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Overcoming Fossil Addiction

Overcoming Fossil Addiction

 

Wondering what fossil fuels are?

 

The remains of ancient plants and animals, subjected to geological processes for millions of years, form the organic materials known as fossil fuels. One of the oldest and most widely used fossil fuels is coal, which forms from the compressed remains of prehistoric forests. Marine organisms in oceans and seas decay to produce crude oil, also known as petroleum, while deep within the earth’s crust, organic matter decomposes to produce natural gas.

 

These fossil fuels have long served as the cornerstone of modern industrialization and economic development, driving societies toward unprecedented growth and progress. Mining, drilling, and fracking techniques extract them, and then process them into various forms of energy, such as electricity, gasoline, diesel, and natural gas. These forms of energy have been instrumental in powering industries, fueling transportation, and providing energy for various aspects of daily life.

 

However, the reliance on fossil fuels has come at a considerable cost, both environmentally and socially. Let us go down memory lane to see why.

 

LIFE BEFORE FOSSIL

The Atlantic Ocean borders the Niger Delta region to the south and Cameroon to the east. It occupies a surface area of about 112,110 square kilometers. It contains the most extensive mangrove ecosystem in Africa, which covers 22% of the forest spread, providing ecosystem goods and services to over 20 million people and over 150 indigenous communities living within the region.

 

It was a once-thriving region, rich in fishing, palm oil production, and farming. Before the exploitation of fossil fuels, life in the Niger Delta revolved around traditional practices deeply rooted in the region’s rich natural resources. Communities relied on agriculture, fishing, and other forms of subsistence livelihoods.

 

Farmers cultivated crops like cassava, yams, and vegetables as their primary source of food and income, mainly through subsistence farming. They were also rich in mangrove forests, rain forests, and oil and gas resources, they also provided fertile grounds for fishing activities, which sustained both livelihoods and cultural traditions. Clean water sources from rivers and aquifers supported agricultural activities and provided drinking water for communities.

 

Fresh air and thriving biodiversity contributed to the population’s overall well-being until the discovery of the first oil well. Between 1.2 million and 2.6 million barrels of crude oil is been extracted from the ground every day. Burning much of this oil exacerbates air pollution and exacerbates global warming.

 

LIFE WITH FOSSILS

 

Fossil fuel proponents strongly argue that instead of ending fossil fuel extraction, we should explore avenues to harness it more sustainably because of its significant contribution to Nigeria’s gross domestic product and its crucial role in our nation’s economy. They believe it is indispensable—perhaps the backbone of our export portfolio—but it’s important to acknowledge the less glamorous truths about fossil fuel extraction.

 

While it has undoubtedly brought economic prosperity, it has also left behind a trail of environmental degradation and socio-economic disparities. It’s a complex issue that demands our attention and action.

 

The region’s rapid urbanization and industrialization, spurred by oil infrastructure, have introduced health hazards, including reproductive disorders and higher infant mortality rates, due to oil spills, gas flaring, and water pollution. The contamination of rivers, creeks, and aquifers from oil spills and offshore drilling has made the water unfit for consumption and agriculture, leading to waterborne diseases and exacerbating socio-economic hardships. The fishing industry, once thriving, now suffers as pollution destroys fish stocks and marine ecosystems, severely affecting fishermen’s livelihoods and heightening poverty and social instability.

 

Additionally, oil pollution has devastated aquatic life and ecosystems, with oil slicks suffocating marine life and decimating mangrove forests, which are crucial for biodiversity and shoreline protection. Air quality has also significantly declined due to gas flaring, which emits harmful pollutants, affecting the respiratory health of communities. Furthermore, burning fossil fuels contributes to climate change by emitting greenhouse gases, leading to global warming, sea-level rise, extreme weather, and ecological disruptions.

 

LIFE AFTER FOSSIL

 

“Shutting down an oil well doesn’t mean that the problem goes away; every oil well has a lifespan, but the impacts are permanent.” Dr. Nnimmo Bassey.

 

Indeed, we cannot sustain the destructive patterns of extractivism! As the world faces the urgent need to transition away from fossil fuels towards renewable energy sources, Nigeria’s oil-producing regions must chart a new course towards sustainability by firmly saying NO! and completely rejecting further extractive activities related to fossil fuels to help mitigate the adverse effects of fossil fuel dependency. Additionally, to pave the way for a more sustainable future, it is imperative to transition away from fossil fuels and embrace cleaner, renewable energy sources.

 

This transition entails investments in renewable energy infrastructure, including solar, wind, hydroelectric, and geothermal power, which should be a priority for governments, businesses, and communities because they offer sustainable alternatives to fossil fuels, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and environmental degradation. As a people, we must embrace innovation and alternative solutions that prioritize both economic prosperity and environmental stewardship and it can only start now.

 

Supporting just transition initiatives is also critical; the shift away from fossil fuels will provide green jobs, clean air, clean creeks, community development, and most importantly, the birth of equitable and inclusive economic growth. The transition from a fossil fuel-dependent economy to a sustainable and resilient future requires concerted efforts from government, industry, civil society, and local communities. Saying no to further extractive activities related to fossil fuels is not only a moral imperative but also a practical necessity for safeguarding the planet and ensuring a sustainable future for all.

 

 
This article is written by the Health of Mother Earth Foundation’ s School of Ecology Scholars (Cheerleaders)

 

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