Our planet – our home is dying because we have never cared enough for our environment. In Nigeria we have not cared enough individually and as a country. Most Nigerians do not know that our existence as humans greatly depends on our environment and also do not understand how our ecosystem works. Many do not know, for instance, how a bad farming method can cause desertification, how pipeline vandalism can expose people to cancer or how Illegal mining can lead to infant mortality. They don’t know our environment can determine our health, how long we live and the quality of life we live. Many Nigerians still connect diseases, abnormalities or disasters caused by human activities to the doing of an angry supernatural being mainly because they do not understand how our ecosystem works.
Our education system was designed before the independence of Nigeria and has not been updated or reviewed to properly educate young people on the importance of protecting the environment. Young people are not trained at home either to consider their environment when making daily decisions or when carrying out their daily activities. This way of life has been passed from generation to generation and has influenced our mentality as individuals and culture as a nation. We now have a culture and value system that does not encourage the conservation or protection of the environment. In this country, everyday, animals and plants are wiped out from their natural habitat due bad farming and mining practices, pipe vandalism and bad waste disposal methods. Our rivers and oceans are heavily polluted, and our forests are steadily disappearing. Our non-eco-friendly culture and mentality to a large extent are a major part of the fundamental environmental problem in Nigeria.
To improve the environment in Nigeria, there must be a cultural change in the way Nigerians view and interact with the environment. The holy book says, “my people perish for the lack of knowledge”. The cultural change in the way Nigerians interact with the environment can be driven by proper education and re-orientation of the populace. The people must become knowledgeable of their environment and must imbibe values and practices that protect the environment. A strategic education and a radical re-orientation of Nigerians are required to cause the cultural change that will sustainably improve our environment.
The strategy is to mould the young and upcoming generation, and the generations after them to become environmentally conscious and educated using the concept “catch them young”. We must inculcate an eco-friendly lifestyle into our young people. To do so extracurricular activities that promote eco-friendly values, culture and practices will be introduced in primary and secondary schools, religious centres and our neighbourhoods by establishing clubs, associations and community development groups.
Knowledge and skills on environmental protection, environmental conservation, ecosystem, biodiversity, waste management, and recycling will be passed on to children starting from primary school age through play classes, storytelling, toys, pictures, videos, songs, poems, essays, art works, debates, projects, craftwork, games, competitions, summer camps, excursions etc. These young minds will be trained to be Guardians of the Environment: to create awareness on environmental protection and take part in environmental policy debates and advocacy at all level. They will also be taught waste-to-wealth and waste recycling skills and mentored to be waste-to-wealth and waste recycling entrepreneurs. They will be mentored and exposed to careers and income earning opportunities in the green sector of the economy.
This project will be planned and executed by a team of volunteers who will collaborate with schools, communities, religious organisations, government agencies and NGOs.