Inner City Environment

Africa feeling the heat of climate change

Affected countries require funds to build more resilient and climate-smart economies

Researchers are still trying to learn why the population of African penguins has dropped precipitously over the last 15 years—some estimates say by 90% – but most agree that climate change is a major factor in the decline of this iconic African species.

There may be additional forces at work, including pollution, overfishing, predators and disease, but warming currents on both sides of the continent are driving the huge shoals of sardines and anchovies on which the penguins dine farther south toward cooler waters.

Warming waters are not a problem only for penguins and other sea creatures. They have major implications for coastal communities all around the continent, where a quarter of all people rely on the ocean as a primary source of food.

Globally, average temperatures will increase by more than 2°C by the end of the 21st century, and could increase by as much as 3°C by 2050 and even by 6°C by 2100. The impacts of this warming on the ocean surrounding the continent are already being felt.

Small-scale artisanal fishing and tourism are critical economic pillars for communities along Africa’s 30,500-kilometre coastline. Many of these are grappling with the effects of climate change, including rising sea levels, warming waters and increasing ocean acidification, which has led to greater coastal erosion that has damaged infrastructure in West Africa. A warming Indian Ocean has damaged coral reefs that are essential for tourism, fishing, and the protection of the shoreline.

“One of the biggest threats to coastal and marine systems in Africa is climate change,” says Yuvan A. Beejadhur, team leader on ocean economy at the World Bank, adding, “The impacts are already being detected in many areas of the continent.”

According to Mr. Beejadhur, natural resources specialist, sea temperatures in coastal boundary systems may continue to increase over the next few decades and centuries. If current trends continue, sea temperatures will increase from 0.62°C to 0.85°C over the next few years and from 2.44°C to 3.32°C over the long term, he warns.

“This will mean Africa will need a cascade in financing. It will require significant funds, finance and investments that need to be unlocked, leveraged and catalysed for building resilient and climate-smart ocean economies,” he predicts.

Jacqueline Alder, manager of Global Partnerships for Responsible Fisheries at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), also notes the significant impact on coastal infrastructure of coastal erosion. Fishery landing sites have been forced to move, resulting in higher fishing costs. In some cases poorer-quality fish has led to lower market prices.

In addition, more frequent flooding has affected coastal systems, with runoff from the storms ending up in the oceans, reducing the salinity of the water and causing fish to move farther offshore. Consequently fishermen have to travel farther to catch fish, “or they don’t fish at all,” she says.

In Mozambique, coastal erosion due to rising sea levels has significantly altered the coastline, says Eugénio João Muiange, the director of the National Institute of the Sea and Boundaries. “When we look at old maps and compare them with now, we see lots of changes. Small islands and sandbars have disappeared.”

“Erosion has eaten land 2 to 3 kilometres inland,” he adds. “When we look for a reason, we can only reach one conclusion – that it is sea-level rise.”

Coastal erosion has led to the displacement of communities in West Africa and has already resulted in economic losses of about 2.3% of GDP in Togo alone, the World Bank reported in 2016.

Ronald Jumeau, permanent representative of the Seychelles to the UN, says many of these trends have been noticed for years yet were poorly understood. Coastal erosion in West Africa has been “huge,” he says, and as a consequence many people have been forced to abandon their communities on the coast and look inland for new opportunities. “Suddenly it becomes a political issue,” he says, adding, “There’s a demographic shift underway.”

African countries often lack the data, the computing power and the analytical ability to take action, Mr. Jumeau points out.

Another result of climate change is ocean acidification. As the ocean absorbs greater amounts of carbon dioxide, it becomes more acid, and its changing chemistry poses a threat to coral reefs and biodiversity. About 30% of carbon dioxide caused by human activity dissolves into the oceans, and the increased acidity prevents organisms that depend on calcium carbonate from producing shells and skeletons.

Fisheries in the western Indian Ocean – off the east coast of Africa – mainly depend on coral reefs, Mr. Jumeau points out. Increased coral bleaching and mortality (generally caused by warming ocean temperatures) will have negative effects on fisheries, fishery-related employment and nutrition.

Corals across the western Indian Ocean declined by an average of more than 35% after bleaching events in 1998, 2010 and 2016. Such events have an economic cost: the coral bleaching event in 1998 cost the scuba dive tourism industry an estimated $2.2 million in Zanzibar and up to $15.09 million in Mombasa, Kenya.

Acidification of the ocean

Coral reefs in the Seychelles also suffered from the 1998 bleaching event, which was caused by warming from an El Niño weather phenomenon, but other bleaching events have also affected the country, recalls Mr. Jumeau. Some reefs have since been restored to health; others have not. Coral reefs are an essential tourist attraction and provide protection from coastal erosion for the hotels on the islands.

Around 2.5 million tourists per year visit the tropical coast area of Egypt; 23% of these tourists come specifically to dive, and a further 33% participate in snorkelling activities.

Cognizant of the destructive impact of climate change on the oceans around Africa, affected countries came together at the African Ministerial Conference on Ocean Economies and Climate Change in Mauritius in September last year to assess the challenges faced by coastal and marine systems in Africa and discuss the need to develop climate-ready ocean economies.

And last November, at the 2016 Marrakech Climate Conference held in Egypt, the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and the FAO announced a “African package for climate-resilient ocean economies,” an ambitious bundle of technical and financial assistance focused on measures to build resilience, reduce vulnerability, develop early warning systems and optimize carbon sequestration.

Between 2017 and 2020, the initiative will mobilize between $500 million and $900 million and implement programs linked to climate change adaptation and mitigation.

World Bank experts caution that without action, fish catches are projected to drop because of climate change – possibly by one half in Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Togo, according to the FAO.

“These ambitious programmes aimed at strengthening the resilience of African coastal communities are critical to meeting the challenges and opportunities of climate change, especially for vulnerable Small Island Development States,” observes Maria Helena Semedo, FAO’s deputy director-general for natural resources.

“African coastal communities are some of the most affected by climate change,” she continues. “FAO is fully engaged and ready to be at the heart of these significant developments to work alongside countries and communities to reduce their vulnerabilities, build their resilience, and maximize opportunities emerging from climate change.”

The African package for climate-resilient ocean economies is composed of five flagship programmes, and each will have its own focus as well as sharing knowledge and best practices with the others.

In North Africa, the focus will start with fisheries, aquaculture and ocean observation systems; West African priorities will include fisheries, combating coastal erosion, and building tourism; in Central Africa, stretching from Cameroon to Angola, priorities will include a focus on safety at sea; East Africa will develop its aquaculture and tourism; and the Small Island Developing States, often the most dependent on the oceans and the most vulnerable to disaster and erosion, will focus on the development of an economy designed for sustainable development, generally referred to by experts as the “blue economy.”

African countries will be participating in the Ocean Conference to be held this year in New York from 5-9 June, which is aimed at promoting the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14 (Life below water). The goal calls for action to address a range of ocean issues, including protecting marine biodiversity, reducing overfishing and addressing ocean acidification and marine pollution.

Advertisements

7-Year-Old Starts Recycling Company to Save Marine Lives

You may not believe it, but a mere child by the name Ryan has decided to start his own recycling company and he is already doing great at it. This 7-year-old had the dream of venturing into plastic recycling as early as when he was just about 3 years old; that was in 2012. He went along with his parents to the local recycling center that was located in Orange County, California, his locality, and this was when he made up his mind to go into recycling.

And what is his reason for choosing this path? He wants to save the world from the scourge of green house effect and also want to save for college. This sounds more like killing two birds with a stone. Ryan has his recycling website through which he links up with his teeming customer, which are also members of the public in his orange county locality.

How did he get so many clients patronizing him? he decided to hand out empty plastic bags to all the neighbors and pleaded with them to save their plastics for him in the empty bags for him to pick up. It was not long before his customers increased in number. After collecting the filled bags from the neighbors, he would sort them and separate tin and glass materials from plastic. He would them convey his sorted baggage down to the recycling center.

 

11 nationally protected wetlands you should know about

Did you know that the world’s most biologically diverse ecosystems also happen to be some of the most fragile and endangered?

Wetlands are defined by the U.S. government as “areas that are inundated or saturated by surface or ground water at a frequency and duration sufficient to support, and that under normal circumstances do support, a prevalence of vegetations typically adapted for life in saturated soils.”

This usually means marshes, swamps, bogs or fens, but others define the term more broadly to include underground aquifers, wet grasslands as well as mangroves and other coastal areas.

These are all highly efficient environments that play important roles, including maintaining water quality, controlling flooding and erosion, and providing a home to at least 35 percent of all threatened and endangered species on the planet.

One of the most iconic wetlands in the United States is Everglades National Park in southern Florida. This vast subtropical wilderness of cypress swamps, mangrove forests, pineland and hardwood hammocks is home to many endangered species, including West Indian manatees, American crocodiles and Florida panthers.

Although it is the third largest national park in the contiguous U.S., only 20 percent of the original 100-mile-long Everglades watershed is included within the 1.5 million acres that currently make up the national park. Some portions remain intact under other federal and state wilderness designations, but about 50 percent of the original Everglades wetlands has been irrevocably destroyed by rapid agricultural and urban development that began in the 19th century.

This example of environmental degradation is not unique. Wetlands throughout America and the world have suffered greatly at the hands of humans. According to the National Park Service, “less than half of the wetland acreage that existed in the lower 48 states at the time of European settlement remains today.”

In response to this ecological degradation, hundreds of million of acres of wetlands across the country are now being managed through various wilderness designations, including national parks, national wildlife refuges and national seashores, among others.

Because there are hundreds of these wetland havens across the country (thousands if you count private- and state-protected areas), it’d be a real challenge to highlight them all, but continue below for a small selection of the most outstanding nationally protected wetlands in the U.S.

Merced National Wildlife Refuge

A massive flock of birds take flight in Merced National Wildlife Refuge. (Photo: Linda Tanner/Flickr)

From Yosemite to Big Sur, the state of California is positively brimming with outstanding scenic vistas. However, one outstanding haven for scenic nature that’s not so well-known is Merced National Wildlife Refuge, a birder’s paradise located two hours south of Sacramento.

As MNN’s Jaymi Heimbuch explains, “A postage stamp-sized place compared to many of the state’s other parks and preserves, this refuge is a resting ground for an abundance and diversity of migrating birds — a sight that leaves every visitor in awe.”

Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge

An alligator sunbathes on a fallen log in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. (Photo: Catie Leary)

Straddling the border of Georgia and Florida is the Okefenokee, the largest blackwater swamp in America and one of the world’s largest remaining intact freshwater ecosystems.

Much of the swamp is populated with bald cypress, swamp tupelo and other wetland flora, and the drier upland areas are filled with massive evergreen oaks and towering forests of longleaf pine. While these upland areas are home to wild turkeys, bobcats, white-tailed deer and Florida black bears, the rich swampland fosters important wetland habitats and breeding grounds for wading birds, alligators, turtles, lizards and many species of amphibians.

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the swamp was once inhabited by the Creek Indians, who coined the term “Okefenokee,” which originates from a phrase that means “land that trembles when you walk on it.”

Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge

Lake Drummond, Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge. (Photo: Rebecca Wynn/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

Judging by its name, the Great Dismal Swamp that straddles North Carolina and Virginia might seem like a total drag to visit, but considering the opportunities for birdwatching, hiking, canoeing, fishing and boating, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

According to journalist Bill Bartel of The Virginian-Pilot, “More than 280 years ago, what is now the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge was part of a much larger, waterlogged natural area known in land records as the Great Dismal. Called ‘great,’ possibly because of its size, it was called ‘dismal’ because that was a common term at the time for a swamp or morass.”

Although the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service currently manages about 112,000 acres of the Great Dismal, it’s estimated that the original size of the vast swamp land prior to human encroachment was around 1 million acres.

Death Valley National Park

Saratoga Springs in Death Valley National Park. (Photo: Stan Shebs)

You might not think the hottest and driest place in North America could include a natural wetland, but think again. Saratoga Springs is a desert oasis situated along the southern tip of Death Valley National Park. This marshy, spring-fed wetland is an important home to multiple endemic marine species, including the Saratoga Springs pupfish.

Cumberland Island National Seashore

The marsh of Cumberland Island National Seashore in Georgia. (Photo: Linda/Flickr)

The crown jewel of Cumberland Island is its 17-mile-long stretch of undeveloped beach, but this remarkable slice of Southern paradise is also home to an extensive 16,850-acre wetland system that includes salt marshes, tidal creeks and mudflats.

In addition to typical wetland wildlife, it’s not uncommon to spot Cumberland’s iconic feral horses grazing and wading through the island’s marshland and mudflats. Although it’s quite magical to observe these charismatic equines from afar, the animals’ invasive grazing and trampling of these fragile ecosystems has become a serious point of contention among conservationists and the larger public.

Kenai National Wildlife Refuge

Water lilies in Canoe Lake of Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska. (Photo: Wildnerdpix/Shutterstock)

While the eastern coast of the U.S. tends to get all the glory for its vast yet fragmented concentration of marshes and swamps, did you know that 63 percent of all U.S. wetlands are in Alaska?

According to the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, wetlands cover about one-third of the state of Alaska (about 130 million acres). The vast majority of Alaska’s wetlands exist in peace under state and national protections, like Canoe Lake in Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.

Biscayne National Park

Mangrove forest in Biscayne National Park. (Photo: Matt Tilghman/Shutterstock)

We’d be remiss not to mention the importance of another less famous Florida entry: Biscayne National Park. Located off the southern coast of Miami, this 172,971-acre national park protects the coastal wetlands and open waters of Biscayne Bay as well as its adjacent coral limestone barrier islands, including Elliott Key (the first of the Florida Keys).

Perhaps the most astounding wetland environment found in Biscayne is its extensive shoreline mangrove forest. Mangroves, like those seen above, are characterized by their complex root system, which are capable of surviving immersion in saltwater as well as anoxic (low-oxygen), waterlogged mud. Mangrove swamps are unique ecosystems that provide shelter to several threatened wildlife species, from the mangrove cuckoo to the American crocodile.

Klamath Marsh National Wildlife Refuge

The wetlands of Klamath Marsh National Wildlife Refuge in Chiloquin, Oregon. (Photo: GoBOb/Shutterstock)

This 40,000-acre refuge in southern Oregon was established in 1958 to protect the vital nesting, feeding and staging habitats of migratory birds, including sandhill cranes, yellow rails and various species of waterfowl. The wetland is comprised of wet grassy meadows and stretches of open water, and is the historic home of the Klamath tribes, who lived along its banks underneath piney canopies.

Congaree National Park

Congaree’s boardwalks are prone to flooding when the region is hit with heavy rains. (Photo: Catie Leary)

Just a few centuries ago, the vast majority of South Carolina was covered in old-growth bottomland hardwood forest. Sadly, after rampant agricultural and logging development wreaked havoc on the land, only a tiny fraction of this special floodplain forest remains in the nearly 27,000-acre Congaree National Park.

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge

Roseate spoonbills wading in the wetlands of the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, Florida. (Photo: C Watts/Flickr)

Situated “next door” to the Kennedy Space Center, the 140,000-acre Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge is filled with salt marshes, estuaries, sand dunes and hardwood hammocks.

This diverse landscape is home to a plethora of wildlife, including sea turtles, alligators, bobcats, Florida panthers as well as many birds. On any given day, you’ll see roseate spoonbills, ibises, ospreys, anhinga, herons, egrets and various species of waterfowl, rails and shorebirds. In addition to its status as a top-notch birding destination, the refuge is also one of several places that you can observe West Indian manatees in the wild.

 

 

Wet1

Young Ghanaian builds EcoFootwear company

Ghanaian Mabel Suglo (21) is the young social entrepreneur behind EcoShoes, a company that employs people with disabilities to manufacture eye-catching shoes and accessories from discarded tyres and recycled materials. Her business is based in the city of Kumasi.

She started the company in 2013 when she was just 19, and two years later has been named the 2015 second runner up of the Anzisha Prize, Africa’s premier award for young entrepreneurs. The title came with a US$12,500 injection into her company.

The idea behind EcoShoes was inspired by her grandmother, who suffered from severe leprosy, a disease that can result in skin lesions and damage to the nerves, limbs and eyes. With deformities around the hands and feet, her grandmother had only one thumb.

But like many who suffer from leprosy, the real struggle came from the social stigma attached to the disease. Her grandmother was marginalised – a pariah that society feared due to a lack of understanding. She lived alone, and as a child Suglo saw how others refused to interact with her.

“I never really understood it when I was growing up, but with time started to realise what life must have been like for her,” she says, adding that her grandmother died when she was 12 but has remained strongly in her thoughts since.

“Then one day I went to town, and I saw a disabled man begging for money. One person didn’t give him money, but started telling him that he is good for nothing, useless, and that kind of thing. I just watched and had this mental picture of my grandmother. I really saw how we isolate these people. I thought it high time we make them feel welcome in the community.

“So I just walked up to him and I asked him if he could get a job that would pay better than begging, would he be ready to work? And he said yes.”

She did the same with a couple of other disabled, unemployed people, and very soon had made a list. She was determined to provide them with work, but was not yet sure how.

“The idea of using car tyres to make shoes came to mind… My grandmother actually used to wear bits of old car tyres for shoes because she had no toes and no shoes could fit her feet… So she just took a car tyre, cut it into short pieces and tied it with a rope and it worked well. Other farmers did the same too,” she recalls.

Suglo found two business partners who helped get her idea off the ground, and partnered with a local school for the disabled who trained those with disabilities how to make shoes from old tyres and local fabrics. Each pair is unique and sold through a small distribution network to various retailers across four regions in Ghana. Suglo is also developing the company’s e-commerce site to target a wider market.

In addition to footwear, EcoShoes also manufactures other products such as handbags.

Today the company employs five disabled people, and has the capacity to produce 200 pairs of shoes a month. Her team also manufacturers belts, slippers, bags and jewellery.

Developing managerial skills

Suglo says she has faced a number of struggles as a young social entrepreneur. With no experience running a company, she admits she found the administration side difficult. And with also trying to juggle her studies in health science education, she has learnt valuable lessons about the importance of effective time management and delegating work to team members.

Her advice to other young entrepreneurs is to start saving as soon as possible, be patient and stay focused on their goal – especially during the tough times.

“Be determined because the road to success is not smooth, it is very rough… And don’t be just a big-talker. I think one problem many of us young Africans have is we talk too much – and we don’t have a lot of doers. Give it a proper try… and if you fail, just pick yourself up, shake the dust off and continue to try again,” she says.

“One thing I know about most successful people is they never really got it right at the first go. They had to try over and over and over again.”

Follow the Anzisha Prize online and on Facebook and Twitter.

UK Nigerians unite over heritage

A group of young Londoners who got together in 1998 to learn about their ancestry have grown into a major community organisation

GOOD MOVES: Members of the ICSN dance troupe

IT’S OFTEN claimed that young black Britons are losing touch with their cultural roots.

In fact, many debates have ensued among communities in recent years, sparked by troubling issues such as the involvement of black youths in gun and knife crime; that the language, cuisine and cultural values of Africans and Caribbeans who emigrated to Britain in the 50s and 60s are being lost.

However, one London based group is determined to change that.

Back in 1998, a group of Nigerians whose families originated from the Igbo people of south eastern Nigeria, decided they wanted to form a group that would celebrate their west African heritage.

Igbo people are one of the three major ethnic groups in Nigeria (together with the Hausa and Yoruba). Igbo-land is the home of the Igbo people and it covers most of south east Nigeria.

The Igbo Cultural and Support Network (ICSN) was born with only a handful of members.

But since its formation, the organisation has grown to an impressive 1,600 members and has organised a number of networking and social events that have been hailed as an example of what young African Caribbeans can do if they work in unison.

SUPPORT

And the ICSN has also garnered some high profile celebrity support. In October, Olympic 400 metres silver medallist Christine Ohurugu MBE and Game of Thrones actor Nonso Anozie, who had previously taken language classes run by the ICSN, joined 500 others as guests of honour at the group’s New Yam Festival, a harvest festival that has been celebrated for centuries and remains an important tradition. The abundance of yam was often important for survival in lean years and so its arrival is an occasion of great joy and thanksgiving to God for a good harvest.


STAR PERFORMER: Amale dancer in traditional Igbo costume performs a routine at the Iri-ji New Yam festival in London

“ICSN was established because there was a strong sense in the Diaspora that second generation Igbo people and those who had relocated did not know as much as they would have liked about their heritage,” says Amaka Edomobi, president of the ICSN.

“We wanted to create a channel which would help people maintain a cultural connection to Nigeria. We the current executive committee, and those before us, are passionate about our rich cultural heritage and are committed to enhancing cultural awareness amongst people of Igbo heritage. That is why we volunteer limitless hours of our spare time and resources to the organisation. We host a general meeting every second Sunday of each month which includes cultural presentations, debates, health awareness discussions, business networking, open mic sessions, book reviews and guest speakers,” adds Edomobi.

Among the things that the ICSN celebrates is the aspect of Igbo culture known as “Umunna wu ike” (community is strength).
VISION: ICSN President Amaka Edomobi

“Power and authority are bestowed on the community not on individuals,” explains Edomobi. “Traditionally the community, the Igbo believe, is made up of the living and dead ancestors and gods of the land. Greeting is also a very important aspect of Igbo culture. Everyone is expected to greet their elders first. There are greetings for different times and situations.”

Among the group’s major achievements are the establishment of an Igbo Language School in Holborn, central London, in 2010 and a dance school.

Many black Britons of Nigerian Igbo heritage whose parents and grandparents came to Britain in the 1960s were not taught the language because of fears that they wouldn’t be able to integrate into mainstream society.

“Inherent in everyone is the desire to know their mother tongue,” says Edomobi. “I founded the Igbo Language School with other past and present execs. Interest in the Igbo Language School has been so overwhelming. Since its creation, 165 students from all walks of life have progressed through the course where they learn core principles of the Igbo language, from basic grammar and vocabulary to the etymology of the Igbo words themselves.”

This year will mark the 15th anniversary of the ICSN, providing an opportunity to reflect and celebrate the milestones reached since 1998.

SCHEMES

“We want to participate in more charitable and community work, such as supporting schools in Nigeria, hosting business seminars and mentoring schemes for our members and maintaining and adding to our cultural enrichment programmes,” says the president of the ICSN. “We believe that ICSN’s emphasis on maintaining cultural heritage is important in multicultural British society, we our often told by our members that ICSN gives them a sense of belonging and purpose. When you come to the meeting as an individual you will leave as a part of a family which is key to out ethos.

ICSN provides a support system that can benefit the wider black community in the UK by providing a forum to learn, be celebrated and belong.”

Written by Vic Motune

The Real Africa, Through the Lens of African Photographers By Mirren Gidda

Africa has long been irresistible to art photographers. The diversity of its 54 nations, its natural phenomena—even, say some photographers, the difference in light compared with Europe and the U.S.—have spawned vast bodies of work and helped inform the way many in the international community regard the continent. The problem is that these photographs have, until recently, been taken by non-African photographers. Through their lenses, we have seen the continent’s beauty and its rawness, the savannahs and the cities—but rarely have we seen this through the eyes of those who actually call Africa home.

The problem comes from a mix of access and interest. African photographers have been showcasing their work within the continent for years. One of the best-known photography festivals in Africa, the Bamako Encounters biennale in Mali, which has run since 1994, is aimed at promoting trends in contemporary African photography and video. The West, however, has been slow to take note. Of the 48 photographer-members represented by Magnum Photos—arguably the most famous and prestigious international photo agency—just one, South African photographer Mikhael Subotzky, lives in Africa.

“Photography is a $10 billion industry, and what part of that does Africa have?” asks Aida Muluneh, a photographer and founder of the Addis Foto Fest in Ethiopia, a biannual event since 2010. “The majority of photos of Africa come from [non-African] white photographers.” That lack of visibility is problematic for more than just monetary reasons. Since the majority of archived images of Africa were taken by non-African whites, many of the continent’s surviving historical documents show not the experience of Africans but the experience of colonizers and the native Africans they often subjugated.

01_01_AfricanPhotography_02
People fill vessels with fuel from an overturned tanker. African photographers are revealing previously hidden sides of the continent. George Osodi/Panos

But a shift is occurring in the international arts community, and combined with the increasing affordability of cameras and improvements in smartphone lenses, it has led a new generation of Africans to the photographic medium. Some are photojournalists, while others work largely in art photography, sharing their experiences and viewpoints with a global audience. New York’s famed Metropolitan Museum of Art is currently exhibiting 100 years of portrait photography from West Africa. The increased exposure has benefited emerging photographers, who are being scouted by international galleries and agents at a much higher rate than ever before.

“Many African photographers are using their work to explore identity, and often this identity is linked to the past,” says John Fleetwood, head of the South African photography school Market Photo Workshop. “Colonial photography prompted the world to become used to a certain image of Africa, and photographers from the continent are now trying to represent it in a different way.”

Sammy Baloji is one such artist. In 2014, he was made a graduate of Rolex’s mentoring program, which pairs young, gifted artists with more experienced ones for a year. Baloji, who splits his time between his hometown in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Belgium, exhibited at London’s Tate Modern in 2011 and at this past year’s Venice Biennale. Much of Baloji’s work focuses on the Congo and the ways he and his countrymen confront their colonial past.

It wasn’t until 1960 that the Congo, as it was formerly known, gained independence and an identity separate from its colonizer, Belgium, though peace was still slow coming. Shortly after its emancipation, coups and a bloody civil war hit the Congo. Ever since, the country has struggled to reconcile its identity before and after colonization—a confusion that comes through in Baloji’s work, which frequently features images of the country’s past superimposed on photographs from its present.

“Many people in the DRC think we have lost our culture—that is, our pre-colonization culture,” says Baloji. “The role of colonization was not just exploiting minerals but educating people in a Western way that erased what came before.”

In one of Baloji’s earlier exhibitions, 2006’s “Mémoire,” washed-out color photographs of the Congolese city of Lubumbashi are overlaid with black-and-white archival images of workers who toiled in the industrial city’s Belgian-owned mines. In one haunting image, two Congolese laborers, one chained by his neck, work in a ditch, watched over by two men. The ghostly, enslaved figures are the only clear markers on the landscape—modern buildings and what appear vaguely to be cellphone towers in the far background are so faded as to be almost unrecognizable.

George Osodi, a Nigerian artist and former photographer, earned international recognition for his photographs of his country—especially a series in which he exposed some of the injustices taking place in the oil-rich Niger Delta region. As oil companies flocked to the south of Nigeria, their activities began to slowly poison the environment and force many Nigerians into poverty. Though the Delta is one of the country’s most profitable regions, its people remain some of the most destitute in all of Africa. Osodi’s photographs, from six years of documenting the area, show slums, billowing clouds of black smoke and the flames of gas flares. In one of the most jarring photographs in the collection, a charred skull looks directly into the camera—the remains of a villager killed in 2003, when oil pouring from a compromised pipeline exploded. In another, from 2006, titled Water Drum, a young girl grips a plastic bucket by the rusting water container—an oil barrel stamped with the white logo of Exxon Mobil Corp. Osodi’s work is currently on display at the International Slavery Museum in Liverpool, England.

But a shift is occurring in the international arts community, and combined with the increasing affordability of cameras and improvements in smartphone lenses, it has led a new generation of Africans to the photographic medium. Some are photojournalists, while others work largely in art photography, sharing their experiences and viewpoints with a global audience. New York’s famed Metropolitan Museum of Art is currently exhibiting 100 years of portrait photography from West Africa. The increased exposure has benefited emerging photographers, who are being scouted by international galleries and agents at a much higher rate than ever before.

“Many African photographers are using their work to explore identity, and often this identity is linked to the past,” says John Fleetwood, head of the South African photography school Market Photo Workshop. “Colonial photography prompted the world to become used to a certain image of Africa, and photographers from the continent are now trying to represent it in a different way.”

Sammy Baloji is one such artist. In 2014, he was made a graduate of Rolex’s mentoring program, which pairs young, gifted artists with more experienced ones for a year. Baloji, who splits his time between his hometown in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Belgium, exhibited at London’s Tate Modern in 2011 and at this past year’s Venice Biennale. Much of Baloji’s work focuses on the Congo and the ways he and his countrymen confront their colonial past.

It wasn’t until 1960 that the Congo, as it was formerly known, gained independence and an identity separate from its colonizer, Belgium, though peace was still slow coming. Shortly after its emancipation, coups and a bloody civil war hit the Congo. Ever since, the country has struggled to reconcile its identity before and after colonization—a confusion that comes through in Baloji’s work, which frequently features images of the country’s past superimposed on photographs from its present.

“Many people in the DRC think we have lost our culture—that is, our pre-colonization culture,” says Baloji. “The role of colonization was not just exploiting minerals but educating people in a Western way that erased what came before.”

In one of Baloji’s earlier exhibitions, 2006’s “Mémoire,” washed-out color photographs of the Congolese city of Lubumbashi are overlaid with black-and-white archival images of workers who toiled in the industrial city’s Belgian-owned mines. In one haunting image, two Congolese laborers, one chained by his neck, work in a ditch, watched over by two men. The ghostly, enslaved figures are the only clear markers on the landscape—modern buildings and what appear vaguely to be cellphone towers in the far background are so faded as to be almost unrecognizable.

George Osodi, a Nigerian artist and former photographer, earned international recognition for his photographs of his country—especially a series in which he exposed some of the injustices taking place in the oil-rich Niger Delta region. As oil companies flocked to the south of Nigeria, their activities began to slowly poison the environment and force many Nigerians into poverty. Though the Delta is one of the country’s most profitable regions, its people remain some of the most destitute in all of Africa. Osodi’s photographs, from six years of documenting the area, show slums, billowing clouds of black smoke and the flames of gas flares. In one of the most jarring photographs in the collection, a charred skull looks directly into the camera—the remains of a villager killed in 2003, when oil pouring from a compromised pipeline exploded. In another, from 2006, titled Water Drum, a young girl grips a plastic bucket by the rusting water container—an oil barrel stamped with the white logo of Exxon Mobil Corp. Osodi’s work is currently on display at the International Slavery Museum in Liverpool, England.

01_01_AfricanPhotography_01
A girl holds onto a jetty as a boy paddles a canoe on Lagos Lagoon in the Makoko district.George Osodi/Panos

Osodi says he entered the world of photography because “a lot of things, unjust things, were happening. There was mismanagement of the country, and this needed to be documented visually.” Just as Baloji is driven to make sense of his surroundings and find identity and a sense of self in them, Osodi says he “had a drive to photograph things that needed to be changed. I needed to photograph to make people aware—that was my driving passion.”

It’s a passion that could have real benefits for the international understanding of African identity. “Photography in Africa has grown dramatically in its popularity, because people want to understand the diversity of the world,” says Fleetwood. As more and more people across the continent gain access to photographic equipment and realize there is a demand for their images, African photography could become a common fixture on the global art scene.

Plastic In Oceans Will Outweigh Fish By 2050

jasonswain_0

We know that the oceans are warming and becoming increasingly acidic as we continue to pump more and more CO2 into the atmosphere. But they also face another threat from mankind: plastic. Our modern lives are dominated by this ubiquitous material, from the packaging on the food we eat to the technology we use every day, there is no getting away from it. Our oceans are no exception, and if current trends continue, a new report has revealed that by 2050, plastic rubbish in the ocean will outweigh fish.

According to the new report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, launched at the World Economic Forum in Davos this week, an astonishing 95 percent of plastic packaging is lost to the economy every year after single use, costing an estimated $80-120 billion (£56-84 billion). While only a paltry 5 percent is recycled effectively, around 40 percent is buried in landfill, and a third of all plastic produced each year finds its way into the world’s oceans. This is equivalent to dumping the contents of one garbage truck a minute into the marine environment.

Only a tiny fraction of the plastics produced every year is ever recycled back into the system, and even less is recycled effectively. Ellen MacArthur Foundation

Since 1964, plastic production has increased by a factor of 20, and currently stands at around 311 million tonnes (343 million tons) of the stuff a year. This figure is expected to double again within the next 20 years, and quadruple by 2050, as developing nations consume more plastic. The rubbish that currently finds its way into the oceans already has harmful impacts on the wildlife. From plastics found in the stomachs of seabirds, to the plastic bags eaten by turtles and seals, or the microplastic that we can’t even see being ingested by fish that we then consume.

But it is not just about the amount of plastic that ends up in the oceans, it is also about the fossil fuels that are needed to create the stuff. Currently, the production of plastics uses around six percent of the global consumption of oil – by 2050 this could rise to 20 percent. The report calls for a complete rethink of the way we manufacture plastics, and then how we deal with the mountains of waste it produces.

The amount of plastic produced every year is set to increase dramatically within the next 30 years. Ellen MacArthur Foundation

“This report demonstrates the importance of triggering a revolution in the plastics industrial ecosystem and is a first step to showing how to transform the way plastics move through our economy,” explains Dominic Waughray of the World Economic Forum, the hosts of the annual talks in Davos, who jointly released the report along with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. “To move from insight to large-scale action, it is clear that no one actor can work on this alone. The public, private sector, and civil society all need to mobilize to capture the opportunity of the new circular plastics economy.”

The solutions are not easy. The fact that the price of oil is now so low means that recycling old plastics is now vastly more expensive than producing new ones, and with the economies in the developing world growing bigger, so is the market for plastic. Part of the solution is to rethink how we use plastics, reducing their use in packaging for example, and reusing as much of it as we can. Manufacturers could aid in this by producing plastic items that can be reused, while also shifting to plastics that could be composted. Either way, any solution will take a major shift in the way all of us consume the ever-present product.

Climate change: Hollywood star attacks Oil & Gas industry at WEF

On Wednesday, US Hollywood actor, Leonardo DiCaprio, addressed a panel at the World Economic Forum (WEC), criticising the oil and gas industry of being consumed by greed, and having complete disregard for the real reality and impact of climate change.

Currently being hosted in Davos, Switzerland, the WEC has gathered heads of state, ministers and industry leaders from across the globe, where post COP21 discussions have resurfaced.

Accepting a crystal award for his persistent works in environmentalism, DiCaprio commented: “We simply cannot afford to allow the corporate greed of the coal, oil and gas industries to determine the future of humanity.

“Those entities with a financial interest in preserving this destructive system have denied, and even covered up the evidence of our changing climate.”

The three Golden Globe Awards winner, stressed: “Enough is enough. You know better. The world knows better. History will place the blame for this devastation squarely at their feet.”

He added: “Our planet cannot be saved unless we leave fossil fuels in the ground where they belong. Twenty years ago, we described this problem as an addiction. Today, we possess the means to end this reliance.”

Icons put impetus on clean energy

Following the theme of international icons influencing the energy sector, Senegalese-born US musician and co-founder of the Akon Lighting Africa initiative, Akon Thiam, presented his clean energy model to an audience at the Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week (ADSW) last week.

This project aims to bring solar powered electricity to 600 million Africans. The company’s efforts have to date been active in 14 countries on the continent.

In May last year, the project launched a solar academy aimed at giving African engineers and entrepreneurs the skills needed to develop solar power in Mali, West Africa.

The musician previously launched Akon Lighting Africa along with co-founders Thione Niang and Samba Baithily, aimed at bringing solar powered electricity to 600 million Africans. The company’s efforts have to date been active in 14 countries on the continent.

Mind the Gap:Richest one per cent ‘as rich as the poorest 57 per cent combined’

Wealth inequality has grown to the stage where 62 of the world’s richest people own as much as the poorest half of humanity combined.The research, conducted by the charity Oxfam, found that the wealth of the poorest half of the world’s population – 3.6 billion people – has fallen by 41 per cent, or a trillion US dollars, since 2010.

While this group has become poorer, the wealth of the richest 62 people on the planet has increased by more than half a trillion dollars to $1.76 trillion.

In 2011 388 people had the same wealth as the poorest half of humanity. In 2011 this fell to 177. The number has continued to fall each year to 80 in 2014 and 62 in 2015.

The research was released days ahead of the annual gathering of the world’s elite in Davos for the World Economic Forum 2016.

Oxfam GB chief executive Mark Goldring said a crackdown on global tax havens was a necessary step towards ending the rampant global inequality.

“It is simply unacceptable that the poorest half of the world population owns no more than a small group of the global super-rich – so few, you could fit them all on a single coach,” he said.

Infographic-Billionaires-WEalth.jpg

“World leaders’ concern about the escalating inequality crisis has so far not translated into concrete action to ensure that those at the bottom get their fair share of economic growth. In a world where one in nine people go to bed hungry every night we cannot afford to carry on giving the richest an ever bigger slice of the cake.

“We need to end the era of tax havens which has allowed rich individuals and multinational companies to avoid their responsibilities to society by hiding ever increasing amounts of money offshore.

“Tackling the veil of secrecy surrounding the UK’s network of tax havens would be a big step towards ending extreme inequality. Three years after he made his promise to make tax dodgers ‘wake up and smell the coffee’, it is time for David Cameron to deliver.”