Wednesday, 25 November 2015| By Purity Wanjohi
Did you know that our economies exist because of the environment? Every resource we trade or even use traces its roots to the environment. However, even with all these facts and many more, why don’t human beings appreciate the environment nowadays? How did we end up where we are now? My grandmother used to tell us stories of how they used to take care of the environment, while they were young. What happened to that attitude? Where did we go wrong?
Back in the day, people valued their communities. They lived as one, growing together weathering the storms and the joys the earth brought their way. Not only did they value the people in the community, they also valued the environment. This was because they understood that they exist because of the environment and they knew that the environment will outlive them. This is no longer the case. We think the environment is because of us. We think that the environment is here to serve us. We forget what God told us in Genesis 2:15-The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. Can you imagine what would happen if we brought back the sense of community of the old days into today’s world.
Recently, I attended an event where we had mixed cultures. A Kenyan friend of mine came to where I was seated and said, “Everywhere you go and find a group of Kenyans, they are always talking about politics.” Let us pause for a second and see if this is not true. Politics matter to us mostly because it influences our day-to-day lives. Therefore, we want to give and hear other people’s opinion about it. This is very sad knowing that the environment influences our day-to-day lives just as much and yet we never talk about it. We should talk about the heap of trash you saw outside your estate or how littering impacts the environment or how the bad air in your neighbourhood is uncomfortable for your children. Somehwre in your discussion, you might change one person’s attitude towards the environment. Instead, we get used to the bad air, the heap by the road until it becomes normal and part of our infrastructure.
The state of the environment has been a major concern. A lot has been done to improve the situation. Efforts have been geared towards provision of more equipment, more streets sweepers and making more threats. But, has the government ever thought of asking the public their opinion? Perhaps how they would like to be assisted in order to make the environment clean? I don’t think people like to stay in a dirty environment but if you look closely at the situation, they have no alternative. I walked through the market last week and interviewed the vendors about the cleanliness situations. They all said that they lacked an alternative and if one would be provided for them, they would keep the environment clean and gladly pay for the service if need be.
At one of the many informal interviews I conduct, one of the respondents asked me, “How will keeping the environment clean put food on my table?” Right next to him was a puddle of mud with a plastic bag covering a half-eaten banana. I went on to pause a hypothetical situation to him telling him to calculate the amount of money he would spend in the hospital if his child was to eat the banana. He immediately saw the importance. When Mwai Kibaki, the third president of Kenya, ascended into power, one of his pledges was free primary education. With this, he tapped onto the needs of Kenyans for cheaper education and he received overwhelming support. We also need to do the same and look for ways in which the environment can provide jobs, for example. Then, we will not be forcing people to take care of it.
It is possible to revive our environment. Look at what Rwanda did and is doing. It is plastic free. The difference between Rwanda and Kenya is political will. Kenya lacks political will. But, it also lack citizens who are content with the status quo. Reflect back on yourself. Do you agree or disagree?