A renowned environmentalist and the Director of Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) NNIMMO BASSEY has called on youths in the state to take concrete steps and action required to sustain a healthy environment.
The director of HOMEF, Nnimmo Bassey at a media chat organized to appreciate the contributions of journalists toward achieving a cleaner and greener environment thanked the newsmen for their effortts in reporting issues of environmental degradation and the challenges of a poisoned civilization, said there’s a connection between music, art and the society.
He said the intricate of music, arts are so vital to the society that they hold keys solving the existential societal problem and that of the environmental pollution. He also said art build the platform for political action and the protection of the planet and all the relations we have on the planet.
the media parley appreciation which began with chit chat, networking and experiencing sharing ended with a sumptuous lunch for the media personnel and civil societies organisation made possible by HOMEF, East-west reporters and journalist had a close short interview with Nnimo Bassey on climate change as it affects our environment.
here is what he has to say:Humans are largely responsible for the harms brought upon the planet and should be responsible to halt and take care of the mess, to restore the planet and achieve global peace with the earth.
Eastwest Reporters: (EWR)What is GMO and how does it relate to plants and food
Nnimmo- Genetically modified Organisms GMO are artificial Organisms that Are not found in nature they are produced in Laboratory from one specie to another. This is usually done for example a crop can be genetically modified to withstand a certain habitat. So when you plant that crop and spread the herbicides, everything else dies expert that crop. Some crop is designed to act as pesticides, so when certain pest that know to attack that crop, eats the plants they die. So if you eat that kind of crop, you are actually eating pesticides. But now we have new forms of genetic engineering that is called gene editing, it doesn’t involve transferring one genetic species material to another but editing genetic material within a particular species for example a genetically engineered rat or mosquitoes or goats so that the offspring will be a particular sex so that within a particular time that species will die out. This kind of technology is called extinction technology, we have a lot reduction in biodiversity in the world today and this kind of technology threatens tends to increase the speed at which we lose species.
EWR Question: how will the common man identify and know that these genetically modified crops are harmful to his health.?
Nnimmo: many farmers who have bought crops or seeds that are genetically engineered will realize that they require a lot of artificial output because they are not normal seeds. They require a lot of fertilizer, they need a lot of chemicals to go with them and by the time you harvest the crop and preserve seeds and grow them you discover that the seeds will not have much yield like the one they first planted because they will be a degradation over the years. That also happens to hybrid seeds. The seeds that are genetically engineered and release to the market is bean, they call it cow peas and Nigerians will not know that it’s genetically engineered. One worrisome thing with GMO is that even the agency regulating them will say label them so that society will have a choice, I tell them Nigeria is not the US or Europe you can’t label beans that is sold by the road side. You can’t label akara or moimoi and say this is genetically modified akara or moimoi. As I speak to, corn, beans and cassava is being experimented with,
Can you go and ask somebody selling Garri by the road side if he has GMO garri? So Nigerian are going to eat what they don’t know they are eating and the health impact over the year’s no one can compute it. The argument is that Americans have been eating GMO for twenty years they have not been fallen down dead but they have an increase in diseases in the US but no one is pointing at GMO because it’s difficult to relate one thing to the other because of the resistance within the industry.Professors have lost their jobs trying to debunk to show how dangerous these technologies are. So in Nigeria we don’t eat food the way Americans eat food
If I want to eat Eba I put soup and make my Eba and eat. But when American want to eat Eba they put a bit of salad, a bit of this and that, they don’t have one item filling up the whole plate, nobody does that in the global norm. so the impact on our health will be different even if we eat the same kind of crops and moreover the health system is different, they have the hospitals, they have the health insurance, our politicians here if they are sick they go abroad but when the local people are sick down here where will they go for treatments? Because we don’t have investment in the health care they can take care of the fall out.
So this why we believe that with Nigeria we don’t need genetically engineered crops in Africa. In Uganda their bio safety law is GMO is called genetically modified organisms law, it’s not called bio-safety+ just like we call it here in Nigeria so that it sounds nice, trying to sound safe but we are exposing ourselves and also in Uganda the president insisted that those who bring in such technology if there’s any harm discovered to have arisen from that in future those who brought it would made to account for the damages but they said they don’t want that kind of condition, that he their president is restricting science, he wants them to stop practicing science , so they want science that the common man will bear all the consequences and not those who are bringing it. So what we are asking for is strict liabilities. the Nigeria law doesn’t require strict liabilities, they can do or bring in anything and get away with anything.
What is your take on GAS FLARING?
Nnimmo – Gas flaring is very dangerous the toxic elements in gases are not safe at all, apart from the green house element that is causing Global warming, there are a lot of diseases attached to gas flaring. Like bronchitis, asthma blood disorders cancer, skin diseases, eye problems in fact even the noise itself creates problems to our auditory system. We also have acid rain because of the nitrogen and the Sulphur oxide in the gas, so you have the acid rain affects our crops, affects the roofs when you use collogated iron sheets to roof the house they get rusty within a few years. So gas flaring is actually dangerous to the environment and to the people and it’s been illegal since 1984, the gas re-injection law of 1979 came to effect on first January 1984. But then the oil and gas companies are given the option of paying a fine and fines are neither here or nor there, because the fine is part of production cost. It’s like government paying to itself but they are not even paying it a lot of it is even being paid so there is no seriousness about stopping gas flaring, last year, the government announced that in couple of weeks to come they would stop gas flaring in2020. 2020 is next year but there is no sign that they will stop gas flaring? Now they are talking about 2030, the announcement for 2020 was there but the climate change policy, but the government national determinants contribution to the PARIS agreement is that gas flaring will stop in 2030, that is too long, it’s too far down the line, so we can’t keep on kicking the kernel down the street instead of taking actions this is the problems, is it because we are making money from oil then we allow people to keep dying.
Question coming down to Rivers State do you think port Harcourt is a clean city?
Nnimmo. In the past port Harcourt is known as the garden city, it used to be a clean city but right now if you move round the city on the high ways you see piles of trash at the Median, so I don’t know where the sense of taking care of waste have gone in rivers state. It’s a big problem because it’s not in our character to have city piled with rubbish but then even when the rubbish is parked from the streets where is it taken to? Across the nation we hardly can find any properly designed landfills or waste dump. Because waste dump is not a hole in the bush where you dump rubbish, if you do that the rubbish you are parking to the rubbish dump contains a lot of chemicals and they will leech into the ground water system and contaminate the water that we may get out of boreholes.
A dump site is a properly designed place constructed with water proven surface that doesn’t allow whatever leeches or leaks from the waste to get to the soil so both the way we collect the rubbish and the way we dispose of them. We have a lot of questions to still ask on that.
EWR- Question any advice to the governor of the state or government concerning our environment
Nnimmo– Government is not one person, so the government has cabinet members is that they have to consider what is helpful to the citizens, government is not about making money. Government is about spending resources to secure the lives of the people, and the fundamental ways of securing lives is not by guns and policing. Policing is good just to stop criminals but environmental pollution kills people on a daily basis the government of rivers state should realize that in the whole Niger delta that life expectancy has been reduced to 41 years so people are just living on borrowed time and it doesn’t tell a good story for the future it’s an inter generational problem that is not going to stop today, but it will pile up tomorrow , so it’s not just one government , so we are talking to government now and government in the future because what we do today affects tomorrow