“…we will have to learn to see both the forest and the tree. We will have to learn to connect.”- Peter Druker.
Even as I watched the magnificent sun set along the shores of Lake Victoria while attempting to reflect upon various perspectives which would be left out during many international discussions on climate change, it wasn’t as easy as I had imagined. On my clean sheets of paper, what started as a short analogy, turned to a letter from my future self, to a poem but still ended up being a series of jumbled up incomplete thoughts.
But just for today, I will be that girl with an ambitious dream of clearly painting the plight of humans living in forgotten corners of the world. You see, it is a dream for me because I belong to the statistics of the billions of people living unremarkable lives with years of failure, a lot of rejection and frustration in identifying passions. Here I am, 20, and I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. I have done nothing outstanding in life except trying to make the world a little less stressful than it already is. An everyday person chasing everyday opportunities.
Looking at the fisherman setting off for the fishing night task ahead of him, it reminded me of the plight and opportunities which came with sharing this commodity known as water. This great lake is one of the sources of the longest river on earth which adjoins 11 countries, in the Nile ecosystem. Being a member of the upstream countries, we have had a share of our conflicts with regards to the lake. Fighting over fishing waters. Fighting over the ownership of some islands. In the downstream countries such as Egypt, the conversation has mostly revolved around urging the upstream countries to refrain from over-utilizing the waters because of the great dependency it has on The Nile. It is their main source of fresh water. Ethiopia’s move to construct the mega dam to mitigate the unreliability of their rain-fed agriculture and to supply more Ethiopians with electricity sparked a heated debate and threats. Everybody is trying to make their lives better.
The Nile ecosystem is an interesting one encompassing local riparian communities with different origins. Sub-Saharan Africans to Arabs to the Nubians. In an attempt to understand this ecosystem which has been the root cause of collaboration and conflicts, I set out to interact with the Nubian community living in isolated islands along the Nile in Sudan. I realized the great need they had for that water for drinking purposes and for agriculture. Yet, electricity was in almost every household which promoted the 24-hour economy lifestyle. I wondered if they would survive the dark nights of Migingo island in Lake Victoria. The Nubians have access to clear fishing waters of the Nile. In the upstream, we have to fight the demon of water hyacinth to enable us draw a living out of this ecosystem. Yet, amidst all these confusion, I saw a clear depiction of the struggles faced by humanity. The feeling of uncertainty, yet being in a chase.
But only when we understand each other will we be able to collaborate and have a sane conversation. The unemployed youth. The science experts. The almost half of the un-banked African population who cannot access loans to pursue their dreams. Exceptional minds with bright futures and extraordinary ambitions. Our needs need not be so elusive and natures so complex. We need not quick tangible results to mark progress. When we cultivate our understanding of everyday people with everyday lives, perhaps we will strike a balance between our wants and needs. Maybe we will help each other to take care of our resources and landscapes. We need not to be extra-ordinary for us to influence decisions in which we, as everyday people bear the highest cost.
As I lived with the Nubians, it was clear to me that we are different but all the same. We are all looking for opportunities to rub shoulders with important people so that they can fund our disruptive innovation occurring at local levels. Looking for funding for sustainable ideas and mandates. Naïve attention seeking people tainted with greed and selfishness, purporting to understand the complexities of climate change. We understand the basics of the greenhouse emissions which form a blanket layer over our beautiful earth hence increasing the temperatures. All eyes shift to the industries in our neighbourhoods and it is their fault the climate is changing. It is the governments fault because they could not stop them. Yet we forget about our contribution as everyday people. The search for better living standards persuades us to cut the trees and to plant our crops for this is what supports our livelihoods. We cannot continue to solely rely on the world to help us with our problems, because the world won’t always be around to look out for us. We are not satisfied with the dependency syndrome we depict. Even as we devote the lion’s share of our budgets to combating the global issues as opposed to local needs, it is prudent to aim towards considering the opinions of local people and communities’, those who bear the highest costs of these decisions, in order to achieve ecosystems conservation. Balancing local needs and concerns with regional, national or international priorities by having the preference of making decisions at the lowest level of a social organization where many issues can be effectively managed. Because, at the juncture of environmental sustainability, community development, citizen diplomacy and conflict transformation lies the opportunity to get fresh perspectives, for shaping interconnected global issues which are necessary to navigate a highly connected world. Incorporating everyday people with everyday lives. “The key to greatness is to look for people’s potential and spend time developing it.”