Let’s protect the environment, our source of life

climate change

Climate financing must be structured that those who pollute the most also pay the most.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

The environment, our essential life vessel, is gradually deteriorating under our stewardship.

Without suitable habitats, wildlife cannot thrive; and without wildlife, life on Earth – sustained primarily through processes like photosynthesis – will falter.

Moreover, without wildlife, there would be no wildlife-based tourism, subsequently reducing revenue for burgeoning economies such as Kenya, Tanzania, Namibia, Rwanda and Botswana.

Presently, there's a palpable buzz surrounding environmental management. But what exactly is this all about?

Environmental management employs research, ethnographical knowledge and specialised skills to guide biodiversity conservation, natural resource management and habitat protection. It also integrates socio-economic and ecological justice perspectives to ensure that communities residing near natural resources like national parks and forests benefit from conservation efforts, especially since they often bear the brunt of conservation challenges, including human-wildlife conflict.

There has been a universal call to embrace sustainability towards natural resources, grounded in environmental management research, which foresees a bleak future if we neither control greenhouse gas emissions nor halt the loss of critical species in our habitats.

My childhood in Eastern Kenya molded my interest in environmental management. We appreciated the equilibrium among humans, wildlife and the environment.

Regrettably, two decades later, the environmental landscape has shifted: the supply of edible wild fruit is dwindling, wild animals have become scarce and the environment is increasingly arid.

Unprecedented climate change is causing our diminishing wildlife habitats to fragment. Advanced knowledge is therefore necessary to drive impactful conservation. When the Yale School of Environment welcomed me, Rotary Club stepped in to help fund my studies with a firm belief in my potential to effect meaningful change in environmental management .

Globally, we are transitioning towards integrated environmental management. Climate change mitigation and financing must be structured so that those who pollute the most also pay the most. It's on this premise that I advocate for our people to benefit from carbon trading.

Examples of this can be seen in the coastal region through organisations like Plan Vivo and the Chyulu Hills REDD+ Project. Last month, Kenya strategically hosted the Africa Climate Summit in Nairobi, where leaders agreed that climate action is a collective challenge because it affects us all.

Green growth, renewable energy adoption, the promotion of industry growth in alignment with global decarbonisation efforts, sustainable agriculture, and crucially, the drive towards a unified African Union Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan, are noteworthy endeavours.

Rivers, vital for supplying clean water to our rural and urban areas, also play a critical role in biodiversity conservation. They prevent flooding, provide habitats for numerous wildlife species, contain wetlands that support various species, and offer invaluable recreational value through activities like swimming, kayaking, and rafting.

We must be rigorous in protecting rivers for they truly are a source of life. Consider the Tana River. Should it dry up, fish supply would plummet, irrigation dependent on the river would cease, and the Seven Forks project would be rendered useless; not to mention the numerous species that would be rendered homeless.

Wildlife in the Mwea National Reserve, Meru National Park, Mwingi National Reserve and Kora National Park would be deprived of a vital water source. All these impacts stem from a single river!

Rotary, with its global network of 1.4 million members, significantly influences environmental efforts, notably in Kenya through community-led initiatives. Actively preparing for the 28th Annual Conference of Parties (COP28), Rotary collaborates with climate experts, advocating for the vital empowerment of local communities to spearhead a greener, more resilient future.

However, more work lies ahead. The effects of climate change continue to menace our planet. We must strike a balance: ensuring communities can maintain beneficial outcomes while meeting human needs and safeguarding environmental preservation.

- Jimmy Musili is a Rotary Global Grant Scholar and a Graduate student at Yale University studying Environmental Management.