The Broken Grid 1: A Nigerian fossil fuel love story

Part 1

Image Source: Financial times

It’s a chilled Friday night and I’m binging on my favourite TV show which talks about political reforms that are needed in my country ( p.s. the reforms hardly ever happen 🙂 ). All of a sudden, there’s a blackout and the TV and lights go off, my living room turns into an abyss of darkness. I manage to locate my phone and turn the flashlight on. Hurriedly, I step out of the door to the backyard to switch on the generator, luckily I do not have to pull as the generators nowadays come with a starter which is much easier than using the recoil pull.

This is the reality of millions of Nigerians, including the Ogas at the top that have failed to fix the erratic power supply, but oh they do not have to turn the generator by themselves, they have maigadi’s to do that for them. So here we are today, a so called sane nation with power outages every now and then, a country where the soothing Beethoven-like sounds of backup generators will make your eardrums pulsate, where beautiful exhaust fumes fill the air creating an artistic masterpiece of soot in the sky.

On some nights where you decide not to turn it on because you are low on dirty petrol/diesel or you are just plain broke, you’ll have to decide sacrificing your body to mosquitoes, because I assure you they will have a good barbecue that night. Bon appétit to Mr. Mosquito because Kentucky Fried Human-Blood (KFH) never tasted better. On other nights, the heat due to the weather will make you think of life deeply, I’m sure you can relate and if you can’t, the electricity supply in your country is stable.

This is just the beginning, of a love story between humans, electricity, fuel emissions, health and our environment. A story of hardship, pain, love and greed and I will share with you more parts to my story.

By Salim Ubale

Plastic: A tragic story

I came across the picture above some weeks back and saved it. I immediately decided to write something about it because i knew what it meant. This a seabird, It’s dead. why? Due to human activities on this planet that we overlook, It’s no surprise that 80 million tonnes of watse in US, every year, comes from plastic food packaging. That’s just the US, the world statistics is even more shocking. This is something we take for granted and is one of the leading causes of death not only in birds but also in sea organisms and has a direct effect on humans as well. 

And what is that?
PLASTIC!

A study shows that there are more than 5 trillion pieces of plastic afloat in our oceans worldwide. According to National Geographic, 8 million tons of plastic is dumped in the ocean each year. That’s plastic the size of 14 thousand Airbuses. Fascinating isn’t it?
You don’t have to be a biologist or a scientist but these facts are enough to make you concerned if you truly care about this planet. According to The Guardian, by the year 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean unless the industry cleans up its acts.

Plastic thrown anyway in Continent A can be found in Continent B due to ocean currents diverting the trash around ocean surfaces.
Plastic isn’t biodegradable, it does not breakdown, it is toxic and poisonous and if you’re like me and consume sea food often, there’s no doubt about it that you are consuming plastic.

You may be thinking, how is that even possible?

Let me break down for you, When you buy a bottle of water and sulk the water down your throat, you feel hydrated and more energetic to carry out your daily tasks, what happens to the bottle?, it goes into the bin and the waste man collects the bottle including so many other plastic wastes. All the refuses are dumped at your districts’ waste point but they can’t be there forever. So what happens? they get transferred to the ocean. Yes! they get dumped in the middle of ocean and as you may know a large number of plastic still used today isn’t biodegradable so it’s left out in the ocean and after a period of time the sun’s UV light, salt and ocean wave action breaks it down to smaller particles called microplastics.

Microplastics have rough, pitted surfaces. Waterborne chemicals from industry and agriculture stick to microplastics, making them toxic poison pills. Plankton feed heavily on microplastics because they look like their food.
Don’t want to go into so much detail about our food chain but by mere studying it, larger aquatic organisms such as fish and whales feed on plankton together with the microplastics and its toxicity.

Humans on the other hand feed on fish and other marine creatures together with its plastic and toxicity. So when fish eat plastics that are free floating in the ocean, the toxins in the plastic migrate to muscles and fats and other parts that we like to eat in fish. And voilá, that’s how you eat plastic and all the infections it comes with.

Also, a majority of plastics have estrogenic activity, which happens when a chemical like Bisphenol A (BPA) or phthalate leaches from plastic and enters the body where it mimics the hormone estrogen. And it’s not just plastics too, cosmetics, papers and silicones have these too. This implies that as you’re drinking water from a plastic bottle you’re also taking in these chemicals.

Burning plastic is as bad too. Phthalates are chemicals used to make plastic more flexible and durable and they are toxic. If you breathe them, they have hormone changing properties as well as other health effects that affect our lungs and cause cancer.

So just remember that when you throw a bottle away, it doesn’t go away. It goes somewhere on this planet and indirectly causes harm to us humans and other living organisms. Try to reuse, recycle and inform people about this. Purchase recyclable products and minimise your daily use of disposable plastic or rather use better and safer environmentally friendly alternatives. Make a difference and encourage our younger generations to care about this planet. After all we have no where else to go.

Our governments should implement changes and be like Rwanda, which is one of the very few countries that has banned plastic bags. Sweden is such a badass country that it imports waste to recycle because they have run out of it and they use it to produce bio fuel/gas. This means less emissions and cleaner air. Mhmm I can already smell the freshness. If that isn’t revolutionary to you then have a cup of decaf, eww, like seriously who takes decaf. Anyway, this has greatly reduced the amount of wastes from plastic and is making the world a better, safer and greener place.

If you haven’t, please spare a few hours and watch the documentary “A Plastic Ocean”. The documentary, amongst other things, inspired this writing.

Thank you.

References
1. Documentary: A Plastic Ocean
2. plastic-pollution.org
3. The Guardian Newspaper
4. National Geographic