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CLIMATE CHANGE

Environment crisis rapidly approaching a tipping point

Around one million animal and plant species are now threatened with extinction.

In Summary

• Current global efforts are insufficient to stop ‘the sixth mass extinction’ mainly caused by humans.

• We can borrow Uganda, which recently enacted the Environmental Act, a law that recognises the rights of nature.

A factory emits smoke in Nairobi.
A factory emits smoke in Nairobi.
Image: COURTESY

As Kenya celebrated Madaraka Day on June 1, the world was remembering ecotheologian Thomas Berry. Four days later, on June 5, we marked World Environment Day, whose theme was Air Pollution.

On Madaraka Day we commemorate the attainment of self-governance in 1963 after decades of British colonial rule. Madaraka is a Kiswahili word for freedom or independence.

Self-governance meant that we now had the powers to exercise control over our own affairs. But the control over own affairs is being tested by widespread corruption, the breakdown of our social web, ailing environment, and drought and famine, which are now threatening close to 23 counties.

This is an indication that drastic societal changes are needed to deliver the Kenya we want. Redefining our relationship with our natural resources is paramount. This forms the foundation for our survival on the planet. We are in a silent crisis that is fast approaching a tipping point.

A recent UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change special report warns rapid and radical action is needed to stay within the 1.5°C threshold. Nature is declining globally at rates unprecedented in human history.

We need ecological thinkers such as Thomas Berry and the late Prof Wangari Maathai to guide us out of this crisis. Maathai constantly reminded us that Mother Nature can be very generous but also very unforgiving. Berry advanced a great philosophy and practice – recognising the Earth as the source of the law that we need to comply with to sustain the well-being of all species, humans included.

Around one million animal and plant species are now threatened with extinction, unravelling the web of life that supports humans too, whether we are conscious of this or not.

For Kenya, this is not the first time we have been warned about biodiversity destruction.

The fourth edition of The Global Biodiversity Outlook Report indicates that the goals Kenya and other countries set in 2002 for a "significant reduction" in the loss of biodiversity by 2010, were not met.

We need ecological thinkers such as Thomas Berry and the late Prof Wangari Maathai to guide us out of this crisis. Maathai constantly reminded us that Mother Nature can be very generous but also very unforgiving.

Berry advanced a great philosophy and practice – recognising the Earth as the source of the law that we need to comply with to sustain the well-being of all species, humans included.

 

With one million species threatened with extinction, we have been warned that current global efforts are insufficient to stop what is now called ‘the sixth mass extinction’ mainly caused by humans.

We need radical changes to stop the loss of biodiversity and restore ecological resilience. This is critical to reduce the impact of climate change we are increasingly suffering from, including drought and famine.

The African Charter calls on us to decolonise the way we govern ourselves and affirms the continent's plurilegal systems.

The African Commission encourages governments to protect the continent’s rich cultural and natural heritage by recognising sacred natural sites and customary governance systems.

We can borrow Uganda, which recently enacted the Environmental Act, a law that recognises the rights of nature.

Let us commit to restoring our ecosystems, defending them against destructive projects and policies, and support and learn from those who live by the laws of life.

Let's do it for our children and all the species that sustain the web of life. Let this be our legacy and that of our country.

Regional programmes coordinator, African Biodiversity Network, & Earth law practitioner