In the over 60years of crude oil exploration in Nigeria, oil-bearing communities and their environments have been plagued by heart-wrenching impacts from this unwholesome venture of oil and gas exploration ranging from massive pollution of land, water, and air leading to loss of livelihoods, illnesses/health defects to conflicts and loss of lives. Money-driven corporations and complicit governments have instead of identifying the exploration of fossils for what it is and its link to climate change, sourced for other ways to present false solutions to the impact of climate change in a bid to allow them to continue in their desire to put profits over people. Instead of the very urgently needed climate action of leaving the fossils in the ground and transiting to a people-centered energy mix, they have proposed several reckless false solutions including attempts to capture, store and re-use carbon already emitted in the atmosphere.

In a quest to continue exposing the ills of crude oil exploration and address the drivers of climate change headlong even as the world grapples with its impacts, historical crass denial and lack of real actions by world leaders, Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) took it upon herself during her 2days School of Ecology (SoE) held in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State on March 20 – 21, to build knowledge, create a platform for traumatized community people to identify their traumas and their links to the changing climatic conditions, demand a move and wean from fossils addiction while also paving way for healing the already traumatized people and the territories through arts. 

In attendance were community people from Okoroutip, in Akwa Ibom State and Eteo community in Eleme LGA of Rivers State, both of which are communities that have been highly impacted by crude oil exploration. Other participants in this session included CSOs and past scholars from our SoE. We also had students from the University of Uyo and Niger Delta University, Amasoma, Bayelsa State alongside several virtual attendees. 

In this session of the school, a few topics were treated as well as a down-to-earth exploration or artistic tools that could help steer people towards the much-needed healing. From folklore and cultural norms as tools for healing, to poems/music and further to the sharing of stories of resilience from Okoroutip and Eteo communities in Nigeria, South-East Asia and Latin America, these tools provided relatable communication mode and means of healing to the participants. Measures to help wean the world from fossil addiction were explored, starting from how communities can form alliances, using the NDAC manifesto as a tool to resist further expansion of the deadly crude oil exploration, demanding a total cleanup and restoration of the Niger Delta region to ways through which communities can confront ecological harms and associated traumas from ecoanxiety were treated. The usefulness of art as healing therapy and the need to educate our state actors on the falsehood of the projected market-based solutions to climate crisis ere also interrogated. 

To overcome fossil addiction, one major point raised was the need depetrolize, not just to decarbonize, #Yasunize and #Ogonizethe world … following the Ogoni and Yasuni examples, kicking the polluters out of our territories and calling for the world to keep the fossils it in the ground. In exploring modalities for healing, the importance of establishing the interconnectedness between flooding in the south, oil spills in the Niger Delta, Tsunamis, heat waves, desertification in other parts of the world was interrogated as well as the need to understand all the symptoms of our collective sicknesses. There was also a stress on the need to understand coloniality and reject it by all means necessary while embracing and retracing our steps to tradition modes of healing like storytelling, folklore, songs, communal living etc. There was also a call for the media and CSOs to help deepen peoples’ understanding of ecoanxiety and associated trauma like mental health as this is a step towards healing our people and territories.  

Reflecting on the session, the scholars had the following to say. 

Imbu Brownson: With my knowledge I will impact my community and help them heal from traumas. I will continue the advocacy for fossils to be left in the ground.

Janet Effiong: I came to the school to be motivated and I have been. With all that I have learnt, I know that we can no longer wait for our government, we can start monitoring and reporting, we can be the voice to help put an end to pollution and hold government and polluters accountable. I have learnt that to heal others, we must first heal ourselves. I am committed to educating my community on what I have learnt and to starting an advocacy as well. 

Isu Medilline: These two days have given me the opportunity to understand how deep seated the trauma and sickness is for Niger Delta people. It’s expounded on the level of culpability of our government and multinationals in this trauma we are experiencing. I’ve learnt that we can use art and music to heal. I will tell my organization to take a leaf from HOMEF to involve young people in our work. It is important to involve the younger generation, to strengthen their awareness of environmental consciousness before they get to my age. I commit to involve myself in networking to disseminate our knowledge on the issues and how we can harness our individual strengths to put an end to the issues.

The session ended on a very promising note with the reading of the poem collection, ‘I see the Invincible’ by the author, Nnimmo Bassey and a scholar, Praise Omu. The scholars, most especially the community people, left with what could be described as a weight of load lighter than they came. The media folks left with the right information to share to the masses while members of the CSOs left with energized and new wave of hope to continue to work through the struggles in demand for a pro-people climate solution, especially an end to fossil fuel explorations and expansion. 

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