There is the need to appreciate the urgency for international co-operation in policies and contribute in actions that protect our common heritage, the Environment.
A ‘Statement on the Environment’ by the Canadian Bishops Council in April this year (2013) buttresses the fact that the ‘Environment’ continues to be a subject-matter of international discussions for over forty years now. The new day-by-day consciousness about the issue is quite symbolic of the magnitude of the problem.
According to the news report, the Prelates urged the faithful not only to develop an awareness of Environmental problems, but to appreciate the urgent need for international co-operation in policies and contribute in actions that protect the common good.
The Environment is the physical milieu in which human existence is possible. It comprises the elements of landmass, soil, water bodies as well as the sub-soil and ocean deeps. The envelope or canopy of air and various gases that constitute the Atmosphere are also very important factors of the Environment.
Concern over the state of the Environment continues to be heightened since the 1972 UN Conference on the Environment held in Stockholm (Sweden). Several other events have taken place elsewhere to deliberate on ‘Climate Change’ and related phenomena. During the sessions of the International Conferences on the Environment – namely the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), the 1997 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, held in Kyoto (Japan) etc., – a number of relevant Agreements were made. To-date, more of such documents still emerge for the management and resolution of Environmental challenges.
In 2009, for instance, a UN Global Climate Debate dilated on the thorny issue of Climate Change, which is contributing to the economic decline, social disruption and displacement of population in some regions of the world.
Extreme weather conditions negatively impact on human health and occupations. Such potentially fatal consequences can be reduced by appropriate legislation or regulations on the use of renewable energy resources, and strategies for improved surveillance. The situation calls for environmental-friendliness of manufacturing processes and products, sustainable protection and exploitation of natural resources, Environmental and Consumer Protection.
Globalization and Regional Economic Integration or Unions have thus enhanced collaboration in the development and implementation of various Technical Regulations, Laws, Legislative Instruments, Policies and Rules as they impact on the Security, Health and Safety of Consumers. Due to an increasing involvement of the different Stakeholders in the formulation of good regulatory practices, Technical Agreements have become extremely important in the promotion of Sustainable Development, in the quest to serve people’s needs.
The two concepts, ENVIRONMENT and STEWARDSHIP, are not just closely related, but inextricably linked to draw our attention to the critical situation in Environmental Protection and Preservation. Environmental degradation is often related to the rising spread of poverty. The subject involves the need to monitor, control compliance to laid-down regulations in order to ensure conformity, public health, safety, and comfort of Consumers or the general public.
The deterioration of the Environment resulting in irreversible Global Warming has become one of the grave concerns affecting the very basis of sustainability of the Earth and Humanity. ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP therefore equally revolves around meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Providing clean and green environment should be one of the top national priorities.
Organizations (both Governmental and Non-Governmental) and nations all over the world continue to address Environmental issues, through solidarity and collaboration in tackling structural forms of poverty. Such initiatives include safeguarding water bodies and sources, protecting flora (plant life) and fauna (wildlife). In Ghana, the concerted efforts of some Ministries and regulatory bodies in the Environmental Sector should be encouraged. These include, inter alia, the Ministries of Food and Agriculture, Fisheries, Environment, Energy, Tourism, Trade and Industry. Other related institutions include the Research-based Institutes, Councils, Authorities and Commissions.
It must be noted that many important things in life are ‘next generation’ matters such that the current generation is expected to leave a heritage for the succeeding one. Compliance to regulations challenges us to further research and adopt such technical principles and innovative processes which will suit local situations now and in the future.
ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP also strikes a note of Accountability. In the Creation Story, the First Man was entrusted with the virgin Garden of Eden with all the fullness thereof. The Almighty Creator charged Adam to tend it and take care of it. From this injunction, we are supposed to use very carefully both the material and non-material resources surrounding us.
‘Stewardship’ connotes the magnitude of responsibilities ascribed not only to Governmental Ministries, Departments and Agencies, International Organizations and Non-Governmental bodies, to guarantee the judicious use of both renewable and non-renewable natural resources. The onerous tasks carried out by such bodies should be complemented by personal commitment on the part of every individual, to abide by laid-down regulations.
Looking around, we are engulfed with filth all over the place. The use of plastic, non-combustible materials has added to the problem. Our challenges are compounded by unacceptable habit among some of us to fill drains and litter the beaches with solid waste.
Massive destruction of the vegetation and top-soil is taking place in communities purported to be endowed with gold. Farm lands and even residential structures have been transformed into surface mining (or galamsey) sites with careless abandon, and sometimes under threats at gun-point. Drinking water sources or bodies have been polluted with chemicals used in the illegal mining.
Some fire outbreaks during the dry seasons have been traced to human carelessness such as throwing away cigarette stubs without ensuring that the spark of fire in them had been crushed completely. Bush-burning, as an agricultural practice, can also get out of hands if the intended portions are not properly isolated or protected.
From the fore-going examples, it becomes very evident that we should assess how we are individually and collectively expected to handle the resources at our disposal, to ensure our continued comfort and general well-being. Our attitudes towards handling of both solid and liquid wastes in our homes, communities, workplaces and other institutions, for instance, should portray that we are responsible stewards.
In the same breadth, we should always bear it in mind that the Earth is not only our global home, but that we should consider the heritage we shall leave behind, by way of the status of the Environment and the non-renewable resources.
As we contemplate the grandeur of the Earth, we are overwhelmed by our enormous responsibility to use it cautiously. Trustees and custodians that we are supposed to be, we will be held accountable for every endowment that came our way, whether in our Stakeholder roles as individuals, community members, workers, industrialists, students or people in positions of responsibility for Environmental Management.
Anthony Kweku Annan