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Muekara Monday

Year-Prize: The 12th Eco-generation Environmental Essay Competition     Item: Beat Air Pollution

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Muekara Monday (Nigeria)
Honorable Mentions


It was a hot winterish afternoon at about 3:00pm when the school closing bell rang. After the afternoon assembly, I rushed home with great consciousness about my mother's promise to prepare Pounded Yam with Mushroom Pepper Soup for me once I arrive home from school. At the entrance to my house, I heard my mother's voice from a distance. I became curious and ran to meet her, she was crying, rolling with serious tears oozing out of her eyes.
"Mama, what happen?" I asked with a loud voice. She kept crying, shouting the name of my dad. Immediately, tears rolled down my cheek.
It was the third time we recorded painful demise in my family that very year.
At this point, so many questions ran through my mind which one of them was, "who is killing my people?"
When I got to school a week later, I was all alone and moody, trying to answer the most challenging question life offered me at my tender age. Not too long, my Health Science Tutor called me to her office and started with "Muekara, since you came, you have looked so moody, why?" "I lost my dad last week" I replied. "Ooops! Take heart", she said. She tried to use her Christian background to talk me out but I broke in with a loud voice, saying, "it is the third case of similar death in my family this year. My Uncle died of lung cancer, my 5 months old sister died of breathing ailment, now, because of same respiratory tract disease, my asthmatic dad has gone the same way to mother earth, and all what Laboratory results indicates is the poisonous gases they inhaled. I want to know who poisoned my people", I muttered with misty-eyed.
She took a deep breath, held my hands and said, “your people are not poisoned by anybody, they only suffered from air pollution. When air is polluted with harmful substances or gases such as Carbon(iv)oxide, Sulphur dioxide, etcetera, it causes asthma, lung failure, etcetera. These gases also deplete the Ozone layer which results in ultraviolet reactions; the major reason we experience excessive heats in our body".
She stretched her soft hand to make a light romance on my left shoulder and said, "this rash is an evidence of what I'm talking about".
Immediately, I quietly jerked my hands backwards. She sensed that what she said contradicted with my belief that my people are being poisoned.
"That is why I advocate for Environmental Education to be integrated in Children's school curriculum. It will give the children understanding of what is happening in their environment, the effects and how to prevent it". She continued.
Momentarily, I asked, "so what causes the emission of these harmful substances into the atmosphere?
''We humans are the people polluting the air. From individuals to the governments. The system presents the major sources of these deadly gases as a 'can-not-do-without', which is false. Our economy is built on coal, oil and gas which are the grand emitter of greenhouse gases. The artisanal refinery is a major contender in the emission of these gases. Besides, we are witnessing bush burning at our various farm centers, our transport system is motorcycle or cars which many of them are with dirty exhaust.  All these causes air pollution.
Even at homes, we use generator as source of electricity. We also use kerosene and wood as source of cooking energy which emits these gases. A publication of the World Health Organization (WHO), captioned ''How air pollution destroys our health'' said ''this very home activities killed 4 million people a year''. That is why I continue to warn that every fossil fuel process or machine used is suicidal".
She said all these to me and I drew my legs closer to myself. Then, I asked, "why do people still continue the way they do if it is as deadly as explained"? "Greed and Ignorance", she retorted. "The governments are greedy to forego their unfair share from the oil and gas sector, hence refuse to change the system, and the people are ignorant of the effects of what they do. Especially young people involve in artisanal refineries". She said.
''So how can we beat this big challenge?'' I asked. "The way forward is system change. The government should move our economy from coal, oil and gas. In fact, any government still in the business of commissioning new coal, oil or gas project is a murderer seeking for your next family member's blood to suck". She emphasized.
I revoked immediately, yelling "God forbid!" Then she smiled and said, "you have to take action". "I'm not the government, what can I do?" I asked.
"It is our collective responsibility to create awareness in order to defeat ignorance. Then as for greed, join the campaign for system change, demanding a quick transition from fossil fuel to 100% renewable energy.
You can also kick the governments and companies responsible for pollution out of business by cutting down on, or totally refusing goods that cause pollution. You start by avoiding the use of disposable cups and plates, stop or minimize patronizing taxis and motorcycles and use bicycle". She said. "But taxi makes me come to school early", I cut in. "Yes", she said. "Coming to school is to be educated right?"  I nodded in agreement. "Listen, education prepares you for tomorrow but clean environment assures you of your tomorrow. Come on, take action to secure your future, you can start planting trees in schools, churches, homes and on the street. As for me, from now onward your school exams and certificates will all be electronic, no more print!"
At this point, the school closing bell rang, she stood, while I remained seated. She knew I wanted more and said, ''if you want to know more about your environment and to join a network of young people taking actions, join Tunza Eco Generation''.


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