A Call for Wetlands Protection.

Happy World Wetlands Day to everyone who works to protect global wetlands.

Wetlands are the link between land and water, and are some of the most productive ecosystems in the world. Some common names for different types of wetlands are swamp, marsh and bog. To be called a wetland, an area must be filled or soaked with water at least part of the year.

As wetlands are continuously threatened by human activities, this is a day to spread awareness on the importance of wetlands and call on more people to join hands in protecting wetlands.

In Ghana, we are loosing our wetlands (especially, Mangrove wetlands) at an alarming rate despite the many projects carried out by conservation groups. During 2015 World Environmental Day, I coordinated the Ghana Youth Climate Coalition to join a tree planting exercise at the Muni-Pomadze Ramsar site in Winneba – which is globally  known for wetland Turtle conservation. It was sad to see plastics all around a ramsar site which accommodates over 13o species of organisms. In other places across the country, mangroves at some wetlands are being harvested for fish smoking. Interaction with fishmongers reveals that smoking fish with the mangrove gives the fish a better taste. This act has led to the loss of mangrove vegetation in the Central Region, and parts of the Volta Region.

plastic-waste-at-the-banks-of-the-muni-lagoon-ramsar-site

Plastic waste at the banks of the Muni Lagoon at Muni-Pomadze Ramsar Site. Photo Credit: Joshua Amponsem

At the Kakum estuary in Cape Coast, which is surround by a mangrove wetland, it is heartbreaking to witness the frequency and speed at which people are encroaching the wetlands. People are erecting buildings so close to the wetlands and some sitting right on the wetlands. This has contributed to a chronic flooding events within some parts of the Cape Coast metropolis. The Kakum estuary alone contains over eighteen species belonging to 18 genera and 12 families of marine, brackish water and freshwater fishes. If the wetland surrounding the estuary is threatened so is the estuary. Additionally, as a very sensitive ecosystem, it is disturbing to find people practicing open defecation and throwing refuse (mainly plastics) in an around the wetland.

 

Why protect Wetlands?

  •  Wetlands function like a sponge, soaking up water that comes in with the tides, or from periodically flooding rivers. In fact, they control floods much more effectively and efficiently than any flood wall.
  • Wetlands are Carbon Sink. Because the soils found in wetlands can store carbon for hundreds of years, they play an important role in fighting climate change.
  • Aids in Sea Level Rise Mitigation. As global warming increases and sea levels rise, wetlands are the first barrier to protecting people living closer the sea and within flood zone area.
  • Recreation and Tourism. Spanning from bird watching, biking, hiking, and kayaking, wetlands provide people with many ways to enjoy nature. In Ghana, we receive migratory birds at our estuaries and wetlands – this is something the Ghana Tourism Authority needs to look at.
  • Wildlife Nursery. Because of its unique location between water and land, salt and freshwater, wetlands shelter a wide range of vulnerable species while serving as a breeding site for many organisms. Without wetlands, a huge number of songbirds, waterfowl, shellfish, and other mammals just wouldn’t exist.
  • Fertile Farm Land. The staple diet of half the world’s population is rice, which grows in wetlands in many parts of the world.

There are many more benefits of wetland that cannot be mentioned. The frequent flood events in most coastal cities in Ghana can be attributed to destruction of wetlands. As we celebrate Wetlands today, I call on all global citizens to advocate for the protection of wetlands.

 

 

Should Ghana ban plastic?

From DW: http://www.dw.com/en/should-ghana-ban-plastic/a-37122891

Ghana is swimming in plastic waste. Should the government introduce a plastic ban? In a guest commentary by climate advocate Joshua Amponsem, he speaks to Ghanaian activists about the future of plastic in the country.

DW Sendung Eco@Africa Joshua Amponsem (Reinhold Mangundu)

Plastic waste fills the streets and chokes gutters, rivers and lakes in Ghana’s cities and towns. The problem is so urgent that the country’s government announced plans to impose a partial ban on light plastics in mid-2015. But a backlash amongst business leaders and policy makers forced the government to abandon the plan and instead propose a new law that would force plastic manufacturers to make biodegradable plastics.

The move makes Ghana one of the few countries to commercialize oxo-biodegradable plastics, as they are known. Still, most industries are refusing to comply with the new standards. Save a few businesses such as Ghanaian water firm Special Ice, a majority are still selling water in standard plastic, for instance. As a result, the plastic problem persists.

With plastic manufacturers’ reluctance to make their product biodegradable, is the plastic ban in fact the way to go? It’s a pressing question for environmental activists like myself and I asked it of a number of young active citizens who gathered from all parts of Ghana in January for the first edition of the “Active Citizenship Webinar.” Here are the results.

DW Sendung Eco@Africa Müllkippe (Joshua Amponsem)Plastic waste is a huge problem for Ghana. Here polythene bags burn at a dump in Akrofuom

Some believed a plastic ban wouldn’t work. It’s a waste resource that should be utilized and banning it could have an adverse economic impact. Samuel Boakye, a business consultant living in Accra, asked: “How much of our population is able to gain employment from the sale and manufacture of these bags? How would the ban affect such people?” He believes the government must instead increase recycling and help provide necessary capital to facilitate the use of plastic waste for the production of other plastic products like chairs, tables, and bowls.

Speaking as an environmental advocate, I mentioned that employment and the economy could get a boost if plastic bags were banned and replaced with paper and cotton versions. People won’t lose their jobs, they will sell paper and cotton bags instead and we will need more farmers as a result. Furthermore, I explained that in Kumasi, a city in southern, Ghana, cotton bags were successfullly introduced in December ahead of Christmas.

Either way, say environmentally-conscious Ghanaians, the country needs to deal with its plastic problem, as its water bodies are gradually being filled with waste and fishermen sometimes end up with a bumper catch of plastic rather than fish. “Preserving our marine life, such as turtles, is very critical because it can generate more foreign exchange as tourists come in to observe turtles on our beaches at dawn,” Belinda Kulordzi, a history student at the University of Ghana, said. Educating people about the harmful effects of plastic waste is key, she added.

DW Sendung Eco@Africa Plastik (Joshua Amponsem)So far nobody in Ghana has come up with a way to deal with waste. Here plastic is disposed of inappropriately

But Kelly Anyomitse, a public health activist and the curator of the Active Citizenship Webinar, highlighted the fact that education will take several years to change the attitude of Ghanaians toward plastics. He asked whether we could rely on education alone, given the extent of pollution and the resulting damage.

Ghana’s plastic problem has persisted for years and so far nobody has managed to come up with a robust approach to managing it nationwide. Ultimately, those taking part in the discussion believe a mix of different approaches is the best way to tackle the problem.

Increasing the price of plastic bags would make them unaffordable and unattractive to many people and would cause a gradual, organic phase out. People would be more likely to opt for cheaper paper bags and more expensive, but long-lasting cotton bags. With nuisance plastic bags more or less gone, existing recycling companies could then focus on collecting and recycling water bottles, leaving us with cities free of light plastic waste.

As active citizens of Ghana, we are hopeful that our nation will place more value in protecting the air, food and water offered to us by Mother Earth and in ensuring quality environmental standards to promote good health and a better life for all Ghanaians.

Joshua Amponsem, is an environmental activist and climate advocate with a degree in Environmental Science. He focuses on youth mobilization for environmental events and advocacy through volunteerism, and social media. While an undergraduate, he founded Green Africa Youth Organization – a non-profit organization, which serves as an advocacy anchor in environmental protection. With strong love for nature, Joshua works for environmental transformation in Africa through leadership and collaboration with like-minded youth activists and organizations across the world.

Climate Change Talk with Business Support Associates

For the past two months, I have been working with a group of business support associates in Ghana. Through my social media platforms and engagement, they identified that I was a climate activist and also through social conversations, they were keen to understand climate change – the science and why it is a relevant topic that needs global attention.

So, on Monday 28th November, I did a presentation to explain the science of climate change to about 30 young people of different backgrounds but working in a business field with SMEs. I also shared a bit of my COP22 experience with them. Most of them knew what climate change was but did not have a clear understanding on the cause and how they play a role in mitigating climate change. I started by explaining GHGs and also how modernization has impacted our climate. Most people raised issue of fuel based economies and how these economies will collapse if the world should totally go renewable. We dialogue on the issue for about 5mins and concluded that economies such as the US has made huge investments towards fossil fuel and that’s why it’s difficult for some investors in the country to accept clean energy. Despite these known hurdles, I led the discussion to inform my audience that leadership and governance is what we need to combat climate change. Countries need to be sensitive to the challenges of other countries that are extremely vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

Relating to their question on how climate change is important and why it has global attention, I explained to them the impacts of climate change and used sea level rise as an example of how climate change could flood all major cities in the world in the next 15 to 30 years.

At the end of the talk, I had a good feedback from the junior consultants and together we all discussed eco-friendly lifestyles which could contribute to alleviating the impacts of climate change and also reduce our carbon footprint. As a gesture of green living, I gave them Samsung and UNEP Tunza stick note souvenirs and pens  which made of recycled papers.

Five West African Countries Avoids Dirty Fuel from Europe

A number of West African countries have been sourcing fuel from Europe and reports (beginning earlier and mid this year) indicates that these European fuels do not meet the expected emission standards. In Ghana, the issue had risen in public discussions when first discovered and some environmental and health activists had used social media to publicize the issue to raise awareness for better fuel importation into the country.

According to UNEP, last week, Nigeria, Benin, Togo, Ghana, and Côte d’Ivoire has introduced strict regulatory standards that will ensure cleaner, low sulphur diesel fuels, and better emissions standards, thus effectively cutting off Europe’s West African market. It was noticed that weak regulatory standards in West African countries had open a window for European low standard fuels to penetrate the West African market and could cause ecological and health hazards. These fuels were identified to have higher sulfur levels that are up to 300 times higher than those permitted in Europe which contributes significantly to air pollution (reported by the non-governmental organization, Public Eye). Considering that sulfur is a toxin and contributes a lot to global warming as it is a Greenhouse Gas, it has become essential for these nations (vulnerable to climate change) to restrict the use of such fuels.

According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), these move was taken by the countries to address concerns over vehicle emissions and in an effort to bring safer, cleaner air to more than 250 million people that reside in their region. The head of the UNEP in a statement mentioned that the act practiced by these five nations to strengthen their regulatory standards sends a strong message that they no longer want any dirty fuels from Europe. In addition to new fuel standards, the group of West African countries has agreed to upgrade their own public and private refineries to meet the same higher standards by 2020.

Noting that it takes so much resources to clean up pollution, it’s definitely better to stop the pollution from occurring. It must be recognized and commended that these nations are putting their health and the ecology first as air pollution is known to kill millions annually. The head of the UNEP also added that there is a need to urgently introduce cleaner fuels and vehicles to help reduce the shocking statistics.

The UNEP has been working with countries in West Africa to develop policies and standards that will stop the import of fuels with dangerously high levels of sulphur, as well as to introduce cleaner fuels and vehicles. Reducing such emissions around the world is essential to ensure levels of urban air pollution and climate emissions come down.

UNEP hosts the Secretariat of the Partnership for Clean Fuels and Vehicles (PCFV), a global public-private partnership that supports a shift to cleaner fuels and vehicles worldwide. When PCFV began its work in 2005, not a single low or middle income country used low sulphur fuels. Today, 23 countries have made that shift. Another 40 are on their way to doing the same.

In addition, UNEP is hosting the Climate and Clean Air Coalition, which recently adopted a global strategy for moving the world to clean, low-sulphur fuels and advanced emissions standards. Experts estimate that this measure will save an annual 100,000 premature deaths by 2030.

 

GPIW: Inner Dimensions of Climate Change, Marrakech 2016.

Continuing from my previous blog post, (https://amponsem.wordpress.com/2016/11/25/gpiw-inner-dimensions-of-climate-change-marrakech-2016/):

Rev. Richard Cizik continued to mention how Christians have failed to be caretakers of the Earth as illustrated in the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. Dr. Aliaa Rafea also spoke from the Islamic perspective and stated how the Qur’an teaches human to appreciate and be compassionate to all creatures. Dr. Fassil Gebeyehu mentioned how science has taught us the two molecules of hydrogen and one molecule of oxygen produces water. In reality, if all natural water bodies should cease to exist, can we produce water by adding hydrogen and oxygen?

Sraddhalu Ranade, spoke more of the impact of modern science on today’s generation. He spoke about how the life in plants is being lost through genetic modification of seeds. The nutrient value of food (which is the life of the food) is now lost and many conscious people keep reading labels from one shop to the other in the quest to get natural foods. Humans have migrated from being part of the food web to becoming controllers of the food web. He shared a practice of his native people, where children are taught to thank and apologize to Mother Earth before placing their feet on the floor when the wake up every morning. These indigenous knowledge and practices shaped the thoughts of young ones to see the life in Mother Earth.

From the youth perspective, Rosalyne Baddoo highlighted the severity of the effects of climate change in Africa – especially in the field of Agriculture and Water Resource. Additionally, Barbara Hachipuka shared an amazing story of how she has been able to sign thousands of rural farmers onto her natural agriculture which does not involve in fertilizers or chemicals. Her story was inspirational as it reflected all the various hurdles she has to overcome in order to get rural farmers to understand the benefits of organic farming.

DSC_0664.JPGIn a dialogue on the loss of indigenous knowledge, I had the opportunity to talk about education, value, and purpose of the African indigenous knowledge. I mentioned how many African communities have so much embraced television, western education and culture, and totally neglected our traditional learning habits (By the fire side: where children sit round the fire at night and listen to stories of wisdom from their grandfathers and the aged in society)

The informal dialogue had so many aspects of engagements which cannot fully be described in a single blogpost. I look forward to share with you our time spent at the Atlas Mountain and also our amazing side event at the Green Zone of COP22, where Venerable Bhante talked about Greed Emissions, Hatred Emissions, and Ignorance Emissions as the roadmap to achieving reduction in carbon emissions.

Sacred Seed: A must read book for every young ecologist.

To every young ecologist in the word:
I will take the honor to introduce to you this amazing book titled “Sacred Seed”.
During my stay in Marrakech, I spent time with some of the world’s greatest ecologist and spiritual leaders. I received this book (Sacred Seed) from the executive director of Global Peace Initiative of Women – Marianne Marstrand. I have almost done reading the book and I must confess that it is one of the amazing books you can ever resort to when you seem not to understand the growing behavior humans and our uncompassionate attitude towards other life forms.
Sacred Seed is a collection of notes and thoughts from 35 spiritual and ecological activists across the globe and quotes from 26 global environmental leaders including Dena Marriam (Founder, Global Peace Initiative of Women), Chief Tamale Bwoya (Mugema of the Buganda Kingdom, Uganda), Bill McKibben (Founder, 350.org), James Hansen (Former Director, NASA), Danielle Nierenberg (President, Food Tank), Dr. Aliaa Rafea (Professor of Anthropology at Ain Shams University).
The book looks at the life seeds gives to the planet. How a giant tree is conceived in a tiny seed but under the right conditions, it gradually emerge and becomes a shade and a habitat for many other organisms. A seed is the life of our planet but if we keep modifying seeds and take their life away from them changes their genetic make-up and make seed a profit making material then, we are destroying the life of our planet.
My favorite quotes from the book:
‘Seeds are not human invention but represent millions of years of biological evolution’ – Sufi Rehman
‘We humans often perceive plants, animals, birds, and other life-forms as lacking consciousness, relating them to primal instinct. It is not so’ – Tiokasin Ghosthorse.
‘Tree lies waiting in the seed, and when the circumstances are right, it grows out and reveals itself in the world. This is obvious for all to see and verify. What is not obvious, is how an entire massive and gigantic tree can hide within this tiny fragile seed’ – Sraddhalu Ranade.
I can spend the whole day taking about Sacred Seed. It is an enlightenment on how money, religion, science, and diverse beliefs have ripped apart the life bestowed in all life forms.  You can purchase this book on Amazon for just $18. (www.amazon.com/Sacred-Global-Peace-Initiative-Women/dp/189035063X).
From right: Venerable Chang Ji, Venerable Bante, Sraddhalu Ranade, Tiokasin Ghosthorse, Chief Tamale (Contributors to the book – Sacred Seed).

GPIW: Inner Dimensions of Climate Change, Marrakech 2016

The Inner Dimensions of Climate Change 2016 gathered young professionals and practitioners of ecology in Africa together with global spiritual leaders to dialogue on the inner relations of people (including societies, religion, believes, etc.) and how this is essential in fighting the big war humans have spurred with nature. Despite using moral suasion as a strategy during my numerous environmental education programs in Ghana, attending this retreat as a delegate was quiet extraordinary. I had little knowledge on how inner connections and spiritual beliefs influence the conscience of people to live in harmony with Mother Earth, although religion plays a functional role in moral suasion – where I hold people responsible for being stewards of Earth based on the teachings of their religion.

The five day dialogue commenced with a deep interaction between individuals at the retreat and their inner connection with nature. Senior mentors and spiritual leaders shared their inner recognition and relationship with nature (plants, animals, the sun, the moon, water, etc). This was a beautiful session as it helped many delegates including myself to realize their connection with nature through many essential activities and thoughts. Jana Long told a story about her connection with plants and flowers; Ahmed Kasirye mentioned how he could communicate to plants and animals; I furthered to share my connection with water – I elaborated on the strength I receive from nature whenever I spent time beside a water body; similarly, Dena Merrium also shared her experience with the Ganga river in India. There were many stories to share, and more personal relations to nature were discussed among delegates during breaks.

Following that, Tiokasin Ghothorse, an indigenous and spiritual leader revealed the strength of languages as a medium through which living beings have been regarded as objects.  In order for the world’s population to see the importance and the need to preserve nature, we must first understand the component of our planet. In many of his speeches, he reiterated how we have condemned the life in water, seeds, and even the food we eat via calling these “living beings” as object. In their native language, water is referred to as (paraphrased) ‘that which connects life through all life forms’ – this brings consciousness and life rather than being called water (an object). As an indigenous Sundancer from the Lakota Nation of South Dakota, he mentioned how their native language has no words like property, and dominion. These words triggers the human conscience to take dominion of nature rather than being stewards of nature.

Continue reading from here: https://amponsem.wordpress.com/2016/11/28/gpiw-inner-dimensions-of-climate-change-marrakech-2016-2/

The next blogpost highlights on the youth perspective of climate change in Africa, indigenous knowledge, and other faith/cultural based practices that unites humanity with nature.