powered transportation and, at the same time, can significantly improve people’s health.

In Zimbabwe, bicycles are increasingly becoming popular, albeit for a different reason: money and economics. With a current world record inflation of 11,2 million percent and rising on a daily basis, many people in Zimbabwe are struggling to make ends meet with very meager salaries.

As a means to cope with high transport costs (a product of the Zimbabwe’s hyperinflationary economy), many workers have taken to bicycling in their hordes. Previously stigmatized as a sign of poverty, bicycles have taken on a new form as a means of affordable transportation to work. Continue reading

Europe Seeks to Harvest African Sun

Harvest of the Sun

Harvest of the Sun

According to a news report recently published in the United Kingdom’s Guardian, European nations are planning to harvest the sun in the Sahara desert in Africa to “provide clean electricity for the whole of Europe” but there is no mention of how such a development will also benefit Africa.

Vast farms of solar panels in the Sahara desert could provide clean electricity for the whole of Europe, according to EU scientists working on a plan to pool the region’s renewable energy,” reports the newspaper.

As the world continues to investigate energy sources that are environmentally friendly, there is a need for developed countries to promote the transfer of both technology and skills to poorer nations. The fact is that the problem of climate change is a sum of its parts. If one part of the world lacks appropriate solutions, the problem will still come back to haunt even those countries that have access to perceived technological solutions.

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Why kicking the plastic habit is good for the environment

No More Plastic

No More Plastic

At food stalls and in supermarkets in Chiang Mai, Thailand’s second largest city, plastics of all shapes and sizes are dolled out like confetti when you make a purchase of items. The fascination with plastic is so amazing that with a single purchase of several items you can end up with over five plastic bags when less could do.

What is surprising is the plastic bags come at no cost, so customers gladly accept the packaging.

There is no doubt that the plastic bags which are probably handed out in their millions throughout Chiang Mai, and other parts of Thailand come at a great cost to the environment.

In Thailand, as in many parts of the world, the use of plastics is at epidemic levels with serious consequences for the environment. According to www.reusable.com, a website that promotes fighting the massive over-consumption of plastic shopping bags, the world has consumed over 276 billion plastics this year and the number is rising by the second.

Kicking the addiction to plastic bags is one of the single most important positive things that individuals can do to both protect and keep the environment clean. But it appears that it will take the world a long time to rid itself of the plastic habit because there are too many financial interests vested into the continued production of plastic.

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In Chiang Mai, Social Attitudes Crush Bicycling Prospects

In Chiang Mai, Thailand’s second largest city, you bicycle at your risk in spite of the clear advantages to the environment and physical health.

 

Crushed Bike

 

Next to the pedestrian, the bicycle is regarded as the lowest in the mode of transportation chain.

 

Chiang Mai’s roads team with vehicles of all sorts and ubiquitous motorcycles that screech, hoot and zig-zag through the traffic.

  

If anything, the undefined movement of the motorcycles poses the biggest threat to bicyclists. They are forced to stay on the edge of the road where they can potentially ram into the curb. The absence of bicycle tracks on many roads further worsens the situation.

Apart from this practical life and death consideration about bicycling, this mode of transport in Chiang Mai, like in many developing country cities, is regarded with disdain because it supposedly reveals low economic status.Many people are reluctant to turn to bicycles because of the social attitudes that demean human powered modes of transportation, including walking.

But there is an additional problem that it is intolerable to bicycle under the hot and sometimes humid weather conditions that prevail in Chiang Mai city. A bicycle ride of anything more than two kilometers can leave the rider practically drenched in sweat.

  

That prospect is highly undesirable especially for professionals. A way to resolve this issue, at least, for professionals would be for workplaces to provide shower places for their workers who opt to cycle.

 

In addition, the overall design of the bicycle will have to be improved to make bicycling easier, less demanding on physical energy, and protected from the elements of the earth.

  

As it is, bicycling in Chiang Mai is largely a preserve for tourists, a hangout or weekend pastime.

Bicycling, compared to other forms of transportation can absolutely play a major role in cutting the emissions from vehicular traffic.

  

In order for cycling to become an everyday reality in this city, the society will have to undergo major paradigm shifts at the attitudinal, city planning and policy making levels.

 

To make bicycling safe and easy, city planners have a key role to play in designing bicycle tracks and parking spaces.

  

Educating the public about the benefits of bicycling, particularly the physical benefits, is also essential. But, as the old adage says, it is difficult to teach old dogs new tricks.

  

What that means is that efforts must be targeted at young people to ensure a greater return on investment in awareness raising of the advantages of bicycling.

  

At government level, policy makers must provide incentives for people that choose to bicycle. In the absence of perceived incentives, it will be difficult to get a critical mass of people taking up this form of human powered transportation.

 

Whatever the case, bicycling can certainly improve physical health, reduce energy consumption and the associated degradation of the environment, and has a part to play in resolving one of the major problems facing humanity today: climate change.

  

Image credit: bcballard at Flickr