I had been very busy lately and hadn’t found the time to chat with my little siblings as often as I would prefer. But opportunities present themselves as blessings in disguise; in this case, the opportunity was the outage of electric power.
I had just finished dinner, while reading on my computer screen, when it went dark, and the alternative power source was faulty. I stayed in the dark for a while then I heard someone coming stealthily, as they always do (and as I always hear them). It was my younger brother (about 11yrs old). I surprised him instead, as I always do.
The screen was too bright for me anyway, given the surrounding darkness. And the TV was not on now, so he came for a little chat. His younger sister (about 8 yrs old) followed. We started talking about why there is no power in Nigeria but it’s ever-presence in other countries. We brushed the aspect of corruption and insincerity in administering power supply in Nigeria. Somehow we ended up with me explaining to him what a nuclear plant is and how it works with nuclear reaction.
As expected, when I mentioned the dangers of nuclear reaction, he could not imagine why anyone, in their right sense, would use it in the first place. Meanwhile the younger sister would walk in and out of the kitchen, where we were seated on a table. She wasn’t really interested in this technology talk any way.
Then I went on to explain to him that the sun, which sustains life on earth, is itself a nuclear reactor. My intention was for him to realize how energy could be beneficial and destructive but may depend on how we use it. Of course this is after I explained to him the destructive power of nuclear bombs. Somehow we were talking about the ozone layer and then the magic word “Global Warming”.
I realized he may not readily appreciate Global warming because the effect is almost negligible over short time period. So I told him that in a few years, the country Mauritius will exist under the sea (given the world’s trajectory). But they don’t know where Mauritius is. At this time she was in the kitchen but not really paying attention to us. So I explained. I said “Mauritius is just beside Madagascar”. At the sound of the word MADAGASCAR, she turned her attention to us. She loves the animated movie Madagascar and must have thought we were talking about it.
Then I repeated that Mauritius is soon to be under the sea. I couldn’t see her face in the dark but I knew she was puzzled because she took a seat and prepared to fire me questions, like she always does.
She asked: do you mean a whole country will sink?
I said: No, I mean water level of the seas and oceans will go up and as a result, drown the country
She was seriously worried now. Her brother too.
She asked: what about the people of the country?
I said: They will have to leave the country to another one and the poor among them may die or suffer the most if they can’t afford to move.
I knew concepts like heritage may not mean much to her so I focused on those she knows. They both became really worried and asked more questions; the answers of which disturbed them.
Looking for an optimistic escape, she said, at least it won’t affect us here. I retorted. Of course it will affect you here! States like Lagos (which is coastal) will soon follow and it will be just a matter of time before Abuja (where we are) and everywhere in Nigeria becomes drowned up. I am aware that may not be very accurate but hey, this is not a science TV show.
Her voice became high pitched. She continued asking questions. She started sobbing. She started weeping. I didn’t comfort her; in fact I kept on explaining. The best I did was to tell her Global Warming could be prevented (reduced). She was glad at my statement, but was still weeping. With her new-found energy and hope, she kept interrupting me with this question:
What can we do?!
WHAT CAN WE DO?!!!
Occasionally she brush me off impatiently saying “I hear Bilnigma, but I just want to know what we can do to help” (Of course Bilnigma is not what she calls me); impatient of me ranting about the problems and no solutions.
Then I got to the solutions. She was still sobbing. I mentioned many “solutions” from recycling to simply caring about nature (which I told them as Muslims, it is a priority) to caring about other people separated from you in time (future) and space.
It came up that one of their uncles has a plastic bag recycling plant in Kaduna State; that uncle became a hero tonight. We recalled those “recycling” scavengers they see around and their job seemed noble. She was still weeping.
The most difficult part, which I don’t think I explained satisfactorily, was that the kids wanted to understand why is Global Warming not such a big deal? How come they are just really hearing about it for the first time? And how come (as I mentioned earlier) leaders are not doing their part in all of this?
It was 8:35pm and almost time for bed. So I told them to get ready for bed. I had made them older tonight through information. The brother said good night and went off; not before warning me that I have made the sister a preacher now because all of her friends will hear about global warming tomorrow in school. I heard the sister convincing someone to borrow their phone so she could call her mummy to come back home; they have serious issues to discuss and this is no girl-talk.
As I write this, its 9:32pm and electric power is still not back.
Is it time to start some advocacy on issues like Global Warming to children in Primary/Secondary Schools?
What other values could these kids be made to propel towards achieving?