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30.05.2019 Opinion

When Will The Last Man Die?

By Godfred Nelson
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Nature is declining steadily, the cause is man's intemperate use of natural resources, water, land, fauna and flora, forests and more. The decline of course is hampering the natural support systems of human life, talk of water stress issues and it's collolary impacts of water shortages among others.

Nature is meant to support human existence by providing variables of 'gifts', what is referred to as Nature's Contribution to People (NCP) and we owe it our lives to a large extent, therefore our actions and inactions must be concerted to support biodiversity intentionally if we want to benefit from them perpetually and sustainably. Abuse obviously is not the way to go.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) has released the first Global Assessment of the State of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services in almost 15 years and the revelations are stunning if not threatening.

Our forest cover,(NCP 13) which is not called "cover" for no reason, covers both man and animals from the impact of greenhouse gases and also by providing "materials and assistance " for various man-made uses. It also ensures that carbon stored in the soil, which is 3 times more than in the atmosphere is sequestered sustainably.

It's therefore alarming to learn each day of the rate at which our trees are removed, destruction to our forests is destruction to our soil. Had there been an attendant concerted effort to replace the felled species, no problem, but it's painful to realise that that's not the case in our part of the world.

Tree parts such as leaves, roots, bark, seeds and pods and so on and non-timber forest products are included in the materials used by the about 4billion people who depend on natural sources for medicinal purposes as revealed by the IPBES and as if that's not all, about 70% of cancer drugs are natural or are synthetic products of nature, so it's practical life threatening to think of the ripple effect of degradation of the ecosystems 'goods and services'. I read of how military personnel in China are made to plant trees on land equaling the size of Ireland, a very commendable effort which can be replicated in various parts of the world and most especially where it's most required; sub-Saharan Africa. Land degradation through human activities is negatively impacting the livelihoods of a large group of people majority of which can be accounted for in the sub-Saharan Africa region, an indigenous populace which is already predicted to produce 9 out of 10 poorest humans by international poverty line of 1.9dollars per day by 2030. (World Bank ).

This suggests that there is a sharp correlation between how we treat our natural environment and the impact it has on our individual and national economic well being.

Inappropriate waste collection and disposal activities also affect our land, freshwater and marine life, recently I read that a whale was found dead with about 25kg of plastic waste in its gut.

Around 3.2 million hectares of primary forests in the worlds tropical regions including Ghana has been lost in 2018,( Forest Watch 2019), this is about the size of Belgium, now check your map to understand the extent of the damage. This was exceeded only in 2016 which recorded 3.6million hectares of tropical primary forest lost due to major wildfires that occurred all year round.

The fact remains that we are reaping more from our ecological footprint than its sustainable for future generations. We can't continue like this and it imperative that Government agencies in charge of our forest resources take charge of the situation. Urban planning agencies must also step up their game so much so that the inevitable environmental impacts of urbanisation will be put in check.

It's true that when the last tree dies the last man dies, but more so it's very predictable that before the last man dies, nature must have 'died' already if we continue in this trend of degrading forest covers and nature's gifts. The Chinese say that the best time to plant a tree is 25years ago, and the next best time is now, rightly so, governmental policies must be undergirded by a strong commitment to their nationally determined contributions (NDC) to the SDG 13 and the Paris Agreement of 2016 which all go a long way to protect our primary forests.

In the end, when the last man dies, it will be our choices that would have killed him and he won't find any living man to blame.

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The writer is an Environmentalist and an advocate of climate solutions.

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author(s) and do not neccessarily reflect those of Modern Ghana. Modern Ghana will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."