As Soot Blankets Port Harcourt

carbon-coated

Soot & Sole:  twitter pix from @GreatOgoni

 

Dark clouds over Port Harcourt. The air in parts of Port Harcourt has been darkened by soot over the past few months, raising a cloud of concerns about the attendant health impacts. Citizens in parts of Port Harcourt, Nigeria, are getting worried about the air they breathe. To put it another way, many citizens are afraid to breathe. And that can be deadly.

Soot is a general term that covers pollutants derived from incomplete or inefficient burning of fossil fuels or biomass (plants or plant-based materials used as source of energy). The major sources of soot include fuels like diesel used in transport and in electricity generators. For the Niger Delta, the sources include the aforementioned and include others such as: gas flares, illegal refineries, the burning of illegal refineries and crude oil, burning of oil spills by incompetent contractors and the burning of sundry wastes. Bush burning can also be a source of soot in our environment.

The burning of illegal, or bush refineries, by the Join Military Task Force (JTF), the incendiary acts that have been raised as banners of victory over oil theft, is one source that must be halted immediately. The bush refineries are basic and flimsy contraptions that can easily be dismantled and safely disposed of. The same goes for wooden barges arrested with stolen crude. Dropping grenades on those toxic wares and sending smoke signals above the creeks may be seen as acts of bravado, but they have serious health impacts on the environment and citizens in the area. The JTF, working with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and the oil majors, should set up recovery centres were recovered stolen crude are logged, stored and safely disposed of by the original owners or as agreed. The disposal methods could include sending such crude to the refineries or by exporting them if the quality is not compromised by the process of rough handling.

A variety of soot is one called black carbon. We have also heard of black snow arising from carbon particulates that accumulated in the Himalayas, for instance, and is said to aid the rapid melting of snow by reason of the heat they trap. Dramatic carbon pollution in the winter of 1952 led to the death of about 4000 persons within five days.

The current situation of soot blanketing the skyline of parts of Port Harcourt is deeply troubling and requires urgent actions from relevant government agencies as well as research institutes. In particular, the National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA), Nigerian National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA), Directorate of Petroleum Resources (DPR) and, in general, the Federal and State Ministries of Environment and those of Health should step up to tackle the emergency situation.

When reports of gathering soot came up a couple of months ago, sources at NESREA confirmed that the soot originated from hydrocarbon or oil-sector related sources. That conclusion rules out bush burning as a possible source. For those that have noticed the thick black smoke belching continuously from the Port Harcourt refineries, those sources are very strong suspects. And then, the bush refineries and the bombing of those rickety refineries by the JTF remain strong contenders. These should all be investigated. The scenario has raised the urgent need for air quality measurement and control in Nigeria. Within accurate measurement of levels of exposure, causal links may not solid and culprits may wriggle out and avoid accountability and responsibility.

It is the duty of our regulatory agencies to pin-point the source of this menace, enforce a cessation of the obnoxious acts and penalise the culprits. We know that the conflicting boundary lines governing the duties of these agencies may complicate the processes for addressing this issue, but joint meetings should overcome territorial defences in the face of the risks our people are exposed to.

This is a serious situation and government cannot afford to remain silent on it. The health impacts of soot and black carbon are well documented and are known to include effects on our respiratory system and bloodstreams. They can trigger cardiovascular diseases such as asthma, chronic cough, sinusitis, bronchitis and colds. The fine particles can also have carcinogenic effects. They can also negatively affect the development of the lungs in children. Life expectancy in the Niger Delta is already precariously low, the effect of soot and black carbon will push those low figures through the bottom.

We should also mention here that Ekpan community at Warri, Delta State, has been suffering extensive pollutions from black carbon emanating from the petrochemical plant located there. The community is more or less heavily coated with soot continually and residents often have to keep their windows shut in futile to keep out the deadly stuff. When the community petitioned the National Assembly over the situation, an order was issued that the plant should be shut down until it was adequately serviced and fitted with devices that would halt the noxious emissions. It does not appear that the order was adhered to as the community is still reeling under the weight of black carbon whenever the machines come alive.

Residents of Port Harcourt, Ekpan and the Niger Delta as a whole deserve a breath of air that is fresh and devoid of soot and black carbon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eco-Instigator #14

eco-instigator-14The year 2016 ran through so rapidly. And just as well. It had a store of horrors – extreme exploitation of nature’s re-sources, wars and repression, massive pollution, deforestation and unconscionable climate inaction. Will these let up in 2017?

While you ponder on what we must do as individuals and as collectives, we serve you another loaded edition of your Eco-Instigator. We share reports, statements and articles hoping that you will get sufciently instigated to step up and speak up as sons and daughters of Mother Earth.

As this edition was going to bed, we received news of the renewed aggression against our partner group, Accion Ecologica by the government of Ecuador. We note the tremendous global solidarity exhibited by individuals and groups from around the world in support of Accion Ecologica. This group is probably one of the foremost environmental justice organisations in the world today and deserves our support. They celebrated 30 years of existence in October 2016 at a grand ceremony held in the Che Guevara Auditorium of the Central University of Ecuador. At that event, several awards were given out to grassroots activists, journalists, academics and others. Yours truly was included in that exalted list in the category of calalysts of the defence of Nature. Here is the list for this category: Ricardo Carrere (late), from World Rainforest Movement (WRM) in Uruguay; Vandana Shiva, of Navdanya of India; The Corner House, of England; Tom Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network of North America; Nnimmo Bassey from Nigeria; Silvia Ribeiro from Mexico and Alberto Acosta from Ecuador.

From all of us at HOMEF we bring you the best wishes for a just 2017.

Download the eco-instigator-14

Clean Up Ogoni!

Clean Up Ogoni! With the exception of Ogoniland, oil is still being produced in the Niger Delta, and the environment as well as residents’ health is being affected by oil spills and the flaring of natural gas. Will the “Clean Up Ogoni” campaign set a precedent?

In June 2016, Nigeria’s vice-president signalled the first five years of the planned clean-up of the oil-polluted Niger Delta – one of the largest such operations in the world. The cost of the programme will run into the billions and, according to the United Nations (UN), it may have to continue for 30 years. The ambitious project is being undertaken in reaction to a report released by the UN’s environmental programme (UNEP) in 2011. In it, scientists outlined in much detail how, for decades, Ogoniland had experienced pollution on a massive scale, affecting the health and the livelihoods of its inhabitants.

Responsibility clearly rests with a consortium made up of the state-run Nigerian oil company NNPC and international oil firms, most prominently Shell. Up until 1993, when oil production was finally halted after years of protest by the Ogoni people, 900 million barrels worth about 30 billion US dollars had been produced. Today, the companies involved will have to share in footing the bill for the clean-up.

With the exception of Ogoniland, oil is still being produced in the Niger Delta, and the environment as well as residents’ health is being affected by oil spills and the flaring of natural gas. Will the “Clean Up Ogoni” campaign set a precedent?

This, and other questions, will be the focus of our talk. Under the catchphrase “corporate social responsibility” (CSR) there is much talk about how companies may act in ways that respect the wider needs of society. Is “Clean Up Ogoni” a model example for such responsible behaviour? What preconditions will have to be met in order to master this giant task? In what ways will Ogoni communities be able to participate? And, what actual processes are in place, including on the international level, to make companies accountable for pollution and human rights abuses?

With:

Nnimmo Bassey, Environmental activist, co-winner of the Right Livelihood Award 2010, poet, Benin City, Nigeria

Sarah Lincoln, Policy Advisor Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Bread for the World, Berlin

Moderator: Dagmar Dehmer, Journalist, Der Tagespiegel, Berlin

Heinrich-Böll-Foundation in cooperation with Bread for the World.

Please note: This event will also be transmitted as livestream.

DATE:
Thursday, November 24, 2016 – 18:30 – 20:00
EVENT CITY:
Berlin
ADDRESS:
HEINRICH-BÖLL-STIFTUNG – BUNDESSTIFTUNG BERLIN

Schumannstr. 8
10117
Berlin
DIRECTION LINK:
Map

iCal

ENTRANCE FEE/ATTENDANCE FEE:
free
ORGANIZER:
Heinrich-Boell-Stiftung – Head Quarter Berlin

LANGUAGE (AT THE EVENT):
English

Information/contact:
Beate Adolf
Africa Department
Heinrich-Böll-Foundation
E adolf@boell.de

culled from: Heinrich-Boell-Stiftung

Climate change: Hangman of the poor

cover-2016-augustseptemberClimate change: Hangman of the poor

Climate change affects the world unevenly and it is developing countries which, though not historically liable for it, that have to bear the brunt of its adverse effects. Nnimmo Bassey explains, with particular focus on Africa, the nature of the threats facing countries which are financially and economically ill-equipped to meet them.

THE impact of the climate crisis, which is disproportionately felt by those that have contributed least to the crisis, is undisputed. This is why the concept of ‘common but differentiated responsibilities’ (CBDR) is seen as a key principle by which climate justice is introduced into the climate debate. This same reasoning led to the creation of the Annex I and non-Annex I categories of nations under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), in order to have those most implicated in the climate debacle take greater steps or actions to tackle the menace.

Since the 15th session of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC (COP 15) in 2009, the idea of having nations committed to emissions reduction at levels required by science has been sidelined. At COP 21 in Paris last December, leaders set targets for temperature increase of 1.5oC or ‘well below’ 2oC. We remember that at COP 15, the lead negotiator for the developing-country Group of 77 (G77), Lumumba Di-Aping, denounced the 2oC warming target as ‘certain death for Africa’. He also characterised it as a type of ‘climate fascism’ that was being forced on Africa. He wondered why Africa was asked to sign an agreement that would permit an unacceptable level of warming in exchange for $10 billion, and also being asked to celebrate such a deal.1

At COP 21 the idea of binding emissions reduction targets was totally jettisoned, in a manner that underscores the high level of power play and global dominance by rich industrialised nations which are determined to avoid responsibility for the climate crisis. The Paris Agreement of COP 21 has been applauded by political leaders across the world and celebrated by mainstream media and transnational corporations mostly because it marked the first time nations agreed that action had to be taken to combat climate change. A close examination of the document shows, however, that the real agreement by political leaders was that: while climate change demanded action, they could essentially perpetuate business as usual, without recourse to what science requires. The actions they would take are called Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). As the name indicates, nations state what they intend to contribute to tackling the looming crisis according to national interests, with the NDCs being subject to review every five years and coming into effect by 2020.

It has turned out that if emissions are reduced at the levels nations have said they would contribute, we will be on track for a global temperature rise far above the ‘well below’ 2oC target set by COP 21. We should note at this point that the polluting nations are punching far below their weight in terms of emissions reduction while the poorer, vulnerable nations have pledged to do much more than their fair share. That is the classic way of turning justice on its head.

The Paris Agreement is loaded with good intentions that are not backed by commitments to take requisite action. Added to the NDCs, the agreement left a hole through which false solutions such as REDD+, geo-engineering, carbon trading/offsets and other market environmentalism schemes could gain ascendancy. ‘Solutions’ such as REDD+ (REDD stands for ‘reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries’) transfer the burden of action to curb global warming to vulnerable forest communities, for example, in ways that further deepen their vulnerability. Meanwhile geo-engineering entails intentional weather modification efforts that essentially put the planetary climate thermostat into the hands of powerful entities that could be governments or corporations. Computer models used to check the impacts of pumping sulphates into the stratosphere, for example, indicate serious implications for nations in the Global South.

Computer modelling in two peer-reviewed scientific papers showed, among other findings, that ‘sulphate injections into the [Southern Hemisphere] could increase precipitation in the Sahel region by up to 100 mm/month, but decrease precipitation in the South West [of Africa] by up to 60 mm/month … Similar results were found regarding NPP [Net Primary Productivity] with an increase in the Sahel region by up to 100% but a decrease in the South West by up to 60% and also in the Magreb area of up to 20%. [The authors also noted that] Brazil could see a decrease in both NPP and precipitation. In a scenario where sulphate is injected into the [Northern Hemisphere], the Sahelian region is subject to reductions in NPP by as much as 60-100% … The precipitation pattern in the region could be affected by a reduction of 20-80mm/month … In this scenario, Southern Africa could see increases in both NPP and precipitation.’2

Urgent actions are needed and they must not be such as would create more problems for the poorest. One of the factors that hamper climate action is finance. It must be stated here that if the ecological or climate debt owed the Global South were recognised and paid, there will be no debate about who contributes how much, and who can access, climate funds. The debates always tend to suggest that finding needed finance is a herculean task; meanwhile enough funds that could make a huge difference are stashed away in tax havens by a handful of individuals and corporations. A recent report by Friends of the Earth International shows that 13 richest persons in the world have enough money to provide renewable energy to all of Africa within 15 years, for instance. Meanwhile the Africa Renewable Energy Initiative is looking for $10 billion between 2015 and 2020 to tackle energy poverty on the continent. In terms of the Green Climate Fund, the target is $100 billion per year from 2020. Meanwhile, the rich nations are spending over $1 trillion a year on destructive military hardware and warfare. The point is that the money is there; what is lacking is commitment to face the planetary crisis.

What are the implications of this lack of commitment and readiness to act?

The world is currently enamoured with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a fitting successor to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). If sustainable development is to be attainable and not an oxymoron, we must become conscious of the fact that the very concept of lineal development or growth is an impossibility on a finite planet. The targets or goals will remain mere pipedreams in a climate-changed world.  For the goals to be met, tackling global warming cannot be based on nationally determined contributions.

The casualties of climate change are many. They include those whose nations, territories and communities are being washed away by rising sea levels, floods and coastal erosion. They include those whose lands are suffering desertification. There are casualties braving deserts, seas and oceans to find a foothold on higher lands.

A major area of vulnerability is agriculture and food production. Real climate actions are needed to build resilience into agricultural systems before catastrophic climate change sets in. The 1996 World Food Summit declared that ‘Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.’3 This indicates that food security must rest on four pillars: availability of food, accessibility to food, suitable utilisation of food, and the presence of these three in a stable way. When hazards meet vulnerability, the inevitable outcome is disaster. No hazard is more pressing globally than climate change.

Some 80% of the food in Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia is produced by smallholder or family farms.4 They depend on natural resources such as forests and shrub lands for their livelihoods as farmers and pastoralists. They also depend on rivers, lakes and creeks for fish. The tragedy is that governments seldom think of the smallholder farmer when they think of agriculture. They think more of industrial agriculture which utilises chemical inputs with heavy dependence on fossil fuels. Apart from the concomitant land grabs, displacement of smallholder farmers, and destruction of food systems and ecosystems, industrial agriculture, including cash cropping through plantations, exacerbates climate change.

Besides the threat to food security, there is a greater risk to food sovereignty. Understanding the difference between food sovereignty and food security is important for us to grasp the grave impact that climate change has on agriculture and nutrition. Food sovereignty speaks of the right of peoples to grow crops and produce foods that are healthy, suit their ecosystems and are culturally appropriate. Food security, in comparison, is concerned with having food in sufficient quantities. These two concepts are not opposed to one another, but rather food security is best secured in the context of food sovereignty. What does this mean?

With a simple focus on food security, it does not matter what food a person eats, provided she eats something. The food could be totally alien to the individual, but to erase hunger, whatever food is available has to be consumed. Mere food security eliminates choice and forces people, for example, to eat genetically modified (GM) foods, even when they are opposed to the technology. This was the sore point that Zambia was confronted with when the country faced food shortages in 2002.5 At that time Zambia insisted on being given milled and not whole grain GM maize to avoid contamination of indigenous species. The struggle over what food to receive or reject became a source of big debates and geopolitical power play. A major newspaper in the country, the Zambia Daily Mail, had this to say: ‘It is very interesting to note that for the first time Zambia was being forced to accept a gift. Doesn’t this worry us as recipients, that the giver is insisting that we take the GM foods? Are the Americans just concerned about our stomachs or there is something behind the gift?’6

Increasing temperatures and freak weather events are bound to have profound impacts on agricultural systems. The magnitude of these impacts would determine how the remaining carbon budget is managed or expended. The race to colonise the atmosphere is on and will likely intensify with nations making voluntary pledges to cut emissions. The implication of such voluntary pledges and actions is that sufficient resilience will not be built into our food and infrastructural systems. That translates to the harsh fact that vulnerable nations and regions will be incapable of coping with resulting loss and damage.

El Nino, La Nina and desert locusts

El Nino is a weather pattern which happens as a result of the warming of the Pacific Ocean near the equator, off the coast of South America. It occurs when trade winds off the Pacific coast of South America weaken, or at times reverse, letting the warm water of the western Pacific flow instead towards the east. This change sets off atmospheric changes triggered by the warm water displacing the cooler water that is normally found near the surface of the eastern Pacific. This abnormal weather situation sets in motion altered weather events in many parts of the world. It occurs every 2-7 years and does not have a regular pattern.7 This recurring cycle thus goes with variations in sea-surface temperatures, convective rainfall, surface air pressure and atmospheric circulation across the equatorial Pacific Ocean.  The opposite to this is called La Nina.

A minimum 0.5oC temperature increase has to occur in the waters of the eastern Pacific Ocean near the equator for it to be considered an El Nino year. It is not clear how these phenomena will change in the age of climate change, but the associated precipitation variability on regional scales is likely to increase due to larger moisture availability in the atmosphere.8 With heightened unpredictability in precipitation as well as the cyclic occurrence of the El Nino and La Nina phenomena, it is obvious that food systems will come under greater stress and plans must be made to absorb or cope with the shocks.

One cause to worry about these changes in temperature, rainfall and wind patterns associated with climate change is the effect they may have on the desert locust in Africa. The land mass from West Africa to the Horn of Africa, the Arabian Peninsula and southwest Asia will be particularly exposed to the impacts of this highly destructive migratory pest. Warmer temperatures and increased rainfall in desert areas cause the locust to mature sooner and have a shorter lifecycle; the breeding season begins earlier than normal and continues beyond the usual. It is expected that with a combination of a general increase in precipitation, higher rainfall events and tropical cyclones in the Arabian Sea, locust numbers may increase more rapidly and, if not adequately controlled, may become plagues.

Water stress

The quantity and pattern of rainfall affect the availability of water. Already we are seeing a significant shrinkage of a water body such as Lake Chad. Others like Lake Turkana are under threat from proposed dams and other factors. Lake Chad, located at the intersection of Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria, has shrunk from over 25,000 square kilometres in the early 1960s to less than 2,000 square kilometres. This has led to the displacement of farmers, pastoralists and fisherfolks. The resultant loss of livelihood is seen to be contributing to the violence in northeast Nigeria as well as in the country’s Middle Belt region where violent conflicts between herdsmen and farmers flare up frequently.

Water wars or conflicts will likely intensify as freshwater systems get salinised through sea level rise and incursion of seawater. It has been estimated that by 2030 climate-related conflicts will rise by 54% in Africa. This could be directly linked with the availability of water. Overall, it is estimated that by 2020 up to 75-250 million people in Africa will face water stress. Changes in rainfall patterns will affect the distribution and health of wetlands, streams and rivers. When rainfall is reduced in arid and semi-arid areas, serious water stress is experienced, while other regions may have increased rainfall and be confronted with new challenges on how to cope with floods.

Biodiversity changes

Climate change and rising temperatures affect ecosystems in many ways. One vital way is through the spread of vector-borne diseases such as malaria. It is estimated that up to 90 million more people in Africa will by 2030 be exposed to malaria, already the biggest killer in Sub-Saharan Africa, due to weather variations.

There are also effects on beneficial insects and birds, including those that help in the process of pollination. Pests and invasive and alien species can have direct impacts on livestock and general food production. For livestock, temperature variations affect the animals directly. It is projected that diseases such as West Nile virus, bluetongue or Lyme and schistosomiasis (bilharzia) may expand into new areas. Increased rainfall and flooding due to El Nino has also been implicated in outbreaks of Rift Valley fever in East Africa.

Increases in pest infestation which result in health issues and loss of forages and water sources create more challenges. The changes in crop and livestock productivity would have implications for availability and accessibility to food, which could instigate disaffection and riots. These impacts will also be reflected in existing geographical variations in ways that could see increased productivity in some regions and reduction in others. Climate change can easily lead to the erosion of genetic resources, including crop, animal and fish species.

Reduced rainfall and shrinking water bodies affect the presence and diversity of riverine fisheries. Assessments by researchers report that the impacts of climate change on fisheries and aquaculture will be felt most acutely in Africa and South Asia.9

Climate impacts on forests directly translate to livelihood challenges for the estimated 1.6 billion people who depend on forests for livelihoods. Forests provide timber and non-timber products, and protect water sources and soils. Forests are vulnerable to droughts and increased temperatures. Climate impacts will include loss of forest biodiversity through tree mortality, fire outbreaks and human pressures.

Human pressure includes conversion of forests into plantations, with the accompanying loss of biodiversity. It also includes the pursuit of infrastructural development such as roads through forests. A current case in point is a proposed superhighway that threatens to erode community forests as well as a major forest reserve in Cross River State in Nigeria. The sore point with the proposed highway is that the government revoked occupancy rights of communities within a 10 km stretch on either side of the highway. By estimates, the highway and the lands girding it would take up 25% of the landmass of Cross River State. Analysts insist that the superhighway can easily be re-routed to preserve the communities as well as enormous biodiversity which includes rare and endangered species. It is also noted that the highway will lead to massive deforestation with grave climate change implications.

The 260 km road is planned to lead from a proposed deep sea port at Esighi in Bakassi Local Government Area through the Cross River National Park and up to Katsina Ala in Benue State, at a cost of 700 billion naira or about $3.5 billion. Observers think the project may be a cover for land grabbing, illegal logging and poaching and the destruction of habitats in the forests and reserves that are protected by law and preserved by custom. They question why a project of this nature would reportedly enjoy contributions from Nigerian banks without requisite preliminary surveys, plans and approvals.10

Climate injustice and sundry impacts

The climate impacts we have discussed thus far illustrate inherent injustices: the poor and the vulnerable are the ones mostly at risk. Poor levels of social investment leave the poor vulnerable and without protection as unpredictable weather events manifest. They are the most hit by food losses, sicknesses, infrastructure destruction, droughts, floods and water stress. They are poor, and climate change makes them poorer still. They are the ones expected to take real climate action, like protecting their forests, yet they are the last to be compensated when the booty of market environmentalism (through the commodification of nature) is to be shared. Within this scenario lies also hidden gender injustice exacerbated by imposed gender roles, oppression and patriarchy.

There were serious floods in various African countries in 2012. As we write this, there are warnings to communities in the flood plains of the Benue and Niger rivers to brace themselves for heavier floods this year. The floods of 2012 displaced 530,000 people in Niger between July and September, while six million were displaced with over 300 deaths in Nigeria. Thousands more were displaced in Mali, Kenya, Uganda, Chad, South Africa, Mozambique, Somalia, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Sudan, Mauritania and others.11 Flooding cost Mozambique a whopping $550 million in 2000 and lowered the national gross domestic product (GDP) by 1.5%. For Nigeria, the 2012 floods brought a 0.36% drop in GDP.

With a 2oC warming above pre-industrial temperatures, it is estimated that there could be permanent reductions in per capita food consumption of 4-5 %. With current trends in temperature increase, about 20% of Sub-Saharan Africa’s arable land may become much less suitable for farming by 2080.

A paradigm shift from a one-dimensional characterisation of responsibility and suffering to dimensions of fairness and justice is necessary to move beyond the impasse in international climate negotiations and improve national-level policy-making. The inequalities which are associated with human-induced elements, unequal distribution of impacts, unequal responsibility for and disproportionate cost of climate change mitigation and adaptation have shaped vulnerability and capacities for adaptation.  There should be a shift from a simple dual classification of winners and losers derived from locations in sensitive biophysical systems to include political, economic and social determinants of vulnerability and adaptation capabilities.

——————

Endnotes

1                    Patrick Bond (2012). Politics of Climate Justice.

2                    ETC Group (2014). Geoengineering and Climate Change – Implications for Africa. http://www.etcgroup.org/fr/node/5985

3                    World Food Summit (1996).

4                    UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (2008). Food Security Concepts and Frameworks – What Is Food Security? Learner’s Notes. http://www.fao.org/elearning/course/FC/en/word/trainerresources/learnernotes0411.doc

5                    Friends of the Earth International (2003). Playing with Hunger. FoEI, Amsterdam.

6                    Zambia Daily Mail, 5 November 2002. Quoted in Friends of the Earth International (2003).

7                    Study.com. What is El Nino? http://study.com/academy/lesson/what-is-el-ni-o-definition-effects-quiz.html#courseInfo

8                    Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (2013). Projections of Long Term Climate Change: Regional Changes and the Atlas. Accessed at https://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/unfccc/cop19/cop19_pres_collins.pdf

9                    E H Allison et al. (2009). Vulnerability of national economies to the impacts of climate change on fisheries. Fish and Fisheries, 10(2): 173-196.

10                Nnimmo Bassey (2016). Halt the assault on the Ekuri community and other forests. https://nnimmobassey.net/page/6/

11                See http://poleshift.ning.com/profiles/blogs/west-and-central-africa-flood-impact-profile-as-of-17-sep-2012 for more details.

Culled from Third World Resurgence No. 312/313, Aug/Sept 2016, pp 17-20

Climate Change and the World of Labour

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Comrade Prince Adeyemi – NLC deputy President, Nigerian Labour Congress launching the NLC Climate Policy

Time for Green Labour Revolution

The launch of the Climate Policy must be followed by massive awareness creation on shop floors and board rooms. The capacity of workers must be enhanced through trainings so that the coming transitions will be beneficial rather than harmful to the workforce. The policy must also be seen as a tool for building bridges and for deep collaboration with citizens, movements and governments.

The Climate change phenomenon affects all humanity and the planet. It is a cross-cutting crisis that has deep implications for our way of life and for how and where we work. Climate Change is a social, environmental and ecological justice issue. It is also an issue of gender, political and economic domination wherein those that contribute the least to the problem are the most affected and it is the victims that are increasingly showing more ambition towards tackling the crisis. This realisation urges us not to see the demand for System Change as a mere slogan but as a key framing of the fundamental path to attaining climate justice.

The big challenge here is that getting involved in pressing for climate action may sometimes appear to go against the grain of the routine labour concerns of wages and job security. Keeping in mind the fact that climate change impacts do not differentiate between workers and non-workers, we cannot overemphasis the fact that labour activism must necessarily go beyond work tenure, wages and privileges. In fact, climate action is a major way that labour unions can retain relevance in a world facing dramatic and unyielding social, climate and environmental change. Labour’s climate change slogan “No jobs on a dead planet” speaks very clearly about the overarching understanding that demands mobilisations for action.

Climate impacts are already with us. And they are intensifying: floods, sea level rise, droughts, desertification, heat waves, water stress and disappearing water bodies, including Lake Chad.

Responses have been mostly on two tracks: adaptation and mitigation. Both require finance and in many cases technology. Climate finance and technology transfer are essential for serious climate action. The demand for these cannot be seen as charity or philanthropy, but on the basis of equity, historical responsibility and as reparation or settlement of climate or ecological debt. This can also be approached on the basis of polluter pays principle. This principle has already kicked in here with regard to the clean-up of Ogoni environment where the funds for the environmental assessment came from the polluter and the clean-up itself will be similarly funded.

The Nigerian Labour Congress must be applauded for placing due premium on Climate Change and seeking ways to contribute to the tackling of the crisis on the factory floors and in the wider political space. At a time when other sectors of the economy are yet to place the needed premium on finding solutions to the challenge, NLC has taken the bold step of coming forward with a Climate Change Policy.

Politicians cannot effectively tackle the climate crisis alone. The environmental and climate movements cannot do it alone. The fusion of forces requires a fresh understanding of solidarity and conjoined interests.

The NLC has shown over the years that its vision for workers includes the place of workers in community of citizens of our nation. Labour has been in the fore front of the struggles for liberties, democracy and sundry rights in our nation. With that pedigree, it would have been tragic if the NLC did not take a bold stand on this major threat that has both local and global manifestations. Labour has the onerous responsibility to make climate change action and clean jobs central collective bargaining planks.

Climate Deniers

It is well known that while businesses and corporations have known of the threat of climate change some of them have invested heavily in sowing doubts about the crisis and are in general denial that global warming has anthropogenic roots. Among the major climate deniers are transnational oil companies and it does appear that the main reason for blocking or blunting efforts to tackle the menace has been bids to lock in dependence on fossil fuels and by so doing secure their profit margin while maintaining a short term vision that does not worry about the catastrophic consequences of climate change.

Climate denial has powerfully impacted climate negotiations and actions. The short history of climate negotiations makes this clear. The major Kyoto Protocol of 1997 placed premium on the foundational justice premise of common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR). Informing that principle is the fact that although humans have caused climate change, some nations are far more responsible for the situation than others. That reality led to the creation of Annex 1 and non-Annex 1 countries, with the Annex 1 nations being the rich industrialised and highly polluting nations who have already utilised a huge chunk of the carbon budget. The Kyoto Protocol required that countries agree to binding emissions reduction levels – by which they would do their fair share of emissions cut as determined by science, in order to keep global temperature increases within reasonable limits.

From the 15th Conference of Parties of the UNFCCC held in Copenhagen, the world shifted from binding emissions reduction and adopted the voluntary pledge and review system. This was concretised in the much-celebrated Paris Agreement reached at COP21.  Now, countries can do literally as they please. It has been seen already that if all the countries, including Nigeria, do all they say they would do as contained in their NDCs, the world would be on track for over 4oC temperature change within the Century. Keeping in mind that Africa experiences higher average temperatures than the global average the levels of temperature increase being foreseen would mean a roasting of Africa.

Climate and the World of Labour

Let us look at some of the consequences of climate inaction on the World of Work. First of all, we must all agree that it is workers that are called upon to provide emergency responses when there are natural or manmade catastrophes – whether these are floods, fires or conflicts arising from these and others. It is thus in the worker’s interest for action to be taken to avert such avoidable calamities.

The major driver of global warming is known to be the burning of fossil fuels- oil, gas and coal. In Nigeria we literally burn raw natural gas through gas flaring. It has been estimated that up to 80-85 percent of known fossil fuels reserve is not burnable[1] if we are to stand a 50 percent chance of keeping to 2 degrees Celsius temperature increase throughout this Century[2]. This has been attested to by several authorities including the International Energy Agency, The World Bank and researchers at University College London. Has this realisation halted the search for and extraction of fossil fuels? No. Rather than stop searching for and exploiting these resources we are witnesses to extreme extraction including by deep sea drilling and hydraulic fracturing or fracking. The challenge facing the industry is that if the use of their products is discontinued they would be left with stranded assets and diminished profits. To keep profits rolling workers must keep drilling even if the planet burns.

Another form of extreme extraction is deep-sea drilling. Deep sea drilling besides yielding resources that should be left below the sea bed, exposes workers to very risky work conditions. Workers literally disappear in accidents such as the Deep Sea Horizon oil spill of 20 April 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico and the Chevron gas rig explosion of 16 January 2012 in the Funima field off the coast of Kolouama, Bayelsa State.

Fracking is known to heavily contaminate ground water with toxic chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing processes. The process is also said to be triggering earth tremors and earthquakes in some areas.

With sea level rise and freak storms, workers are exposed to hazardous conditions even as drilling rigs and platforms face increasing risks and sometimes get knocked over. Sea level rise is a real threat in Southern Nigeria, just as desertification is in the North. Indeed, Nigeria’s 853Km coastline is so low lying that sea level rise and coastal erosion are already causing significant loss of land. We should add here that the industrial installations along our coastline stand at a great risk if climate action is not taken to strengthen and defend our coastline by means including sea walls and restoration of mangrove forests.

Deforestation is another phenomenon that must be stemmed as a way of fighting climate change. Our forests are challenged by illegal logging and by land-use changes, especially of replacing our forests with monoculture plantations. Forest cover is also lost to infrastructural developments. With our forest cover already down to less than 10 percent of what it used to be, the 260 KM superhighway that is proposed to run from Bakassi to Katsina Ala, ripping through pristine forests, and having 10 km right of way on both sides may well be the last nail to be hammered into the climate coffin in Nigeria. Labour has a duty to speak up on this matter.  The infrastructural development would provide some jobs in the short term, but destroying such a huge swathe of pristine rain forest would extinguish existing livelihoods in forest dependent communities, diminish tourist potential of the territory, destroy wildlife habitats and general biodiversity. Significantly, it would mean the destruction of a major carbon sink in the region.

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New Thinking, New Jobs

If fossil resources are kept in the ground, would this not lead to massive lay off of workers around the world? Not likely if we act proactively.

Labour can play strategic roles in climate change responses, including by activating a global movement of workers that are actively ensuring that their pension funds are invested in climate friendly sectors. Labour can work towards training and retraining for the acquisition of new skills for jobs in the renewable energy sector, greening our infrastructure, retrofitting and other areas of the built environment. The fear of job losses that may arise from a shift from jobs that hurt the climate is to a large extent unfounded. The Trade Unions-led One Million Climate Jobs campaign, for example, gives ample reasons to see that we simply need a new mind-set and willingness to invest differently. According to the campaign, Climate jobs are jobs that lead directly to cuts in emissions of greenhouse gases, and so slow down climate change. For instance, workers who build wind farms replace power stations that burn coal or oil. Workers who insulate buildings reduce the oil and gas we burn. Bus drivers reduce the amount of oil we burn in cars[3].

The campaign also shows that one million climate jobs can be funded from recovered stolen funds and from other monies stashed away in tax havens.

The Green Labour Revolution

We have heard it said that Africa missed the first Green Revolution and so we need a new Green Revolution for the continent. The true revolution that we need is one that builds on our inherent diversity and resilience. In the area of agriculture, labour should be in the forefront of ensuring that our biodiversity is not eroded and that our farmers are not turned into share croppers or mere farm hands in monoculture wastelands. Labour must promote truly climate smart agriculture that is built on agro-ecology and not on genetically engineered crops that depend on toxic chemicals that endanger the health of farm workers and the environment. It is time give birth to a Green Labour Revolution. According to the frontline climate crusader, Naomi Klein, this sort of revolution would not only delink our economic system from the clutches for neoliberalism but would heal the planet in the process.[4]

Dominant political and neo-liberal economic thought holds that through technological development we (humans) can fix whatever we break and destroy. This position is promoted by the rupturing of bonds between humans and Nature; with Nature being seen as an object to be transformed and/or commodified. This thinking has driven extreme extraction and dramatic transformation of Nature that has now thrown up new realities.

The protection of livelihoods will remain a key concern of Labour, but the reality of some workers being adversely affected by climate impacts and policies must necessarily be kept in view through provisions for a just transition[5] to a climate-friendly economy.[6]

Work sectors that must embrace just transitions to a low carbon economy include:

  • Power/energy sector
  • Agriculture
  • Infrastructure and construction
  • Waste management
  • Health
  • Mining
  • Land management
  • Industrialization
  • Transportation

The launch of the Climate Policy must be followed by massive awareness creation on shop floors and board rooms. The capacity of workers must be enhanced through trainings so that the coming transitions will be beneficial rather than harmful to the workforce. The policy must also be seen as a tool for building bridges and for deep collaboration with citizens, movements and governments.

The solutions to complex problems are often so easy that they are overlooked or simply ignored. Real climate change actions require that

  • Emissions are cut at source and not offset through the various market mechanisms that can be equated to plea bargains where offenders are let off the hook by making some payments (and carrying on with the harmful activity)
  • Climate debt must be recognised and paid and this will cover for climate finance
  • The Rights of Nature is ensured and Nature is not traded as objects of trade, manipulation and transformation.
  • Consumption and waste is reduced. Promotion of local production and consumption is key
  • Vigorously promote and pursue climate cooling agro-ecological agriculture as opposed to climate hurting fossil/chemical dependent industrial agriculture.

 

Disaster occurs when hazards meet with vulnerability or unpreparedness. By launching a climate policy today, the NLC has shown that it will not wait to be taken unawares by climate change impacts. It is now the duty of NLC to encourage all labour organisations to urgently buy into this policy framework or draw up policies especially focussed on their areas of work. As we said at the outset, government cannot tackle climate challenge on its own. The NDCs submitted to the UNFCCC are largely aspirational and require much commitment and tweaking to make it effectively operational. Labour can provide the push that politicians often need to gain momentum towards actions.  This is the time for a much needed Green Labour Revolution and the environmental movement is ready to join forces for this to happen for the good of our peoples and the planet.

**Talking points used at the Public Presentation of Nigeria Labour Congress’ Climate Change Policy at Nicon Luxury Hotel, Abuja, on Monday 24 October 2016

 

Notes

[1] Duncan Clark. 2015. How much of the World’s Fossil Fuel can we burn?  https://www.theguardian.com/environment/keep-it-in-the-ground-blog/2015/mar/25/what-numbers-tell-about-how-much-fossil-fuel-reserves-cant-burn

[2] Christophe McGlade and Paul Ekins.2015. The geographical distribution of fossil fuels unused when limiting global warming to 2 °C http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v517/n7533/full/nature14016.html

[3] See Jonathan Neal. 2014. One Million Climate Jobs – Tackling the Environmental and Economic Crises athttp://www.campaigncc.org/sites/data/files/sites/data/files/Docs/one%20million%20climate%20jobs%202014.pdf

[4] Naomi Klein.2013. Why Unions Need to Join the Climate Fight at: http://www.naomiklein.org/articles/2013/09/why-unions-need-join-climate-fight

[5] Just transition has been defined by COSATU in its Framework on Climate Change (2011)as “A Just transition means changes that do not disadvantage the working class worldwide, that does not disadvantage developing countries , and where the industrialized countries pay for the damage their development has done to the earth’s atmosphere. A just transition provides the opportunity for deeper transformation that includes the redistribution of power and resources towards a more just and equitable social order.”

[6] Ava Lightbody. 8 April 2015. How are U.S. Unions Working Toward a Climate-Safe Economy for All Workers? https://workandclimatechangereport.org/tag/labour-unions/

Praise for Oil Politics

full-coverPraise for Oil Politics – Echoes of Ecological Wars: This is what highly respected thinkers and writers have to say about this new book. Get a copy and share your own thoughts!

Nnimmo Bassey embodies the thinker, writer, activist in one. His latest collection of essays Oil Politics is the story of our times. And since we are all eating, drinking, thinking oil, it is a story each of us should read. Oil has caused pollution in the Niger Delta and contributed to climate change. But it has also polluted democracy. As Nnimmo puts it, the story of oil is the story of ‘The blind walk of autocrats in the vice grip of kleptocrats results in unrelenting pummelling of the grassroots.’ We need to move from Oil to Soil, from Kleptocracy to Earth Democracy. Oil Politics is a call to action to each and every Earth Citizen.— Dr VANDANA SHIVA, philosopher, environmentalist, author, professional speaker, social activist

For decades, Nnimmo Bassey has been a relentless warrior against the ravages of the oil industry, holding the Niger Delta up as both a stark warning and an inspiring model of resistance. The truths in these essays demonstrate that the climate crisis amounts to a war, one waged by global elites on the poorest and most vulnerable. In his deiance, fearlessness and lyricism, Bassey also lights the way towards a just and democratic peace. — NAOMI KLEIN, author This Changes Everything and The Shock Doctrine

Nnimmo Bassey is that rare individual—he combines solid theoretical knowledge with practice; a perceptive writer and campaigner of the inest pedigree. In this collection of essays, ranging from issues of petroleum extraction to climate justice, Bassey brings to bear these formidable talents. This book deserves reading and re-reading. It is a worthy addition to the corpus of works on Africa’s badly mauled ecology. — Dr IKE OKONTA, author When Citizens Revolt: Nigerian Elites, Big Oil and the Ogoni Struggle for Self- Determination and co-author Where Vultures Feast: 40 years of Shell in Nigeria

Very few people understand the ‘politics of oil’ and have confronted the environmental crisis in Nigeria like Nnimmo Bassey. In Oil Politics: Echoes of Ecological Wars, he not only reveals the devastating impact of our environmental indiscretions but how the incestuous relationship between the Nigerian state and multinationals like Shell has left Nigeria and Nigerians gasping for breath. If we still care about Nigeria, or what is left of it, then we can only ignore this intervention at our own risk! — CHIDO ONUMAH author, We Are All Biafrans

Oil and mineral development represents a continuous act of violence against nature and society; this violence is a prerequisite to these extractive activities. Faced with this reality, communities in diverse regions of the planet organize varied forms of resistance and construct alternatives. Nnimmo Bassey is one of the human beings most committed to ecological justice and thus, social justice. This book, a collection of the author’s essays, is an example of that commitment. — ALBERTO ACOSTA, Economist, former President of the Constitutional Assembly of Ecuador, former Minister of Energy and Mines

Nnimmo Bassey is an angry good man, aware in his bones of the socio- ecological debt from North to South. He writes brilliantly calling the world to action for climate justice and against fossil fuels extraction. He comes from Nigeria and the Niger Delta where over two million barrels of oil are exported everyday, where many people have been killed while others have resisted throughout the decades of destruction brought by Shell and other companies.— Professor JOAN MARTINEZ-ALIER, ICTA, Universidad Autonoma de Barcelona

Nnimmo Bassey is one of the best known and most respected activist/analyst of the socio-political and environmental impact of fossil fuel extraction across the planet. As part of his commitments he has played a leading role in Friends of the Earth International, Environmental Rights Action in Nigeria and Oilwatch International. For more than two decades he has directly participated and/or documented peoples’ struggles against these depredatory activities, not only in Nigeria, but also in South Africa, Equatorial Guinea, Ecuador, Brazil, the Gulf of Mexico and others. … A main focus of his attention has been the struggles of the Ogoni people against the social and environmental devastating impacts of Shell’s extractive activities in the Niger Delta. This book contains an extraordinary, thoughtful and well documented critical analysis of many of these impacts and struggles. The way in which multiple dimensions of the fossil fuel civilization are integrated into the analysis is particularly valuable: impact on people’s lives; environmental devastation: climate change: the impunity with which transnational corporations operate in the Global South; government complacency and corruption; military repression; the geopolitics of oil; the implications and unsustainability of high consumption life styles based on cheap fossil energy; as well as the multiple forms of popular resistance and struggles. Activists and communities around the planet, who not only believe that another world is possible but are willing to fight for it, have much to learn from this book.— EDGARDO LANDER, retired professor of social sciences at the Universidad Central de Venezuela in Caracas, Caracas

Flying on Lake Turkana to Turkana

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Photo: Joyce (from FB)

Flying on Lake Turkana to Turkana – Interconnectivity of struggles – part 2

 

Sometime in 2017 Kenya will begin to pump crude oil in commercial quantities. For some years now prospecting companies have been poking holes around Turkana, Kenya, looking for the so-called black gold.  One of the places the oil companies planned to seek their treasure is Lake Turkana, a UNESCO heritage site and the largest desert lake in the world. Many writers have written about this lake – famous for appearing blue from the sky, but greenish when viewed from the ground. I once read an article in which the writer compared the Lake Turkana environment to a lunar landscape. I always wanted to dip my feet in that lake.

It was a fortuitous coincidence that the Kenya Airways plane that would take me from Lagos to Nairobi was named Lake Turkana. As we fastened our safety belts, the pilot spoke briefly about the lake and what a significant water body it is in Kenya, in Africa, in the world. And that was where someone wishes to drill for crude oil? Well, the good news is that the government of Kenya has agreed that oil exploration and exploitation will not happen in this national treasure. As we winged our way towards Kenya I struck a conversation with one of the cabin attendants, mentioning how interesting it was that I was flying on Lake Turkana to visit Lake Turkana. She was thrilled. She knew of the lake, but she has never been there.

I later found out that most Kenyans have not been to Turkana. When I returned from Turkana to Nairobi at the end of my visit, a friend there asked to know how my time up there was. And then the million Shillings question came: do they wear clothes there? Perhaps the question could have been framed differently: did you wear clothes there? If that had been the question my answer would have been, ‘yes, whenever outdoors.’ The nights were so warm it did not make sense dressing up to sleep. And I noticed, as I travelled in the region, that the houses had louvered fenestrations that ensured a steady inflow of air/breeze into the houses even when all doors were shut.

I was in Kenya on the invitation of Friends of Lake Turkana (FoLT). How appropriate. On arrival in Nairobi at night I checked into a hotel on Mombasa Road. Early next morning I dashed to Wilson airport where I was met by Andrew Orina of FoLT, who soon provided me with more information about the trip and what to expect. From now onwards I was in the hands of FoLT. Breakfast at the airport, check in formalities and it was time to jump on board a light aircraft for the 90 minutes hop to Lodwar, the capital of Turkana County. Sitting next to me on the flight was Doris Okenwa, Nigerian journalist and PhD researcher whose thesis is examining negotiations of entitlements and the ways diverse actors/stakeholders lay claims to state resources in the context of oil exploitation. She has been living in Lokichar, the oil city of Turkana, about 3-4 hours away from Lodwar. Deeply respectful of the culture, she had plenty of good things to say about the hospitable Turkana people. As we took to the sky I saw that Wilson Airport is actually sitting on the edge of a games reserve. I could not help thinking how traumatic it must be for the animals.

The modest airport at Lodwar has become rather busy as the status of the county as an extractive Eldorado increases. What the airport lacks for grandeur is made up for by a huge statue of Jesus Christ atop the nearby hill, mimicking the famous Rio de Janeiro iconic statue.

Thanks to activists like Ikal Angelei, director of FoLT, the challenges of petroleum extraction in a fragile ecosystem such as Turkana has not been swept under the carpet. When two opportunities to share experiences of communities in the Niger Delta on live radio programmes came, numerous listeners called in to express deep fears about what would befall their beautiful land.

On arrival in Lodwar I was quickly checked into the St Teresa Pastoral Centre before heading to the offices of FoLT. Ikal was busy at work, as expected, and I loathed having to be a distraction. But how could that be avoided. We hadn’t met for years, so a quick catch up was in order. There after we had a short meeting with some civil society folks and a media officer from Tullow, the oil company sinking its drilling claws into the soil here. The Tullow guy spoke on how environmentally conscious they were and to illustrate that he mentioned that their enterprise had the endorsement of the International Finance Corporation (IFC) of the World bank. At that point we reminded him that the IFC and the World Bank are notorious for supporting fossil fuel extraction and dirty energy projects and could not, by any means, be the measure of good environmental practice.

After the meeting it was time to see Lake Turkana. Fifty-five Kilometres away it took all of two hours of driving along the road to get there. The road to the lake had once been tarred, but it is now in such a bad shape that it was much smoother to drive alongside the road, meandering on sandy paths rather to hobble along on the crater-filled road. Reminded me of many roads I know in Nigeria- except that you would not have the luxury of driving along the road as is possible in this semi-arid environment.

Arriving at Lake Turkana was a sacred moment for me. With me were Daudi Emase – a brilliant young activist, and Joyce Lukwiya – a media officer with FoLT. We waded into the water, drank in the views and soon headed back. Along the way we came to a collection of sculpted rocks, some sort of stone monoliths, that legend says were humans who heard a sound from heaven and turned into stones. Be careful what sounds you listen to!

I had to see the Turkana Cultural Festival that was ongoing at Lodwar. Joyce took me there and it was quite a fair. Exhibitions, music, dancing and plenty of food. Politicians also used the festival as a veritable platform to sell their ideas. I was stuck by the dressing of the Turkana men. Their armbands are sharp metal rings that serve as ornaments and as weapons. Most men invariable carried their stools and staffs as you would probably tot a handbag. The stools are so low that when you sit on it you appear to be squatting on your hunches. Interesting thing is that wherever a man goes he has his seat with him.

Driving to Lokichar the next day was another stint of driving along or off the road. It was a four solid hours ride on a beautiful landscape dotted with shrubbery, hills and mountains. Towering anthills in the landscape presented a different design from what we have in the Savannah region of Nigeria, indicating that the termites of Turkana were of a different architectural school. Fascinating.

The meeting Lokichar took place at a community centre built and donated to the Lokichar community by Tullow, but located in Tullow’s gated compound where details of every visitor must be carefully documented before entry is granted. Calling that building a community centre requires a peculiar understanding of what that name means. It also indicates the corporate social responsibility concept of the oil company. Once inside the building, it was clear that this was, to all intent and purposes, Tullow’s seminar or training room, with laptops locked on the tables and multimedia projector handing from the ceiling. Some Tullow officials attended the meeting.

After brief introductions, the video documentary, Nowhere to Run- Nigeria’s Environmental and Climate Crises produced by Yar’Adua Centre, Nigeria, was screened. Thereafter we had an interactive session with the community folks. The documentary had many points of intersection with the realities of Turkana – the semi-arid environment, pastoralism, agricultural challenges. They were particularly interested in what may become the impacts of petroleum extraction in their land.

Among the key questions raised was how pastoralists would be compensated when their lands are taken over for oil extraction, pipelines or other facilities. Ikal explained that this worry was very acute because oil companies tend to think that lands with no human settlements or farms were empty or no-man’s lands. She explained the deep connection of nomads to their lands and the careful ways they manage such lands, returning to them from time to time to graze their goats, sheep, camels and cattle.

A case of toxic water left in an abandoned Tullow camp site was mentioned by a community person who stated that livestock became sick on drinking the water. A Tullow official explained that the camp in question had been properly decommissioned and that the pit with the toxic water was fenced off and with warning signs posted. According to him it was the people’s fault to allow their livestock access to the facility. He also added when they throw away plastic used to line the toxic waste pits some community people ‘steal’ them from the bush thereby exposing themselves to danger. This specious transfer of responsibility to the victims was roundly rejected by participants. It raised a spectre of more corporate carelessness and dangers to come.

That night, sitting under the clear stars-filled Lokichar sky, Doris treated us to a sumptuous dinner that included my much beloved ugali. Thereafter we retired to our hotel – Another Chance Guest House. This hotel has a story behind it which I may relate at a future date.

My interpreter at the community meeting in Lokichar, Hosea Gogong, was introduced as a school teacher. However, when I went to the Maranatha Faith Assemblies church, a shouting distance from Another Chance Guest House, the following day (Sunday), it turned out that he was also a pastor. I noted the intersection of faith and activism.

Three hours on a gravelly road that had never been surfaced and we arrived at Lokori, Ikal’s hometown. As we went along it occurred to me that most of the pastoralists had herds of goats rather than those of cattle that are prevalent in Nigeria. Why? Goats are more adapted to the tough semi-arid conditions here. Then closer to Lokori there were more camels. To my shame I could not bring myself to be excited about a dish of camel meat that was being proposed for the following day. The camel, and the donkey, appear to be as animals that provide assistance for transportation and do not hit me as items on a dish. If you wish to know, please don’t serve me a giraffe, zebra, rhino, hippo, elephant, lion, tiger, jackal and the like either.

The meeting here was held at a school hall with discussions following the screening of Nowhere to Run. The interactive sessions ranged from the situation in the Niger Delta and the challenges they were already facing in the area from the arrival of the oil men. The youths bemoaned a lack of jobs, poor access road and fears that their community may turn into another Niger Delta. They all resolved to train themselves in environmental monitoring and to set up teams of ecological defenders. They will not be taken by surprise by oil.

Driving back to Lodwar was a huge experience. The journey should have been accomplished in four hours, but with the night setting in and with no signage and with endless forks on the road we lost our way a couple of times but managed to return somewhere, somehow.

A few days in Turkana and I was absolutely enraptured by the place and the people. I felt at one with a people about to feel the routine disappointment that communities routinely experience when oil extraction takes its toll on their territory. I heard that politicians have promised access roads before crude oil flows out of the region. Would that happen? I invited my friends to visit the Niger Delta to see the evidences with their own eyes.

Soon before I left Lodwar, Ikal met with me at the airport and handed me a great treasure – a Turkana stool. What a gift! When you see that I don’t rush to take a seat at any forum do not be surprised that I may have my own seat tucked under my armpit.