*POVERTY, ECOCIDE AND ENVIRONMENTAL DEGRADATION; A THREAT TO OUR COMMON HOME*


Social inequalities generated by property owning democracy policies by Akufo Addo-Bawumia Government have kept large segments of the population in Ghana in poverty. Indeed, impoverishment is one of the main contributors to ecocide and environmental degradation in Ghana.

In this paper, I will attempt to throw light on poverty as a fundamental pivot to ecocide and environmental degradation as a threat to our common home.

First, poverty is a multidimensional and complex phenomenon which is why there are many definition and ways of measuring it.

Traditionally, poverty has been defined as material deprivation, as measured by income of consumption of the individual or family. When we talk about extreme poverty, we refer to it as the lack of income to meet basic food needs.

Secondly, environmental degradation is a process through which the natural environment is compromised in some way, reducing biological diversity and the general health of the environment. This process can be entirely natural in origin, or it can be accelerated or caused by human activities.

Many international organizations recognize environmental degradation as one of the major threats facing the planet, since humans have only been given one earth to work with, and if the environment becomes irreparably compromised, it could mean the end of our ‘common home’.

Today in Ghana (2023), around 2.99 million people lived in extreme poverty, the majority in rural areas. The count of people living on less than 1.90 U.S. dollars a day in rural regions reached around 2.8 million, while 214,000 extremely poor people were located in urban areas.

The poor are usually blamed for causing environmental degradation, but they are as well victims when it comes to balancing the costs and benefits of major development projects.
Most poor Ghanaians live in impoverished and degraded environment. They either create or enhance environmental degradation because their poverty forces them to do so.

According to Piers Blaikie (1985); “small producers cause soil erosion because they are poor, and in turn soil erosion exacerbates that condition. A set of socio – economic relations called underdevelopment is at the centre of this poverty”. It is known as “desperate ecocide”.

Poverty and environmental degradation often form a trap as the poor cannot stop causing the degradation and have no opportunity to move elsewhere. Example, Kyebi, Kibi, Oda, Ofoase-Ayirebi, Osino, New Abirem areas of ‘galamsey’ zones in the Eastern Region.

Without jobs and without productive land, poor people are forced on to marginal lands in search of subsistence food production, firewood, and ‘galamsey’ or they move to the cities. Those who stay on the land are forced to graze livestock herds in places where vegetation is sparse or soil and shrubs are easily damaged, and to create agricultural plots on arid or semi-arid lands. In the forest of Eastern Region, and ecologically sensitive areas of the country, more and more people exploit open access resources in a desperate struggle to provide for themselves and their families.

The toll on natural resources takes many forms – soil erosion, loss of soil fertility, desertification, depleted game and fish stocks, massive loss of species and their natural habitats, depletion of groundwater resources, and pollution of rivers and other bodies of water. As a result, the carrying capacity of land and its biological resources are being reduced. This degradation further exacerbates poverty and threatens not only the economic prospects of future generations but also the livelihood, health, and well-being of current populations.

The continuous exploitation of the potentials of environment emanating from poverty and ecocide poses environmental threats to human health. People experience the environment in which they live as a combination of physical, chemical, biological, social, cultural, and economic conditions that differ according to local geography, infrastructure, season, time of day, and activity undertaken.

As noted by May, J (1954), ….. “From the waters the people get their food, also their cholera, their dysenteries, their typhoid fevers, their malaria; from the earth they get their hookworm, from the crowded villages they get their tuberculosis and their yaws, from the type of housing they have been forced to adopt they get their plague and typhus; and the food which the earth, temperature, and rain produce, their protein deficiencies, their beri beri”. This explains the threats environmental degradation is brought on human health.

In the case of Ghana, environmental health threats is traditional hazards. Poverty and insufficient development is at the core and this has been difficult for government to understand.

The current Political leadership is failing the future generations of this country (Ghana) where now it is seen the President has vetoed ‘galamsey’ in favour of his party rather than protecting it from degrading, then, we are in ‘swecide mission’ to destroy our ‘common home’.

Government must investment in people’s health as a prerequisites for sustainable development as captured in 1992 Rio Declaration and Agenda 21 adopted by World leaders noted in Principle 1….”Human beings are at the centre of concerns for sustainable development. They are entitled to a heathy and productive life in harmony with nature”.

It is a called on President Nana Akufo Addo to put Ghanaians first before activities of ‘galamsey’, that put a threat on human health. The path is sustainable development where future generations are not co compromised.

Charles Quao
– Cardinal –
(TROBU Constituency).

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