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World Environment Day: Nature is sending us a message – Oilwatch

Oilwatch, a network that builds solidarity and promotes a common identity in the peoples of the Global South, celebrate the 2020 World Environmental Day (WED) with a message to the Nigerian government to halt every form of new extractive activities most especially in the Niger Delta region as the activities from the extractive sectors causes harm to natural environment and leads to massive loss of our biodiversity

Oil spill pollution
A water body in the Niger Delta polluted by crude oil

World Environmental Day (WED) is observed annually on June 5, a day set aside by UN to encourage worldwide awareness and action for the protection of the environment. The theme for 2020 is “Time for Nature (Biodiversity),” with a focus on its role in providing the essential infrastructure that supports life on Earth and human development.

Biodiversity plays a major role in our existence here on Earth. Biodiversity is the foundation that supports all life on Earth. It affects every aspect of human health, providing clean air and water, nutritious foods, scientific understanding and medicine sources, natural disease resistance, and climate change mitigation. Destroying or polluting or removing one element of this web affects the entire life system and can produce negative consequences.

Biodiversity involves eight million plant and animal species, the ecosystems that house them, and the genetic diversity among them. Within the next 10 years, one out of every four known species may have been wiped off the planet if we keep doing our fossil extractive activities and businesses as usual.

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Fossil fuel extractions, dependency on its by- products have been known to be the primary causes of CO2 emissions all over the world – which is a major contributor to global warming. All aspects of the extractive processes have proven to be very harmful and destructive to the ecosystem and its resulting impacts are biodiversity loss, community displacement, and destructions.

The players in the extractive industry and unfavourable government policies have suppressed this through various climate denial means, and in order to keep making profit from the harmful practices.  They take undue advantages of vulnerable communities, and less developed nations across the world promising them of economic boom, better livelihoods in a seemly altruistic fashion among other things. These are false hopes that reality has proven time and time again.

The impacts of fossil fuel dependency and extractions are enormous. The extraction activities / processes results to various forms of environmental pollution and destructions of the ecosystem, loss of biodiversity, loss of livelihood, community displacement, environmental degradation and climate change. However, we must note that there are no opportunities or job on a dead planet, if these impacts continue, we will have no more planet Earth to call our home.

The emergence of COVID-19 has underscored the fact that, when we destroy biodiversity, we destroy the system that supports human life. Nature is indeed sending a message to us.

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When we continue to hurt our environment and biodiversity, we must remember that there is no social or economic development on a dead planet. To address these challenges will unite, strategise and mobilise stakeholders to develop a counter focussed policy and mass advocacy to halt all extractive activities in our communities, nations and across Africa.

Over the years, our campaigns as Oilwatch have shown that halting and putting a stop to the dependence on fossil fuels is possible. Some nations across the world such as Costa Rica and Belize where extraction has been curtailed and communities like Ogoniland have done it and we can do the same.

It is high time we take a drastic shift from fossil fuel dependency and strive for a Just transition where peoples and community rights are respected, a transition where the people have say in the running and managing of the resources beneath their feet, and a 100% switch to sustainable alternatives, putting a halt to total dependency on fossil fuels and the extractive activities.

We are hereby using this medium to call on:

  1. . Looking at Ogoniland currently, once a biodiversity hotspot in the Niger Delta region has become one of the most polluted places on Earth due to extractive activities and pollution.
  2. Measures should be put in place by African leaders to manage a rapid decline of already existing fossil fuel infrastructures and develop strategies to implementing renewable energy alternatives.
  3. The government should start making adequate and proper plans to redeploy workers back to the clean-up sites in Ogoniland as further delays are compounding the pollution and increasing the biodiversity loss, and the impacts of the pollution in the communities.
  4. All existing healthcare facilities in impacted communities should be adequately funded and well equipped to cater for the health needs of community people especially in this period of Covid-19 Pandemic.
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We are thereby this statement recommending that:

  • A just transition to 100% renewable energy systems should be encouraged.
  • Community folks should be given the opportunity to have a say in the management and utilisation of their natural resources deposited on their environment.
  • Forest and coastal communities should be protected and preserve from the activities of extractive corporations.
  • Companies and banks funding fossil fuel extractions should divest from such and instead channel their funding to developing and encouraging renewable alternatives.
  • Species hotspots (animals, plants, etc) should be protected from any form of developmental processes- private, or government owned projects.
  • Ecosystem planning and development strategies should be put in place to ensure proper management of community-based resources.
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