Happy World Wetlands Day!
Nigerian Wetlands and Environmental justice (or the lack thereof)
Welcome to the first issue of this newsletter, which is to celebrate World Wetlands Day, marked on February 2 every year. I’m glad you decided to join me.
And in case you are wondering, according to the RAMSAR convention, "...wetlands are areas of marsh, fen, peatland or water, whether natural or artificial, permanent or temporary, with water that is static or flowing, fresh, brackish or salt, including areas of marine water the depth of which at low tide does not exceed six metres." So, pretty much any marshy or swampy place around you is a wetland.
This year’s World Wetlands Day themed Wetland Action for People and Nature is: ”A call to take action for wetlands... It's an appeal to invest financial, human, and political capital to save the world’s wetlands from disappearing and to restore those we have degraded.”
Wetlands are a natural asset; they regulate climate change impacts by mitigating floods, maintaining biodiversity, storing carbon, and absorbing greenhouse gases. Wetlands provide food, fuel, fibre, medicines, and drinking water (by purifying and recharging groundwater) for people. They also serve as nurseries for many of the fish species that we eat, even those that live in the ocean.
The services that wetlands provide are enjoyed by those who live close to the wetlands, and also people who are far away. Wetlands are also culturally and historically important because they have formed the basis of many cultures and civilizations, including that of Lagos.
Despite their economic value, which would run into billions of dollars if we had to artificially provide the functions they naturally provide, and also their cultural and historical value, wetlands are undervalued. And unfortunately, they are being lost at an alarming rate all around the world, especially in urban centres like Lagos, Nigeria.
And in thinking about this, here are three pieces from around the web, which I think have told the story very well. Do check them out for your weekend learning and enjoyment:
In a 30 minute-long audio documentary published in December last year by Undark Magazine, Maggie Andresen explores how the development of Lagos wetlands disproportionately affects the poor and vulnerable communities which rely on these wetlands for their livelihoods and survival.
And I think this point has also been made by Merlin Uwalaka’s articles on Stears Business. In a 2018 article, Merlin shows the direct economic importance of natural ecosystems for Nigeria’s poor. And because nature is not just the wealth of the poor, in another article, Merlin tells us why valuing Nigeria’s resources will prevent long-term economic (and other) problems for all of us.
In other news,
I’m so excited to let you know that the podcast aspect of this publication launches in a couple of weeks.. The first season will deal with “Roots” i.e. origin stories. We will be finding out about the people who work to promote nature conservation: are they from Mars or Venus where their brains have either been cooked or frozen? Stay tuned for the trailer!
For those who just graduated, or are about to graduate from a biology (zoology, botany, forestry, etc) undergraduate or postgraduate program, and are looking to get into a nature conservation career, here’s good news!
The Tropical Biology Association is accepting applications for their field course. Many young Africans have been launched into conservation careers through this course.
Did you find this newsletter interesting or helpful? Do consider subscribing. While you were reading, did you think of someone else that might find this useful? Why not share it with them?
Thank you for reading. Until next time, stay curious and excited about nature and its value.
PS. I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic. All you have to do is hit reply!