Today 5th June is world environment day 2021, I have been thinking about the destructive impact of human activities and man-made practices in Ghana, the environment surrounding us is in danger. This is due to large scale illegal mining, land degradation, air, and water pollution. Mother Ghana’s environment is losing its quality and strength. What do the living owe those who come after them? It is a question nonsensical to some and unanswerable to others yet provocative in its persistence especially among environmentalist and natural scientist.
What legacy are we leaving for the next generation? To inherit lands that are not useful for farming.
Polluted water bodies?
Pondering on these questions, what comes to mind is Environmental Inequalities and Justice.
Environmental inequality results from the unequal distribution of the risks and benefits that stem from interactions with our environment.
The unequal distribution of environmental risks across generations results in a situation whereby future generations face the risks created by the polluting activities of today.
Environmental risks for which intergenerational inequities are particularly relevant in Ghana include, poor solid and liquid waste management, chemical pollution, illegal mining, poor land management and climate change.
The current trend of illegal mining, unsustainable solid and liquid waste management, and other bad environmental practices will lead to persistent chemicals to remain in the environment, in some cases bioaccumulating in food chains, for future generations to tackle as a legacy of current practices.
Exposure to developmentally toxic chemicals during pregnancy can damage the development and future functioning of the endocrine (hormonal) system, the immune system or the neurological system (affecting brain development) of the unborn foetus, a classic example is the exposure of communities to mercury use in illegal mining.
With regards to climate change, the likelihood of pervasive and irreversible impacts is increasing as emissions of greenhouse gas, deforestation continue, with the cost of past and present emissions to be paid by the youth of today and tomorrow.
With respect to intergenerational justice, that is the idea that present generations have certain duties towards future generations, climate change raises particularly pressing issues, such as the risks those living today are allowed to impose on future generations, and how available natural resources can be used without threatening the sustainable functioning of the planet's ecosystems.
Moreover, when one talks about the rights of future generations this inevitably seems to raise the issue of how to balance the rights’ claims of those alive today against the rights’ claims of future generations.
The living has a duty of care to protect the environment for those yet to be born.
By Philip Kyeremanteng, MSc MSEE MCIWEM CSci