Post 4 Gabon: International Environmentalism and Environmentalism in Gabon

As global temperatures continue to rise globally, the repercussions can be felt worldwide. Climates are changing which has a multitude of effects, including an influx in natural disasters, drought, and in more extreme cases people to lose their homes. Actions taken by individuals, such as recycling and being aware of individual resource consumption, is a good first step to addressing this issue, but to fix widespread environmental issues like global warming goes beyond actions on an individual level. Large corporations are a big source of blame and governments need to be stricter with regulating corporate activities to implement more sustainable practices like targeting emissions output, resource extraction and or consumption, and methods of discarding waste, although only doing this at a national level still would not be enough. If another country is emitting an exuberant amount of chemicals, that affects the spaces of other countries because not only can these chemicals carry over and decrease the air quality and can pollute water sources in neighboring countries, this also degrades the health of the atmosphere which greatly impacts global warming. International cooperation is required to address the issue of a planet in peril.

World leaders met in Vietnam for an environmental summit that was hosted by the Global Environmental Facility where leaders renewed commitments to addressing environmental problems like loss in biodiversity, climate change, and sustainability[1]. The Paris Agreement is arguably one of the most important international meetings regarding the environment to take place within the past several years. The agreement took place in December of 2015 which called for major international cooperation. A few major components of the agreement included a long-term temperature goal of keeping the global temperature from rising another 2 degrees Celsius, and that global peaking, when countries emissions begin to decrease from what they were prior to the agreement, needs to occur as soon as possible, giving developing countries more leniency. The agreement also requires that member countries put more effort into conserving and enhancing carbon sinks and reservoirs as this will further protect the atmosphere from access carbon because carbon sinks serve as a natural system to contain carbon[2]. It also stated that member countries need to make efforts to create “clean, climate-resilient futures” through the innovation of technology and financing, as well as encouraging capacity-building support, which is an investment in the effectiveness and future sustainability of a nonprofit organization [3]. The agreement also calls for the implementation of climate change education, training, public awareness, public participation, and public access to information[4].

In a way, there is a consensus among a majority of global leaders that climate change is a serious issue that needs to be addressed and have similar ways in taking action, although this isn’t applicable to all. The United States, in particular, stands out from the majority as it is falling behind environmentally.

For example, China and the United States emit the most carbon internationally, and China emits more carbon than any other country in the world, making up about 25.9% of global emissions[5]. Despite this, China has rigorously worked toward increasing sustainability by using more renewable sources of energy as well as targeting the automotive industry to be more eco-friendly[6] while the United States appears to be doing the opposite as more money is being funneled into the coal industry and the US government continues to strip funding to environmental programs such as the EPA. In addition to that, the US also pulled out of the Paris Agreement, in which it is one of the three only countries who are not part of the agreement. The United States has also fallen behind the sustainable development goals set by the United Nations[7]

Green is on par, yellow is in caution, red is failing;

Some world leaders are very proactive in tackling global environmental concerns. Former United States President Barack Obama is a good example, as he is very vocal about the importance of climate change and claims that it is one of the biggest problems facing future generations[8]. Some of his efforts to preserve marine life includes his approval of the creation of the largest marine reserve in the world which expanded the Pacific Islands Marine National Monument to enclose more than 490,000 square miles, as well as his ban of the usage of microbeads in toiletries, which when discarded into water-ways eventually end up in our oceans and are consumed by fish. Obama also raised fuel efficiency standards in the United States as the US government made agreements with thirteen major automotive companies to increase fuel economy from 29.7 miles per gallon to 54.4 miles per gallon by 2025, and the goal of this is to reduce oil consumption as well as to reduce pollution. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is also very proactive on the environmental stage, and primarily focuses her efforts on pushing international climate agreements, earning her the nickname “climate chancellor”[9]. Some examples include her call for G7 countries to pledge for decarbonization as well as consistently bringing attention to the importance of cutting back emissions globally.

Gabon is also taking a more active role in addressing environmental concerns and aims its focus within its own borders, primarily centering its attention on deforestation, biodiversity preservation, and pollution.

Roughly 84% of Gabon is forested, which is about 21,775,000 hectares, or 68,633,519 acres, and is losing about .05% of this forest cover annually[10]. Using the base formula p(1+r/n)^nt and altering that formula to reflect a percentage reduction over time, I’ll use the equation 21,775,000(.995)¹⁰ to show a reduction of .05% of forest cover over a ten year period. After ten years, the total amount of forest cover would be 20,710,423.09 hectares, or 51,176,569.98 acres, resulting in a considerable loss of over 1,064,577 hectares or 2,630,627 acres of forest cover. Timber is Gabon’s second largest export after oil in which a majority of the loss of forest cover is due to logging and a large portion of this timber is exported to China[11]. With such a large percentage of land being covered in forests, Gabon has been referred to as “a Noah’s ark for biodiversity”[12], but as more of Gabon’s rainforests disappear the concern for wildlife preservation grows as Gabon currently has 173 species that are on the endangered list[13]. This has prompted the creation of more nature preserves and distribution of funds toward sustainable forest management.

Pollution is also a big concern in Gabon as the air and water quality leaves more to be desired. Gabon has a pollution index of 80.32[14], and to compare the United States has an index of 32.26[15]. Air quality is typically measured by how much PM, or particulate matter, is present in the air.

There are two main types of PM, that being PM10 and PM2.5, which are two categorizations based on their width in microns[16]. PM2.5 has substantial health hazards after too much exposure because these particles can be inhaled more deeply into the respiratory tract which can lead to the impaired function of cardiovascular and respiratory systems[17]. Exposure can be measured in micrograms per cubic meter, in which as of 2015 Gabon measured at 39.86 micrograms per cubic meter and in comparison the United States measured at 8.44 micrograms per cubic meter[18], meaning that the average Gabonese citizen’s rate of exposure is very hazardous. Most of the 2.5 particulate matter is due to air pollution as the particles commonly include combustion particles, organic compounds, metals, and other harmful matter. Water quality is also very lacking in Gabon. Urban areas have a higher sanitation rate of water at 43% while rural areas have 32%[19], and this is comparatively low to the United States which has a national water sanitization rate of 89.49%[20]. This disparity in access to sanitized water can be attributed to poor rainwater and wastewater networks as well as poor management of waste and sewage. This severely impacts the health of citizens as many people contract a variety of diseases like schistosomiasis, hepatitis A, typhoid fever, etcetera[21]. In related news, Gabon has recently accused the French company Veolia, who manages water, waste, and electricity, of causing “widespread pollution”, in which multiple complaints were submitted by the public for pollution of soil, lakes, and rivers[22].

Multiple Environmental organizations are working in Gabon to help aid environmental concerns. The Nature Conservancy works in Gabon to “help protect Gabon’s freshwater wealth so that nature, economies, and people can thrive”[23]. Some of their recent projects include environmental scientists offering advising for conservation decisions and further development,

as well as implementing hydropower plants that supply a more sustainable source of energy. The World Wildlife Fund, or WWF, is also active in Gabon as they work to combat environmental degradation in African countries[24]. WWF collaborates with the Gabonese government as well as communities to implement more sustainable land use, create more protected areas, and devise more eco-friendly resource extraction practices. Access Initiative is another organization that is aiding Gabon, but not in a way that most expect. In undergoing the process to address some of Gabon’s environmental issues and to maintain progress, it is important that Gabonese people stay informed and politically and environmentally active, and to do this it is essential that common people are able to access necessary information. This access to knowledge and the ability to participate in decision-making processes regarding the environment is referred to as environmental democracy. Gabonese citizens have a right to access environmental information, however, the Gabonese government does not make information “proactively available”, or in other words, does not make information readily available which makes it more difficult for common citizens to access said information[25]. The environmental democracy index measures to what extent countries have put forth policies that dispense environmental information as well as public participation in decision making processes and also measures the affordability and fairness to individuals when seeking environmental justice[26]. A ranking of three indicates a country shows adequate practices, while a score of one or below indicates that a country is not adhering to the practices of these rights. Gabon’s index score is .91[27], and this is largely due to the lack of participation of the public which can be explained by how the government releases information as it takes advantage of the fact that it is not legally obligated to make information “proactively available”, which impedes the public’s ability to participate in decision-making processes because they don’t have the necessary knowledge to make well-informed decisions. Access Initiative supports 60 countries including Gabon by promoting environmental democracy so that citizens can be aware of the accessibility in their county to then become more active. By utilizing this knowledge, the people of Gabon can take a step forward towards improving the environmental conditions surrounding them.































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