Last year in New York, 16-year-old climate change activist Greta Thunberg silenced a roomful of global leaders at the UN Climate Action Summit with an impassioned, hard-hitting truth.
“People are suffering, people are dying, entire ecosystems are collapsing,” she told them. “We are at the beginning of a mass extinction. And all you can talk about is fairy tales about money and eternal economic growth. “How dare you!”
The words were delivered in a fashion that only a child, whose future is threatened by lack of commitment and tangible action in saving the earth from the looming catastrophe, can do.
Her speech comes at a time of a global outcry against the wanton destruction of the Amazon, the world’s largest tropical rainforest.
People are speaking out against the environmental degradation as a result of economic development.
Millions of hectares of forests have been cleared, entire rivers turned into industrial waste, oceans filled with plastics and the air polluted by smoke and harmful gases. Our planet is dying, and we are killing it without abandon.
According to the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, environmental degradation is “the reduction of the capacity of the environment to meet social and ecological objectives, and needs”.
In the past century, rapid industrialisation coupled with massive growth in the global human population, has meant one thing: increased abstraction of natural resources.
In our quest for modernity, we create products that not only lead to this reckless consumption of resources that the earth cannot regenerate, but that pollute the environment during their manufacture and at the end of their life cycle.
For a long time, the call to act against environmental degradation has gone unheeded.
Little wonder, then, that Greta and millions of other children are demanding that politicians do more to acknowledge and act upon the reality and severity of climate change. We must act now. And quickly.
Sustainable Development Goal 17 (Partnership for the goals) says the success of the sustainable development agenda requires partnerships between governments, the private sector and civil society at the local, regional and global level.
There is irrefutable evidence on the power of partnerships in accomplishing great feats since time immemorial.
In 1903, brothers Wilbur and Orville Wright developed the three-axis controls that made flying a fixed-wing aircraft possible. They redefined travel.
While governments can, and should, spearhead environmental conservation by formulating and implementing the relevant policies, private sector players must redefine the way we do business by putting sustainability at the heart of our operations and throughout our supply chain.
We must design our products in such a way that they are durable, easy to reuse and recycle and take responsibility for entire life cycle of our goods.
The time is nigh for the circular economy model — based on the principles of designing out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use and regenerating natural systems.
That way, the planet will keep providing for our needs and for those of future generations.
In the words of Greta, in the fight to save our planet, everybody is welcome; everybody is wanted.
Mr Kiniti is the Corporate Relations Director, East African Breweries Limited. [email protected]