All living creatures were created to live from the resources of Mother Earth, a natural process of sustainable utilisation of resources. Since the dawn of civilisation the world has technologically advanced at the expense of future generations.
In Namibia, ecological and bio-diversity matters have become topical, seemingly around the concept of a green economy, renewable energy, recycling, wildlife conservation and tourism. This week World Environment Day was celebrated in Namibia, but it was a lackluster event countrywide. Our leaders rant on about green economy and sustainable utilisation of natural resources, which is just the opposite of what is happening on the ground. The dilemma with the local environmental concept is the double-talk from our leaders and what is expected from the State and the citizenry. The official line on nature, as expressed by our leaders locally and at international forums, and what is prescribed by our supreme law on the environment, is a colossal contradiction.
To start with, environmentalist terminologies are not yet well understood by people in the street, especially when our leaders play God with matters of sustainable utilisation of resources and exploration. The fact is, the 20th century was dominated by petro-dollar and oil wars and it is quite likely that in the 21st century we will be confronted by hydro-dollars and water wars.
Article 95 (l) of our Constitution states that: “The State shall actively promote and maintain the welfare of the people by adopting, inter alia, policies aimed at the maintenance of ecosystems, essential ecological processes and biological diversity of Namibia and utilisation of living natural resources on a sustainable basis for the benefit of all Namibians, both present and future; in particular, the Government shall provide measures against the dumping or recycling of foreign nuclear and toxic waste on Namibian territory.”
The controversial seal-culling has attracted international environmentalists who are threatening to convince the one million tourists coming to Namibia annually to boycott the country. While the Ministry of Environment clearly wants to double the number of tourists visiting Namibia, environmental campaigners are hell-bent to destroy the tourism industry, which could become even worse with the credit crunch affecting the global economy. Whether tourists will heed their call or not is immaterial, but trying to use the xenophobic card about foreigners telling us how to utilise local resources is counter-productive, because Namibia’s independence is also a product of international solidarity. Our Constitution is patently clear about utilising our natural resources for the benefit of the people.
Our leaders, local environmentalists and even marine scientists, are unable to explain whether the culling of 100 000 seals annually is in the best interests of the citizens and the economy as stated in the constitution and environmental bylaws. The fact that the shrinking global seal industry is worth millions of dollars worldwide, in Namibia revenue to government is a mere one million dollars and less than a hundreds permanent employees with no job security. It sounds even comical when seals are blamed for the shortage of fish in the sea when the view is juxtaposed with legal and illegal long-line fishing trawlers, overfishing, pollution and perhaps climate change.
Humans should utilize seals and related products as they have done for centuries, but commercial culling is totally a different ball game of men playing God, especially when it is not of economic value to the citizens, notwithstanding the fact that seals are also preyed on by other land and marine animals.
The most viable comparative economic advantage for Namibia lies in service delivery, communication, agriculture, tourism and wildlife conservation. Mining, as shown on the global market, is not an everlasting venture with prices falling and countries with undiversified economies caught off-guard.
Namibia should walk the talk and stop impressing and appeasing the international community about the green economy and sustainable utilization of natural resources.