Tag Archives: Climate Change

Nowhere to Run: Nigeria’s Climate Crisis – A Review – Part 2

 

The agenda of the film is clarified by the context in which it is unveiled. United Nations COP21 is around the corner and this is perhaps the most optimistic convention on Climate Change since the inaugural edition in Rio 1992 which has since become one of the biggest disappointment on the “international community”. The optimism in the air is further strengthened by the launch of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) in September of this year which has taken over the Millennium Development Goals (MDG). Even though the Nigerian government is counting on fossil fuel to fund its near future development, environmental issues are poised to become a relevant consideration, by the appointment of Haj Amina Mohammed as the Minister of Environment. Haj Amina Mohammed was the senior special assistant to Nigerian president on MDG, then as special adviser to UN Secretary General on post-2015 development planning, so part of the architects of SDG until its launch while working with the UN.

The production quality of the film is impressive. It could easily pass for the Nigerian version of Al Gore’s documentary Inconvenient Truth which became a phenomenon in itself; for many, there was the climate change issue, and there was Inconvenient Truth. Advocacy via good quality films are convenient for audience from middle class Nigeria, which is why Youtube advert-clips are getting better and better in terms of quality. One technical issue in the experience of watching the film is the frequent and rapid subtexts showing profile of those interviewed which competes for attention from the message being passed; I found myself snapping back into the film trying to figure out what I missed for the last few seconds.

There were useful facts and specifics with regards to data on location, date and quantification of the climate crisis. For these I encourage you go watch the movie. Though some of these predictions are not new to some, it rings a different chord in us when it is presented by fellow Nigerians; it feels more believable. For instance “By 2050, much of Lagos and 75% of the Niger Delta could be underwater”, “Nigeria annually loses approximately 150,000 hectres of land to advancing desert”. If you are Nigerian, how does it feel reading this, knowing it is coming from the works of Nigerians. In the documentary, you are shown familiar beaches in Lagos, and for those who remember scenery of the beautiful beaches on Lagos in the 90s, now you have an explanation; climate change.

In its effectiveness as a tool for advocacy to the middle class, therein lies a conundrum worth resolving: does the movie-grade quality of the documentary gets it to be regarded as entertainment, or is it both entertaining and advocating without the former undermining the latter? One thing repeatedly happened during the screening; the audience reaction to what they considered was indistinguishable from similar audience reactions in blockbuster movies. The thing with blockbuster movies is that the funny lines are usually cheap and almost predictable, but what is even more predictable is the synchronised laughter and giggles of the audience in the cinema. Except for one funny statement about a traditional ruler taking environmental crisis seriously because it is heading to his house, the other “funny” moments were hardly coined to be funny. In fact they were mostly funny only to the middle class because the joke was on the interviewee speaking broken English; audience were laughing at the interviewees not with them. It was a sort of mockery of a character who is actually not a character but a person explaining their problems. These are people we meet everyday and who we don’t find funny when they talk to us, but when they appear on the big screen with high quality production, they become funny in a mocking way.

Just as these “funny” and entertaining moments on big screens distract movie viewers from seeing the underlying politics, ideology, social commentary, and even nothingness that pervaded blockbuster movies, I fear the message of the documentary may be missed. Let us not dismiss that Climate Change has become a formidable ideology; and I support it being fully aware of this.

Talking about politics and ideology, a review will not be complete without mentioning the sponsors and supporters of the movie. There is the EU, National Security Adviser’s office, … and Shehu Musa Yar’adua Foundation of course who is the executioner of the project.

These are the stark predictions of an interviewee, which is believable if climate change continues worsening globally, “People from the North will come down, people from the south will come up”. Yet I am amazed that Nigeria’s climate crisis may be the reason to eventually coexist more tightly, geographically. Whether that would birth peaceful coexistence or its opposite, only time will tell. Unless humanity does something about the crisis, and re-understands its role in the cosmology and ecology.

Climate Change Trailer- HD from Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Foundation on Vimeo.

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Nowhere to Run: Nigeria’s Climate Crisis – A Review – Part 1

Climate Change Trailer- HD from Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Foundation on Vimeo.

 

What is the weather like today?
It may not feel like so, but the climate is actually changing.

In anticipation of the most optimistic climate change conference yet (December 2015, in Paris), the winds of change are rattling the leaves on the tree of life. Or is someone orchestrating the leaves, mimicking a passing wind? The anticipated change is the “international community’s” attitude to global warming, which is intricately related to other crises of nature and its resources, with significant implication on our economic culture. Let the future come to pass and we shall judge this change. For now we can observe the trembling “leaves” which includes: international community’s resolve to embark on sustainable development goals (SDGs) in Sept 2015, global climate march which is ongoing at the time of this post, French embassy’s one-week events on climate change in Nigeria, premier of the documentary Nowhere to Run: Climate Crisis in Nigeria. It is this premier that I shall expand on.

It was called a “green carpet” premier because of its theme on nature, not as many Muslims would suppose that it has something to do with the Prophet’s favorite colour. The host was Shehu Musa Yar’adua Foundation.

Within an hour, the documentary managed to cover important issues around Climate Change with references to the Nigerian experience: desertification, oil spillage, gas flaring, toxic waste, rising sea level, deforestation, mud slide, scarcity of natural resources, efficient cooking energy, etc. This is quite comprehensive and succinct. The main message of the movie was communicated well through the movie, because at the end one feels the imminent crisis as well as appreciates the connection between some of our daily activities and the impact on the environment. The film could be made longer to strengthen connection between audience and issues especially those that affect domestic practices. In its present form, the film is more likely to influence policy than mindset and practices of people. Given the context of global discussions, that may be the aim of the film anyway.

Certain cause-effect relationships were put forward in the documentary. This approach to advocacy is a popular one, where fear and empathy are invoked in an audience to move them towards action; fear for what would befall you and your descendants, empathy towards direct victims of the resulting frequent natural disasters, fear of being an indirect victim. This would work. In the case of oil spillage, gas flaring and toxic waste that occurs in the South-South, it is easier to link the effect of poor health to un-farmable lands. In the case of the North East, it is not as easy to argue that desertification (and the drying up of lake chad) is the cause of social instability and insecurity, so it was argued to be a contributing factor; though it is presented as if it is the sole cause competing with other stale causes like poverty and “education”. The ethno-religious attacks between cattle herders and farmers, which has opened an opportunity for cattle rustlers, was also explained in the film to be largely due to competition on natural resources. Similar argument has been made about the Syrian uprising, and even the “Arab Spring”. I don’t know about the Arab Spring, however in Nigeria these seem to be contributors but not causes.

There is the inspirational community of Ekuri in Cross-Rivers state, which mobilised “construction” of its infrastructure and maintains stewardship of a virgin forest autonomously in the absence of the government effort. Other inspiring projects are the Rimi wind power farm and the Songhai Project of scientific farming both in Katsina state; the documentary showed the latter to be making considerable progress. However, an important subject that was missing in the film is resilience. Cities, any settlement with appreciable risk of climate crisis, should aim to become more resilient. This is particularly important to cover because there is a home grown solution designed by a Nigerian, as part of the solution to the rising sea level of Lagos state, which is called Makoko Floating School. These are floating structures that could allow people to survive in post risen sea-level Lagos.

Read Part 2 of the post.

 

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