There is a hole in the roof

Climate & Natural resources,Food Security09 Nov 2010Yemi Akinbamijo

I was waiting to see the ‘end of the beginning’ or the ‘beginning of the end’. But I was glad to note that the meeting in the Hague concluded on a very high note and it was more of the former than the latter scenario. There were renewed commitments and strategies for advancing the options open to us to contain the menace of climate change. The commitment of the participants and the demonstration of leadership by the host nation are commendable.

On behalf of two categories of the people whose plight we seek to defend, but were scarcely represented in the forum (the unborn generation and the poor vulnerable folks around the world) who will either swim or sink based on their capacity to withstand the onslaught of climate change, thank you. Thank you all on behalf of these ‘children of the earth’ that were not present physically within the precincts of the World Forum, The Hague, during the recently concluded Global Conference on Agriculture, Food Security and Climate Change.

The legendary Harry Belafonte, in his heyday, wrote the classic song ‘There’s ahole in my bucket’. In this song, he stretched the power of imagination to portraythe scenario of the way and the will. The bottom line is that because of the hole in the bucket, there is a domino effect on the subsequent actions, which eventually require the use of a bucket without a hole. Once the hole is fixed, the other anomalies would also, in principle, be corrected. Inadvertently, where there is a will, there will always be a way.

Over the course of the conference, there was a side event that took its theme from the same song. Drawing from the wisdom of the legendary Belafonte, I have come to the conclusion that the hole in the bucket is a subset of a wider circle. The hole is indeed in the roof! With a leaking roof, you can hardly sleep at ease.

The hole in the roof concept is further informed by the Yoruba (African) proverb: ‘If the roof is leaking, those sleeping on the dry mat should not snore’. In this proverb, there is a lot to draw on in the context of our leaking celestial roof(the perforations of the ozone layer) due to greenhouse gas emissions. The message is that it is only a matter of time before the whole house will be flooded and, as such, those sleeping on the dry ground will be duly awakened to the stark reality of a flooded house in which no one will be able to sleep. In this picture, two options provides a realistic line of action.

  • Keep mopping the floor and soon, trusting on human ingenuity, it should be possible to sleep with one eye and mop the floor with the other eye open (adaptation).
  • Rise up to the occasion, fix the hole in the roof, or take a more radical step and replace the roof outright (mitigation)

Whichever way we choose, there are costs and environmental implications. Not acting is not an option.

In a proverbial sense, the two options of mopping the floor (short-term adaptation measures) or plugging the hole (long-term mitigation strategies) were discussed at length with lessons learned and best practices shared all week. There were also instances of sincere perambulations around the clear direct and realistic options.

Candidly, in some instances, we had chosen to ‘clock around the work’ ratherthan ‘work around the clock’. The feeling in the air was very pungent on the need to put robust strategies in place to address the issue of climate change. A lot however, needs to happen between The Hague (2010) and Hanoi (2012).

A closer look at our situation will reveal that our global hut is leaking badly and fixing the roof or mopping the floor is not the sole responsibility of those sleeping in the wet patch. With the given scenario confronting humanity, this is the time for a concerted effort to fix the hole in the roof!