PLANET EARTH:OUR LOVING HOME Climate Change in Africa: Nnimmo Bassey, Friends of the Earth International    
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People in Africa are able to live with their environment. The natural environment sustains their livelihoods. But when climate change impacts on the natural environment and people cannot live and carry out their activities to keep their level of survival, then of course they have to move somewhere else.

Honored viewers, welcome to Planet Earth: Our Loving Home. Africa is a continent of diverse beauty and natural resources, but sadly this region is increasingly being affected by global warming. The once majestic Lake Chad, located south of the Sahara Desert, which spanned 25,600 square kilometers in the mid-20th century is now one-fifteenth its original size.

Severe droughts and serious food shortages are currently being experienced by millions of Africans, creating conflict among peoples. Africa’s average temperature is rising quicker than the global average, with experts projecting that this trend will cause even more devastating droughts, further food insecurity as well as intense floods and storm surges.

In today’s show, we will speak with a true environmental champion, Mr. Nnimmo Bassey from Nigeria. For his role in helping Nigerians understand and protect their environmental rights, he was named by the US news publication TIME magazine as one of the “Heroes of the Environment 2009.”

Nnimmo Bassey is chair of the highly respected non-profit group Friends of the Earth International, which calls itself the world’s largest grassroots environmental network. Friends has two million members in 77 nations. Mr. Bassey is also executive director of Environmental Rights Action, also known as Friends of the Earth Nigeria, an organization that addresses environmental human rights issues in Nigeria.

He will share with us his perspectives on the environmental conditions in Africa and discuss the relationship between migration and unrest and climate change. In our conversation with Mr. Bassey, he emphasized that many of the harsh consequences of global warming that scientists repeatedly warn of are currently being seen on the continent.

This is not an issue of what will happen in the future. This is what is happening right now. And most of these vulnerable, poor communities are being impacted in many ways including sea level rise already. People are experiencing coastal erosions. Island states are finding that their land is being eroded and getting submerged rapidly.

In Africa, you have the additional problem of desertification. The Sahara Desert is spreading southward much faster than used to be. Water bodies are drying up already. For example, Lake Chad, the second largest lake in Africa is almost a shadow of its former self. Global warming, it means displacement of poor local people, destruction of livelihoods. Farmers don’t have the expectations of good harvest as they used to have. They can’t predict when to cultivate their crops. So, there are multiple, multiple impacts.

Desertification is a serious issue in Africa as it is being accelerated by climate change. The world’s largest desert, the Sahara, is located in Africa and is advancing at a pace of 6% a year. It is estimated that Nigeria loses 350,000 hectares of land to desertification annually.

And if I can use Nigeria as an example, it gives me a very good template to explain the impact. We have the desert spreading from the northern part of the country. In the southern part, we have oil corporations engaged in extremely degrading activities, releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, carbon dioxide, methane and the rest, and of course causing global warming and sea level rise.

And so, you’re having people being displaced from the south part of the country due to sea level rise and coastal erosion and salinization; the coming in of salt waters contaminating what was fresh water systems. And then movement downwards of people displaced by desertification.

So, you’re having conflicts in the middle part of the country. And people think these are ethnic or religious conflicts. But the real cause of this conflict as you understand it is climate change.

So you feel that there’ll be major conflicts in the future if we don’t address global warming quickly?

Even now we are having major conflicts due to climate change and global warming. And we are going to see a lot more of that as more people are displaced. You are going to find nations who are erecting barriers against migrants coming in, those barriers will be broken by the migrating people who’ll press against the barriers.

It will become simply unsustainable to keep the people away because people would have no option but to move from where they used to live to where they just can find some level of survival. So, we can expect conflict over water... Water is already a very sore issue when it comes to conflict. In the Middle East, water is like gold. I am sorry to use gold as an example, but I mean just as a metaphor.

Water is like gold and people are fighting already over this. There is a lot politics going on, a lot of conflicts going on already about water, water...access to water. You have a fresh water system you could depend on before, but now a lot of people have to depend on bottled water. They call it spring water, but most are not better than tap water. So you have a lot of conflicts going.

We will continue our talk with Nnimmo Bassey, chair of Friends of the Earth International after this brief message. Please stay tuned to Supreme Master Television.

Welcome back to Planet Earth: Our Loving Home, where we are speaking with Nnimmo Bassey, executive director of the Nigeria-based organization Environmental Rights Action and chair of the environmental protection network, Friends of the Earth International about climate change in Africa.

The International Organization for Migration estimates that more than 24-million people are currently displaced worldwide because of global warming, and projects this number may reach 1 billion by 2050. Mr. Bassey now further addresses this serious issue.

Many of the climate refugees we have in the world today, some of them may not really trace the root cause of their displacement to climate change. And this is because knowledge of climate change is still very limited. People think that these are natural occurrences when rain doesn’t fall when it ought to fall, and when you don’t have winter when you ought to have winter. You know all the things are just going upside down.

But of course we know that this is man-made climate change. It is not natural. And so there are a lot of people being displaced already. You know in the small island states, real climate refugees are moving out because they stand the risk of being submerged, and simply going under the water.

I know a small island state like Tuvalu in the Pacific, many of the citizens, I mean it is not a very big country, but many of the citizens are looking for where else to go. They’re moving to New Zealand and other places. And this is happening in Africa. A lot Africans are moving to Europe. It is not just because there is no job in Africa to do.

But now the question we should ask is why there are no jobs? A lot people live outside the formal economy. They are not involved in stock speculations, they are not involved in major banking issues, and they are not employed by government or by transnational corporations. They are just people who make a living by engaging in local small-scale production.

Now when the environment cannot support that due to global warming, then people have to look somewhere else to live. You find people going to where they can’t find anything so they accept jobs that others reject, and then they are treated with no dignity at all. It is not out of choice, it’s a matter of survival.

We asked Nnimmo Bassey to comment on how food insecurity is being fueled by livestock raising where massive swaths of forests are being rapidly cleared to grow animal feed.

Let me just add to the war and the troubles caused by the addition to meat especially in the global north. We campaign in the south against genetic engineering, especially our food crops. Or genetic engineering of anything at all, we don’t support it.

Eighty percent of genetically engineered foods or crops are destined for use as animal feeds, especially in Europe and North America. And to make this happen, the monocultures lead to degradation of forests, deforestation, and removal of space for cultivation of crops for human beings. So, these are real serious impacts. And something needs to be done about it.

In the west people are consuming meat, of course rearing animals, factory farms and all of that. They even have genetically engineered animals and fishes, and all these things. People really need to know what they’re eating and what they are eating is costing the planet.

Mr. Bassey feels that to find solutions to climate change we should look to the traditional way of life led by our ancestors which was simple and emphasized treating our Earth with respect and in a gentle manner.

I think generally over-consumption is a problem, is a kind of sickness. People are addicted to so many things in the world, even things when they know something is unhealthy for them somehow people just say, “Well, it’s going to happen to somebody else.” Take for example cigarettes, it is written on the packet, “This is dangerous to your health, they cause cancer; it is going to kill you.” And yet people pay for poison.

Our forefathers lived better than we do now, with less material possessions. And so they were happier. People valued humanity, valued each other, valued the environment. But today, what’s happening, there is competition everywhere. People want to see how much they can eat, how much they can accumulate.

And certainly we have only one Earth. We have a duty to, of course, to share ideas, share, share information with one another about what should be supported and what needs to be supported. Also, we need to slow down, eat slow food, not fast food all the time. Eat healthy.

Nnimmo Bassey, we salute you for your praiseworthy leadership of two wonderful and important environmental organizations and for helping to inform the world of how climate change is seriously impacting Africa and other continents. May you continue to be a guiding light in advocating for healing Mother Earth so generations that come after us may live in a splendid and clean environment.

For more details on Friends of the Earth International,
please visit
To learn more about Environmental Rights Action,
please visit

Thank you for joining us today on our program. Coming up next is Enlightening Entertainment, right after Noteworthy News, here on Supreme Master Television. May we always take kind and compassionate care of the environment.
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