Every day needs to be World Environment Day...
Excerpts from The World Environment Day celebrations at Egerton University Panel Discussion on Waste Management - Focusing on the Plastic Bag Ban (2nd June, 2017)
As a father, it's our children and our marine life that I worry most about. Certain species of seabirds are facing extinction enmasse from ingesting plastic. Whales are beached ashore more frequently than ever with their guts full of plastic. Meanwhile, it's seeps into the veins of every person in this room all day, every day...
Kula mandazi- plastic Kula chips- plastic Nunua mboga- plastic Kula sausage- plastic
Plastic toxins are entering our food chain at alarming rates. "Direct toxicity from plastics comes from lead, cadmium, and mercury. These toxins have also been found in many fish in the ocean, which is very dangerous for humans. Diethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP) contained in some plastics, is a toxic carcinogen. Other toxins in plastics are directly linked to cancers, birth defects, immune system problems, and childhood developmental issues."
But it's not too late to change. 40 years ago it was perfectly acceptable behavior for a mother with infant still breast-feeding to visit a doctor and both would have cigarettes stuck to their lips. Today, one would be locked up for child abuse if that happened. 20 years ago I sat in my lecture hall much like this one with hundreds of other students in Turkey chain-smoking. And within one generation, the entire world has shifted behavior and attitudes towards smoking.
This is not a new story but this is a story that needs to end so we can get on with solving other problems.
So, we are building a 60 foot dhow entirely from recycled plastic – another world's first for Kenya. And we are going to sail it from Lamu to Cape Town, a 5000km journey across some treacherous water. Why?
Well, why not? A dream? Yes. A dream that can become a reality. 30 years ago Mzee Abdi sitting in Moyale would have never dreamed of receiving cash from his son in Nairobi in a matter of seconds – but now he can. 30 years ago that might have been an impossible dream but with enough passion, drive and technological advancements, M-PESA is as ubiquitous as the plastic bag. What is important in this analogy, is not just the successful delivery of an innovation to meet a social need but the birth of connectivity and social change. Safaricom proved to Kenyans that it's can bring us all together and celebrate the spirit of social responsibility. Many have been inspired to develop new ideas since.
It is in the same spirit of innovation that hopefully, the building of this dhow can do for our environment. If it is possible to build a seaworthy vessel entirely out of taka taka then surely it's possible to reduce and ultimately refuse that next plastic bag.
Kenya, this is our moment. With the imminent ban of plastic bags, we can take the baton from our neighbors in Rwanda on to the next level and show the world that through environmentally conscious innovations, we can address one of the most pressing environmental issues facing the world and continue to prosper through sustainable economic growth.
Dipesh Pabari, The Flipflopi Project