Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) held her first School of Ecology (SoE) session for 2023 on 1st and 2nd March. The SoE which was themed: Extractivism, Climate Change, and Food Crises aimed to show the interrelatedness of extractivism, global warming, drought, other climate change issues, and the food crises. This is because the political foundation of extraction is built on the indiscriminate and one-way movement of resources at any cost.
The SoE session sought to expose fundamental truths about extractivism, climate change and the food crises and, to challenge scholars to take steps that correct the different wrongs done by extractivism. Through the school, HOMEF portrays a world where people would have socio-ecological justice and live in harmony with nature.
Director of HOMEF, Nnimmo Bassey, while speaking on Counting the Ecological Costs of Extractivism reiterated that, extractivism is always about taking away and never giving back in equal measure. According to Bassey, extractivism “is the appropriation of natural and human resources in ways that damage or deplete the source in a potentially irreversible way. It exists and thrives in the context of inequality and promotes accumulation of capital, centralization and monopolization of power and trade.”. He warned that the origins of extractivism are colonial and generally designed to serve the interests of the extractors to the detriment of the sources of the resources.
The director’s presentation exposed the roots of ecological harms such as corruption, militarization of communities/territories, entrenched inequalities, perception of environment and nature as external factors and systematic neglect. Tackling ecological harms at the roots require both political and judicial action. He noted that “it’s not just the activity that is the problem but also the logic behind it—the logic that the resources can be extracted without implications or consequences.” Bassey further explained that “The costs of extractivism take different dimensions, including insecurity via militarization and militias, internal colonialism, human rights abuses, stigmatizations, livelihood destructions, etc”.
The executive director of We the People (WtP), Ken Henshaw, spoke on Major Contributors to Climate Change. He state that behind the major activities that contribute to climate change—coal mining, oil and gas production, deforestation, transportation and food production—is the thinking which emphasizes the ‘use value’ of an item or resource. This thinking is what animates extractivism.” Henshaw submitted Ken Henshaw also mentioned civilization as another contributor.
Henshaw regretted that “Nigeria’s prevailing paradigm overtly ignores what it truly means to be human and what really constitutes wellbeing beyond and above economic indicators and growth patterns. As a result, the Earth is suffering tremendous pressure on account of human-driven alterations that are affecting not just other creatures but human beings as well, in rather negative ways”.
Delving into the food crisis, Dr Ifeanyi Casmir of the University of Abuja debunked the claim that genetically modified (GM) foods address food security, sustainability and climate change. All these, the promoters claim GM food will achieve by improving crop yields, conserving biodiversity, providing a better environment in terms of present insect-resistant and herbicide tolerant traits, reducing CO2 emissions and helping alleviate poverty through uplifting the economic situation of farmers. These claims had been disproved many times.
In his presentation titled The Falsehood of Genetic Modification as a Solution to Food Insecurity, Casmir defined food insecurity as the lack of regular access to enough and safe food. He stated that “food security, on the other hand, is a situation that exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active healthy life.”
Casmir cautioned that there is no reason to believe that genetic modification will solve food insecurity. He iterated that the food crises are not due to low production of food but lack of equal distribution and access to resources that are vital to food production. According to Casmir, “GM crops are conceptualized as products of an extractivist economic order; the advent of genetic engineering has been referred to as the launching of a new phase in the industrialization of life. GM crops and related technologies are likely to consolidate control over agriculture by large producers and agro-industrial companies, to the detriment of small farmers.”
Director of the Foundation for Science, Technology & Ecology, Vandana Shiva, spoke on the Nexus between Extractivism, Climate Change and Food Crises. She explained how commercial agriculture impacts the environment and climate, and condemned the use of chemical fertilizers. According to the healthy food advocate, at least five or six of the bombings in India were all done using fertilizer bombs. According to her, “Fertilizers and bombs are made of the same material. We don’t need pesticides and fertilizers that destroy our soils and drive our insects into extinction”.
Shiva condemned Net Zero schemes as land grabbing. She deplored the planting of crops for biofuels, noting that “food for cars is becoming more important than food for people.” She lamented that 50 per cent of the problem of climate change is the industrial food system yet, there are other ways of farming that should have been adopted to mitigate climate change. Shiva considers activities in the industrial food system as absolutely criminal. She recommended intensification of biodiversity as an alternative to fossil fuel agriculture, and an insurance for climate resilience.
Speaking on the Development Paradigms and Climate Change, the executive director of Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA), Akimbode Oluwafemi said the development paradigms are the prevailing philosophies that independent nations follow to achieve progress. These philosophies have been detrimental to the progress of Africa. Oluwafemi made reference to Ayetoro community in Ondo State, Nigeria, where erosion has claimed much of the community land. This is just one of the myriad impacts of climate change.
Oluwafemi strongly expressed that “we cannot even remove climate change from the farmer-pastoralist conflicts across Africa; it’s a result of lack of depletion of resources as an effect of climate change.” According to him, “The paradigm of infrastructural development has failed us. We, therefore, need a new paradigm that considers the environment and its well-being which is a real African development paradigm.”
Joyce Brown explained more on The Way Forward with Agroecology, stating that agriculture is at the centre of the climate crisis and agreoecology as a science, movement and practice, is a real solution to myriad crisis. Adopting agroecology is a way of addressing the problems at the root instead of deploying market based options that destabilize local communities.
As a science, agroecology promotes the wholesomeness of soil ecosystems and preserves the delicate interconnectivity of nature. As a movement, it empowers local communities and promotes their traditional ways of life. As a practice, it involves mixed cropping, crop rotation, composting, companion planting, biological pest control etc., which enhance biodiversity.” Brown, however, noted that there are challenges to transitioning to agreoecology. They include: limited knowledge and capacity, fast but inconsistent money, weak and bias government support, insecurity in farms, poor narratives for agreoecology, and weak food safety messaging.
Presenting on A Just Transition and Wellbeing Economy, Professor Fidelis Allen of the University of Port Harcourtcriticized the focus on economic growth determined by gross domestic production (GDP) while campaigning for the wellbeing economy. This wellbeing economy he described as social, economic, and political life processes that give due attention to human and non-human welfare. According to him, “A just energy transition involves ensuring that the transition to a sustainable economy is fair and equitable for all stakeholders, including workers, communities and the non-human members of the planet. This means considering climate policies on employment, income, and social welfare.” He advised that there is no one-size-fit-all when it comes to the just transition. This is because every society has its peculiar nuances and contexts that may set it apart from others with respect to the manner of the transition.
The School was highly interactive as in-person and online participants shared their views on the issues and presentations surrounding extractivism, climate change and the food crises. The session ended with scholars making commitments to transfer knowledge gained to members of their respective communities in the quest to advocate for just transition and food sovereignty.