The environment has been subjected to so much flagrant damage basically because there is no enforcement of laws enacted against such acts. Ruinous exploitation of Nature for the extraction of capital has been permitted as a necessary evil. Subsidiaries of transnational corporations are leading the ruin and committing environmental atrocities in countries far off their home bases. This calls for Environmental Justice to be served to the regions and communities around the world that suffer the brunt of environmental degradation caused by the transnationals.
Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), the ecological think tank, brought scholars together in a two-day School of Ecology (SoE) session, held 6-7 April 2021, to share knowledge and come up with resolutions on issues surrounding Environmental Justice.
The topics covered in the SoE session included: Environmental Justice and the Right to Life and Dignity; Man and the Natural Environment; the Cost of Extractives; Environmental Policies and Laws; Ecocide and the Carbon crimes; Justice in a Just Transition; Blue Economy and Environmental Justice; Environmental Monitoring; Re-source Democracy and Well-being Economy; Upscaling Grassroots Voices for Environmental Justice; Citizens Action & Building Alliances for Environmental Justice; and Global Threats from Present Production and Consumption Models. Teachings on the topics were delivered by Prof. Gabriel Umoh, Daniel Ribero, Dr. Babatunde Bernard, Dipti Bhatnager, Alberto Acosta, Morris Alagoa, Ikal Angelei, Akinbode Oluwafemi, Nnimmo Bassey and Ivonne Yanez. Scholars from different parts of the world attended the session virtually, while there were participants’ clusters in Benin City, Port Harcourt and Uyo.
The director of HOMEF, Nnimmo Bassey, shared in his opening remarks that Environmental Justice is tied to the activities of coal mining, oil and gas exploitation, colonial agriculture/plantation, destructive deep sea mining, trawling/industrial fishing and related activities. He enjoined scholars at the SoE to note that Environmental injustices do not occur randomly or fortuitously as they are tied to environmental racism and are rooted in systems of slavery, colonialism and capitalism.
It was noted at the SoE that every environmental justice issue is both local as well as international. This is because there is usually a global structure that sees certain regions in the world as areas in which environmental evil can be perpetrated with impunity, and there are certain local and national structures that allow this to happen.
Light was shed on the importance of environmental field monitoring in the quest for environmental justice. Attention was called to the possibility of discrepancies between a field monitor’s observation, community members’ testimonies and corporations’ observations about some environmental disasters.
The sacredness of facts and truths in environmental field monitoring and reporting was emphasised. The need to insure the lives of environmental field monitors was also highly recommended.
At the end of the two-day SoE, scholars reached the following resolutions:
- That environmental injustice scenarios include- companies’ destruction of enormous acres of land in communities where they operate; privatisation of water and other basic resources; land grabbing; channelling of waste into community rivers; toxic waste dumping; oil spill incidents; underground coal mining; mangrove destruction; gas flaring; the acceptance of GMOs; use of dangerous chemicals by big companies and soot. These scenarios stop communities from depending on their ecosystems to supply their needs.
- The extractive activities of oil, gas and mining companies have led to militarisation and conflict, corruption, land grab and oppression, major environmental impacts, climate crises and numerous economic impacts.
- The fact that extractive companies, rather than alleviating, have worsened the conditions of the poorest in their host and surrounding communities, ranks among the highest forms of environmental injustice.
- That environmental justice is a holistic struggle for land, energy, food, water and gender rights.
- There is great need for a climate-just world that is free from patriarchy and all systems of oppression, domination and inequality.
- We must end the notion of limitless economic growth because we live in a finite world.
- The view of resources as something that humans have a complete right to, thus, leading to the commodification of nature should be discarded because in the actual sense, a price tag cannot be placed on nature.
- The fact that a country has a re-source does not mean that it must exploit it. There is need to learn from countries like Costa Rica who have crude oil but are not extracting it yet have a thriving economy.
- We must de-commodify nature in its entirety and uphold the right of citizens to good life.
- The full implementation of Environmental Impact Assessment law is vital for environmental justice.
- Governments must tackle challenges to full implementation of environmental laws which include- poor planning (due to lack of time/will for long term planning); limited legal framework and poor funding of government agencies in charge of enforcing the laws.
- Governments, corporations, NGOs and individuals have roles to play in ensuring environmental justice.