The Arctic Sea ice is melting fast; everyone should be scared!

The Arctic Ocean, the world’s smallest, shallowest yet most crucial ocean faces the severe impacts of climate change. Today, the Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet causing the arctic sea ice to melt at unprecedented rates. Studies show that the arctic sea ice is melting at a rate of 14,000 tonnes per second!. 

Does this mean anything for the panet? 

jaime-sharp-polar-bear-2
Photo © Jamie Sharp

The Arctic Ocean plays a critical role in the planet’s entire ecosystem. For millennia, the Arctic Ocean has been covered by ice that has helped keep our planet cool by regulating the global weather patterns. In simple terms, it’s the planet’s air conditioning system. 

As more arctic sea ice melts, the planet’s average albedo decreases meaning more sun rays penetrate to the earth’s surface. This increases the global temperatures  and as a result, more ice melts and destabilizes the entire global climate system consequently leading to extreme weather patterns. This in turn compromises the food and water supplies upon which all lives everywhere depend. Floods and droughts are on the rise, hitting hardest vulnerable areas in the global south. A water and hunger crisis is what we’re looking at if the planet continues heating up.

Loss of polar ice is contributing to sea level rise and this puts small island pacific nations and island cities at risk. Studies have shown that at least 275 million people live in cities that are vulnerable to rising sea levels. If we don’t act now, sea level rise will redraw the map of the world and displace billions of people globally. 

More melting of polar ice exposes the arctic ocean to increased industrial activity such as oil and gas exploration, military activity and commercial fishing using large vessels that destroy the seabed. Commercial shipping companies are now also looking for new routes in the arctic ocean and in the process breaking up ice and spilling dirty oil that not only turns the ice dark – such that it cannot reflect more sun rays – but also puts other marine life in danger. While these commercial human activities may benefit a handful of corporations economically, it poses major challenges to the environment and the collective good of humanity. 

Moreover, the arctic ecosystem is home to thousands of species that cannot be found in any other part of the world. Marine mammal species such as whales, seals and polar bears that are endemic to the arctic are adversely affected and are consequently threatened with extinction. 

A polar bear family near Baffin Island in the Canadian arctic. Photo credit: John Rollins
A polar bear family near Baffin Island in the Canadian arctic. Photo © John Rollins

Is there anything we can do? 

All is not lost! We can definitely do something to protect the arctic and by extension protect all life forms and the planet. Various conservation groups and individuals are teaming up to ensure the Arctic Ocean is protected and the polar ice doesn’t melt any further at the alarming rate at which it’s melting. What we need is a declaration of the entire Arctic Ocean as a marine Peace Park safe from all forms of human exploitation. 

Parvati.org a Canadian based all-volunteer organization has taken the initiative to come up with a campaign dubbed MAPS, the Marine Arctic Peace Sanctuary that aims at protecting the fragile Arctic Ocean ecosystem that has for thousands of years been a peace park by its very nature. It has come up with the MAPS Treaty, which is an addendum to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) that seeks to declare the entire Arctic Ocean north of the Arctic circle a Marine protected area. This treaty has been mailed to all the UN member states and comes into law when signed by 99 UN member states which represents the majority. 

What we will gain by ensuring MAPS is achieved

Once it comes into place, MAPS will safeguard the remaining sea ice from damage by human exploitation and help keep the planet cool.  It will help prevent natural disasters such as forest fires, floods and droughts. MAPS will not only compel a global shift away from fossil fuels to sustainable energy, it will also unite world leaders in the commitment to value long-term collective good over short-term individual gain. It will also declare our global commitment to sustainable energies and our cessation of the use of fossil fuels by saying “no” to offshore Arctic oil and gas drilling.

This is a simple, effective, immediate and most practical solution to a rather complex and serious ecological and humanitarian crisis that befalls us. The choice lies in  our hands.

 

ERYTHRINA ABYSSINICA

Omotembe”, as it is referred to in my mother tongue, is a deciduous tree species that belongs to the Fabaceae family.

When I was young, (not that am so old now,😜well, much younger than I am now – a lad in the village) “Omotembe” was the first tree species that I knew was more than just a tree. It was important. At least in my village.

omesa

You remember those baraza’s where all people in the village gathered upon a signal (it was usually a whistle) from “Omogambi”? -that’s how local administrative chiefs were referred to in my community. Guess where my village gathered to listen to Omogambi’s key note address,..at Omotembe.

You see, Omotembe did not only serve as a landmark in my village because there was only one, (guess my local church’s name? – SDA Church, Omotembe 😄😄) it also had other uses such as medicinal. Traditional. When we were lads and we used to wet our beds🤫🙈, my grandma told my naughty cousins and I to pick a few pieces of firewood, go throw them at Omotembe and run away without looking back🏃🏽‍♂️. Whether this worked or not, we will revisit another day.

So, Omotembe was phenomenal in our traditional beliefs.

Deeper digging into present day ethnobotany studies reveals omotembe as a traditional medicinal plant, whose almost all parts are useful. However, the root and its bark are the most commonly used

>A crude extract of the root bark has shown antiplasmodial activity against Plasmodium falciparum

>Stem bark extracts have also shown antiplasmodial activity, including activity against chloroquine-resistant strains of Plasmodium falciparum, and flavonoids have been isolated as active ingredients

>The bark is used to treat a wide range of conditions including snakebites, malaria, sexually transmittable diseases such as syphilis and gonorrhoea, amoebiasis, elephantiasis, cough, liver inflammation, stomach-ache, colic and measles

>The bark sap is drunk as an anthelminticerythrina_abyssinica_il_5_20160605_2036093751

>Used externally, the roasted and powdered bark is applied to burns, ulcers and swellings[299

>The liquid from the crushed bark of green stems is used to cure conjunctivitis caused by Chlamydia trachomatis (trachoma)

>The roots are used to treat peptic ulcers, epilepsy, malaria, blennorrhagia and schistosomiasis

>The pounded flowers are used to treat dysentery

>A maceration of the flower is drunk as an abortifacient, and applied externally to treat earache

sam

Now, after knowing these benefits that accrue from just one tree species, why could someone in their sober mind want to cut down “Omotembe”? Just, why??

If you got a chance to plant one, to avoid a possibility of its extinction, why could you possibly let such a golden opportunity pass by? If my kids wet their beds, I will make sure they do what my grandma told me to do and confirm if it really works😃.

Let’s conserve “Omotembe” for future generations.

 

Source: http://tropical.theferns.info/viewtropical.php?id=Erythrina+abyssinica

Biodiversity at the periphery: We must urgently act to safeguard it

The international community is currently gathered in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt for the 14th Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) – an international treaty to which every other country in the world apart from the U.S is a member. During this two weeks conference, discussions will majorly be centered on the various threats to the world’s wildlife and habitats that include but are not limited to tropical rainforests and world’s oceans. The parties have a golden opportunity to ensure that the next gathering, which will be launched in Beijing in 2020, becomes more ambitious and effective in the protection of biodiversity.

Congo 2
Credit: Wild Frontiers

Our planet is in the midst of an extensive and catastrophic biodiversity crisis. We are witnessing a huge loss of world habitats, species, and ecosystems that are crucial to our planet’s health. They are also important to the well-being of humanity especially the indigenous peoples and local communities that are directly dependent on healthy ecosystems for their livelihoods.

Alarming Downward Trend

Recent reports from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services indicate that biodiversity continues to decline in every region of the world. This is significantly reducing nature’s capacity to contribute to people’s well-being. This alarming trend endangers world economies, livelihoods, food security and the quality of life of people everywhere.

According to the reports, the extent of terrestrial and marine ecosystems that can still be considered intact and ecologically functional is significantly diminishing. Threats across the globe today are massive and include environmental degradation and habitat loss. Others include illegal poaching and mysterious death of wildlife as recently witnessed in Kenya, illegal and unsustainable fishing as witnessed in West Africa’s waters, illegal and unsustainable forest logging as witnessed in the Congo Forest Basin, harmful mega-infrastructural and development projects such as Kenya’s Standard Gauge Railway famously referred to as SGR, climate change, and many more.

Elephant
Credit: Africa Conservation Center

Africa is well endowed with immense natural resources and its diverse cultural heritage is among its most important assets for both human development and livelihood support. It’s the last place on Earth with a vast range of gigantic mammals, yet according to the IUCN’s Red list of threatened species, today there are more African indigenous plant species, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and large mammals that are threatened with extinction more than ever before by a range of both human-induced and natural causes. Africa is extremely vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and this will have adverse impacts for especially socially and economically marginalized rural populations.

Today, the sights of degraded derelict lands devoid of their natural biodiversity, vast large-scale industrial monocultures basically dominated by corporates, and largely empty seas have become all too familiar and all too dominant. The consequences on biodiversity are clear and dire – ballooning numbers of species facing extinction and the degradation of the critical ecosystem services that underpin the very health of our planet and our own survival. In a nutshell, we are slowly shifting from a serious erosion of biodiversity to a critical ecological crisis that will impact all of us.

A Call to Action

As the world seeks to adopt new targets to set the course of biodiversity conservation for the next decade and beyond, we need to endeavor to expand the scope of this critical work.

More than anything, all governments presently in Egypt must work collaboratively and commit to saving the planet’s last intact places – the only remaining boreal forests of Canada and Russia; the two largest remaining tropical rainforests of the Congo Basin and the Amazon Basin – commonly referred to as the lungs of the Earth; the remaining grasslands of Central Asia; and the remaining coral reefs found in the tropical belts worldwide. These are just some of the world’s most critical biodiversity strongholds.

 

Peatland Forest in DRC
Credit: Greenpeace

These intact forests, grasslands, coral reefs, and other intact landscapes and seascapes must be prioritized for various obvious reasons; they are the most resilient to the adverse impacts of climate change and growing pressures of development and offer the greatest potential for protection of biodiversity for future generations.

This calls for an urgent need for recognition that, for a business as usual scenario, a further loss of biodiversity is inevitable and that political goodwill is needed to make tough decisions aimed at protecting biodiversity. The future generations will ultimately be the judges of our present-day actions. We need to commit ourselves to action and leadership to protect biodiversity now more than ever.