Debates, Resources

ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY IN AFRICA: IS IT POSSIBLE WITHOUT GOVERNMENT PLAYING AN ACTIVE ROLE? By AYENI, Otito-Jesu Joshua

ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY IN AFRICA: IS IT POSSIBLE WITHOUT GOVERNMENT PLAYING AN ACTIVE ROLE? YES

Delivered at the Finals, Daring Debates Africa, 2020; Emerged 2nd Runner-up

Judges! Today’s debate is not a question of whether or not the government can achieve environmental sustainability but whether it can happen with or without government actions and to this, I say YES! Environmental sustainability is possible without the government playing an active role.  

First, according to Investopedia, capitalism creates an environment for innovations to grow very quickly and for economic infrastructure to be built with maximum speed. Just as innovation has become the emblem of modern society, it is a panacea for solving problems. For example, in 2019, the United Nations applauded that 75% of the innovative solutions to transform Waste into Wealth in Africa are from individual initiatives and this is one of many situations affecting the environment. Hence, to ensure environmental sustainability, individual groups successfully arise to create, build and innovate eco-friendly technologies in finding better ways to do things irrespective of the government’s intervention. 

Second, a change in people’s attitudes can create the right environment, not as a result of the government’s intervention but of culture inhibition by citizens of a state. Looking at Denmark as an example, cycling has been a deep-rooted part of their culture for close to 100 years according to the European Cycling Federation. Asides from the fun, Scandinavians bike to live a healthier life and as a primary form of transportation, by doing so, they save the environment and keep it sustainable. Thus, if Scandinavians peddle a future with pedals, not as a direct policy by the government, who says Africans cannot drive their continent to environmental sustainability independent of Government actions?

The opposition might claim that environmental sustainability is not possible without the enactment of policies by the government, using the Paris Agreement of 2015 in defence. However, the enactment of policies is not the problem, its effectiveness and implementation is always the challenge in Africa. The 2019 report of the UN Environment Assembly held in Kenya attests to this assertion. According to this report, the existing environmental sustainability policies in Africa are impotent because they do not solve the policy problem to an acceptable degree, thereby losing the component of an effective policy. Judges, if we are unlikely to make progress through policies that have been judged by international standards as ineffective, why can’t we find an alternative?

Finally, the Natural Resources Defense Council in 2017 reported that the planet earth has gone through several phases of cooling and warming in its 4 billion years of existence. Several times, the climate changed, and several times, the earth recovered. Historians tell us that the first government in the world was not formed until about 10,000 years ago – although humans have been around for much longer. Therefore, for millions of years, humans have existed with the earth, and have sustained it without any government. But if history has taught us anything, it is that the earth takes care of itself, with or without government action.