Do One Thing, Make Light Footprints in Your Environment

By Wisdom Okoronkwo, writer and green advocate with special interest in Green Marketing. He is also a trained Climate Reality Leader.

There has never been a better time to save the Earth than now, with a global average temperature rise of 0.74 degrees Celsius over the last 100 years, and Nigeria’s average temperature up by 1.78 degrees Celsius during the last 76 years[1]. Evidently, environmental devastation has been one of the worst catastrophes brought about by industrial activities. Global air pollution kills 6.5 million people yearly. This is climate change writ large! Without strategic climate actions, especially in Africa, it could lead to a 10 percent reduction in crop output in sub-Saharan Africa alone, sooner rather than later. Therefore, the need arises for everyone to at least do one thing to save the planet.

This is not the time to be locked up in “This is how we have always done things”, because to think so is to neglect one’s role as a responsible citizen. A new way of looking at things is required. Hopefully, achieving this lofty ambition of saving the planet does not require any rocket science whatsoever. Rather, it demands a “Do-One-Thing” attitude.

Former US Vice President Al Gore is a good example of somebody who has got a handle of the “Do One Thing” attitude. He is one of many good-natured others who have grappled with the urgency required to drive change in the global environment sector, which is a precursor to economic wellbeing and the antidote to extreme poverty. Al Gore uses the Climate Reality Project, a not-for-profit platform which he founded several years ago to galvanize people all around the world to spread the awareness of Climate Change, drive the expected change around it, and ultimately support desirable solutions to combat the climate crisis. What a man of great courage! You too can do your bit locally.

As a way of response to this clarion call, some green organizations and NGOs in Nigeria like Green Intelligence, ClimateAide, Quant-Qual Solutions, GreenEducate Initiative etc. have got onto it locally. They regroup from time to time to advocate climate literacy on radio and TV stations, secondary and primary schools, and tertiary institutions. They also engage in tree planting activities with a unified view to providing climate information and action that would spur change in attitude and environment.

These audiences are taught that greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane gas, chlorophlourocarbons, nitrous oxide, etc. heat up the atmosphere which in turn causes temperatures to rise globally. As a result, people, crops, energy systems (hydroelectric power, for instance), Industries, and even animals are affected adversely. In fact, research shows that water scarcity affects more than 40 percent of the world’s population. Human health is particularly in danger in this regard. According to Professor Hugh Montgomery, Co-Chair of the 2015 Lancet Commission on Health and Climate Change, “Climate Change is a medical emergency”. Heat stress, air pollution, water borne diseases, and infectious diseases are all negative impacts to human health of this deadly phenomenon, to say the least.

Do One Thing is a climate action campaign embarked upon by Green Intelligence in Nigeria and the Golden High School Environment Club in Colorado, in collaboration with Deena Larsen of the Bureau of Reclamation for Safer Environment of Denver. The campaign encourages every individual to become environmentally conscious by engaging in at least one daily small action to save the planet without great effort. Golden High School Environment Club members mostly embark on workshops for their fellow students on climate literacy. The High School has also recently developed a “What Does Climate Change Mean to You” web survey, to uncover people’s views on climate change, as part of the ”Do One Thing” campaign.

A little action a day will make all the difference in reducing our footprints and increasing our handprints in our immediate environment. Whereas footprints are those actions that contribute to global warming, handprints are those acts that salvage the environment. Truth is, if you want to know the power of life, you have to be conscious about it, otherwise it does not even exist for you. It is just like the “butterfly effect”, also known as “sensitive dependence upon initial conditions”, whereby the air moved in one part of the world by an insect can be the initiatory cause for a typhoon that occurs somewhere else at a later time.

One might say, “Oh! That is a biogeographical cause and effect on the environment. In other words, that it is, if at all, a natural initiatory action”. Yes, one would be correct to argue so. But with a Do-One-Thing approach, humans can be circumspect in being agents of such initiatory cause and its effect, knowing that climate change as we know it is anthropogenic (i.e. caused by human activities); hence, the principle of “as above, so below” succinctly captures the idea here. A phenomenon that is observed in life as natural can be strategically modeled to make humans and the ecosystem survive any imbalance by way of adaptation and mitigation. Like the air moved by that insect in some part of the world, your little action helps reduce average global temperature rise. That one thing could be trashing your candy wrap or sachet bags properly. It could even be not allowing your tap water to waste on the ground, planting a tree, and such like actions.

Political will is a renewable resource.

Former US Vice President Al Gore

Rhiannon Jones, founder of Parents for The Planet, has long keyed into Do One Thing, and is using it to organize climate talks among her community in Denver. Steve and Chris of Nokero (“No Kerosene”) are also contributing their bit by using their high performance solar energy light to stir change in rural Africa and Asia and other impoverished parts of the world.

National governments, particularly African governments and policy makers, are not left out in this connection. For instance, as seen in some states of the USA and Europe, the Nigerian government can begin to pursue at least 50% renewable electricity by 2050. On the one hand, Africans, Nigerians can stir change by encouraging their citizens to adopt electric cars like Tesla, make policies that will earn automobiles users some mortgage credits or reductions for using such zero emission automobiles, or encourage households to use solar panels with the incentive of certain tax cuts for doing so. On the other hand, private institutions, International Oil Companies (IOCs), Indigenous Oil Companies including the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) can support impoverished local communities who do not have access to the national grid, for instance with the Nokero high performance solar light to enable school kids study for better education for nation building. “Political will is a renewable resource”, Al Gore stated during the 34th Climate Reality training in Denver, Colorado. How true!

The threat that global warming poses to the planet has gone way beyond the realm of partisan politics or political correctness. Reconciling the tension between addressing climate change, achieving economic development and “growth”, and tackling global development issues is, without a shadow of a doubt, a herculean task. Although the challenge is complex, a little action a day is a step in the right direction. It requires politicians in the United States, Nigeria, India, and elsewhere to act now. Now is the time to heal the world of its climate crisis! War tears humans apart, but climate change can bring everyone together.

There is so much each person can contribute by doing one thing a day to address this global and human-induced challenge. What is that one thing you can do to make a positive change in the environment? It could be companies’ reliance on pool cars, video conferencing and conference calls in lieu of face-to-face meetings, and other solutions to reduce their carbon footprint. It can also be adequate use of the shower in the washroom, switching off the light at home or at the office when not in a room.

Small acts, when multiplied by all of us, make the required change possible.

[1] Journal of Sustainable Development and Environmental Protection Volume 1 Number 1.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author in their private capacity and do not necessarily represent the views of the African Climate Reality Project.