Kenya must go green

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On a beautiful day – if I’m lucky – I can clearly see the vastness of Nairobi from my office. And my heart swells with pride as I look below and appreciate that I am in the heart of our city.

On other days however, the smog rising above the buildings and blocking us from fresh air is all that is visible.  In those smog-filled days, it becomes very difficult to echo the words to a famous song whose lines evoke such patriotism by its words ‘…this land is your land, this land is my land…’

Ultimately, I know that there is nowhere else I want to call home. So it becomes imperative that I do something, anything, that preserves the beauty of this land and its ability to nurture itself and its inhabitants.

This is one of the reasons that Capital has launched the Green Generation campaign with the support of the government. We hope that you will join us on Saturday in our quest to plant ten million trees by the year 2010.

In my opinion however, this campaign is a short to medium-term attempt to reverse the effects of our negative actions on the environment. In the long run, we will need to look for sustainable alternatives to our energy demands. For example, our population has been projected to grow to 40 million. This figure could double in the next ten years, by the time we conduct the next census. The demand for energy will continue to rise. Could it be that the trees we are planting today are the same ones these households will use for fuel? In essence, we would be stuck in the same vicious cycle.
 
Now, what if the government promoted the use of alternative renewable energy to replace the demand for wood? Just the other day I watched a story on TV about a teacher who uses bio-fuels to generate power for her home. If this scenario was replicated in other households across the country, it would slow down the deforestation we have experienced. It may give us a chance to rehabilitate some of our water catchment areas and solve our water problems.

But the State has to put in place measures that make it fundamentally cheaper to produce bio-energy so our people don’t resort to using firewood. We know the process is cumbersome and requires technical know-how. My suggestion would be for us to create public-private partnerships that provide free training, financial and technical support to women groups and enable them begin production of bio-gas. In turn, this activity will offer alternative fuel and promote the local economies.

On a larger scale, our government can provide greater incentives than what was allocated in this year’s budget. To show how committed they are to the production of clean energy for example, the U.S. department of energy has just this month awarded $500 million in cash grants to clean energy producing companies, of which the greatest beneficiary are wind farms. Obviously, we do not have such resources but we can translate our will into relative financial commitment.

This incentive kills two birds with one stone; it conserves our environment and at the same time creates jobs and interest in a relatively new sector. 
 
Secondly, I recently read of a local oil and gas company that intends to start a power plant to prevent them from overly relying on KPLC. Herein lies an opportunity that our government can take advantage of.  We are endowed with the natural resources to set up wind farms. If this company has already decided to build their own plant, half the battle is already won. It would take much less to convince them to take the renewable energy route so long as the incentives are worth their troubles.

As with all new concepts whose benefits are not immediate, the idea of promoting the production of renewable energy may take longer to be ingrained in our culture. Nevertheless, it does not absolve us or our government of our duty to promote this alternative. We must look beyond our lifetime and that of our offspring. All the decisions we make, including capitalist ones, must consider the implication of their actions on nature and the environment.

Einstein once said that if we keep doing the same things and keep expecting different results, then we may be considered insane. 

For the sake of our country, let us begin to do things differently. Join us in planting a tree, even in your own homestead, to promote a Green Generation.

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