Unleashing the green power of wasted resources

| May 13, 2014 | 0 Comments

Our understanding of waste in our every life is closely related to what we produce after consumption of a product. This includes everything ranging from food, clothing, paper bags, newsprints, wood chips and this list is long. These wastes go into dump sites, washed by storms and streams into water bodies or to the air through anaerobic decomposition or through uncontrolled burning.

One man's meat is another man's waste. This Bottle collector sorts out his haul for the day. Photo Credit: Xinhua/Li Jing, (www.english.people.cn.com)

One man’s meat is another man’s waste. This Bottle collector sorts out his haul for the day.
Photo Credit: Xinhua/Li Jing, (www.english.people.cn.com)

Industrialized countries have been blamed for the cause of global warming, which in the past decades have been associated with periodic and unpredictable weather changes, floods and droughts, commonly referred to as climate change. These changes have impacted on the livelihoods of mainly populations in the third world countries who have limited resources to respond to impacts of these human-induced actions or natural phenomenon.

Global debates have revolved around compelling industrial countries to meet the costs of climate mitigation and adaptation actions. Activists mainly from developing countries have been lobbying the United Nations bodies to step up their campaigns to increase financial threshold for industrialized nations to meet the costs of polluting the environment. This has been a tall order since the so called economic power houses are the same with high greenhouse gas emission levels.

Over the last three decades, the global development agenda and debates have changed terms, starting with the Agenda 21, then to Millennium Development Goals and now thinking of something called Sustainable Development. To the common person in rural villages in the third world countries such as Kenya, where 70% of the population live below a dollar a day, these terms are but just any development agenda conceived by the rich nations and elites. It is a daunting task to change people’s business as usual lifestyles that can contribute to these global development strategies in the near future.

In recent global debate and call, changing lifestyles and the way we conduct business is in forefront. The recently launched Green Economy Assessment Report for Kenya (April 2014) commissioned by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is timely evidence that need to be embraced for policy debate in the country. The central government and county governments need to take a lead role in shaping legislative and policy debate that would propel Kenya towards green economy pathway.

As early as it is possible, the national debate on green economy must not be left for those in the academic cycles and policy makers. It must be cascaded to the lowest level possible and if possible, as the debate on the war on insecurity including the household level Nyumba Kumi security framework.

Poor nations must not continue to put blanket blame on their industrialized counterparts for causing the greenhouse gas emissions before individuals know how much of carbon emissions they release in their day to day business as usual lifestyles. Citizens need to know their carbon footprints as first step for behaviour change towards achieving the global strategy of low-carbon development pathway.

It will be a daunting task to convince a charcoal maker that if they continue with their business as usual economic activity, then forests they obtain materials for charcoal making would soon disappear, and therefore their livelihoods will be at jeopardy.

Some of the immediate remedies include promoting some of traditional technologies that can be adopted for public behaviour change towards healthy lifestyles. Some of these changes may need quite low investments as we leave with them. For example, there may be no investment cost a devalue branded on an urban shopper for carrying a handbag to a supermarket and stuff the shopping into it instead of using a plastic paperbag that will finally be dumped into the estates and block sewer lines in for example Nairobi City or cause for example hard flowers in Garissa town.

For the rural population, it may cost little to adopt traditional technologies of compacting (densifying) agricultural residues, regarded as waste into briquettes and use it as sustainable energy source instead of cutting down trees. At the same time, instead of burning in open fields, turning these residues into energy and business opportunity can change lives in areas where they are in abundance.

It will be a life changer for a motor vehicle mechanic operating an open-air garage or car wash businesses along Kuja River in Nyatike Township to collect used oil and recycle it or obtain cash by selling used oil for those who need it most instead of dumping it on land or into the river. The fish that people depend on require uncontaminated water bodies. At the same time, the lives of many plants and animals along in the rivers need clean waters.

On the same note, it will cost almost nothing for mothers in rural areas to make food warming baskets from ecologically friendly sources to keep foods warm for school-going children instead of burning a few bundles of firewood obtained from unsustainable forests to warm food for lunch for their families.

The power of what we see as waste is enormous. Technologies and skills are abundant. The need to change our lifestyles is timely. Poor nations are not poor in natural resources that can change lives. The need to unleash the wasted resources for developing countries is thus timely and requires participation of everyone. This is therefore a call for action!

Category: Frank Talk

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