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How sustainable is our world?

How Sustainable is our world?

Did you know that in Ireland, there is a heated debate persuading people to stop eating meat to ensure sustainability of the planet? In one of the lobbying billboards, the proponents of this campaign displayed a picture of a sheep which read: ‘You are not seeing something, but someone’. According to the lobbyists, a sheep is a person, not an animal. Is eating meat a sustainability threat to our world? It looks like a joke but in the misconceived world we live in today I am afraid there can be a law to the effect that you go to jail if you kill a goat or a sheep!

The misconceptions and half-truths concerning the issues of sustainability are everywhere around us. This was the driving factor behind the selection of the topic for the March edition of Philosopher’s Breakfast. Prof. Izael Da Silva, Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research and Innovation), sought to elaborate on a number of issues in this area.

Climate change

The issue of climate change seems to be a huge one which can only be handled at a macro level. Is there a place for contributions by individuals? “Yes,” Prof. Da Silva says. 75% of Kenyans live in rural areas; we all have relatives and family living up-country, most of whom still use kerosene for lighting. Why don’t we start by replacing kerosene with solar lanterns, which have proved to be not only healthy but cost effective? With this, there will be no more indoor pollution and no need to buying fuel daily. Green energy from the sun comes with the extra benefit of being able to charge mobile phones and power the radio.

On a similar note, every time you pass by a dustbin, you find litter scattered all around it. Clearly, this is because people with the noble intention of throwing rubbish in the bin unfortunately miss the target by a whisker. “Why is this not the case with ATM cards around ATM machines?” Prof. Da Silva wonders. It appears that we have not internalized the idea of sustainability in our minds and the harm we are doing to our world by failing to care about the waste that we produce. We all have a role to play and the sooner we pick our fight in this ‘big’ fight, the better we will live.

Population and sustainability

Are we enhancing the sustainability of our planet by reducing the number of our children? Some people have argued that the greatest threat to the earth today is the population bulge. In a light way, westerners want to convince us that the problem of Africa are the Africans… the less the better! Is that the case? Prof. Da Silva disagrees. “Not producing enough is not sustainable,” he says.

In Japan, for every 5 people, one is above 70 years. Most of the European countries are struggling with an aging population, which spells a very bleak future their culture and values. Human beings are the head of planet. Only humans are gifted with innate abilities – freedom, intelligence and will – to provide solutions to the unique problems that we face. We are not the problem; we are created to solve problems. We are better off with the bulge, since it will spark our thinking towards providing innovative solutions to humanity. 

Going green

Is ‘going green’ expensive?  Many companies have raised the issue of the cost and since most companies are fixed on their ‘bottom lines’, going green fails to find favour with them. Is this the case? “If you care for the people and the planet, the profits come in as a natural consequence.” Prof. Da Silva reiterates.

Going green only appears expensive because it involves high initial capital as in the case of installing a solar PV system at a cost equivalent to paying the electricity bill of 5 years in one go. This is soon changing, however, since a number of financial institutions are mulling over the introduction of green line of credit for those willing to introduce such solutions. After installation, one thereafter can enjoy 20 years of free energy.

Companies have all to gain from going green.

Strathmore is an Independent Power Producer (IPP) from its 600kW grid-tie solar system which produces all the power the university needs while selling the excess to Kenya Power and Lighting Company (KPLC). Other universities should consider this as an avenue of contributing to the sustainability of the planet, saving costs and generating extra revenue. By generating its own power, Strathmore University services the loan it took to pay for the installation. After six more years the loan will be fully repaid and the university will enjoy free power for 15 more years.

Forward looking countries like China, having identified this as the future, are aggressively going green. Every half-hour, China installs solar panels equivalent to a football pitch. Green energy is surely the future. A similar story can be told in regards to wind.

My role in sustainability

How is my relationship with others and the planet a factor in sustainability? This is the fundamental question that each of us needs to ask. By design, God created resources to precede man. We come in to a completely stocked world. However, it is our responsibility to discover and determine the optimal use of such resources to leave a better world to our children. Prof. Da Siva argues that it is even more important to leave better children for the future world.

The future is in the past. Centuries ago, the only known sources of energy were the sun and wind. People used both for locomotion and other general needs until other sources of energy were discovered. It is projected that in 2050, the most common source of energy will be the two, the sun and the wind.

“We are the first generation to feel the effect of climate change and the last generation who can do something about it,” said Barack Obama. You too, have a role to play in ensuring the sustainability of our world.

Play it today.


This article was written by Gabriel Dinda and Prof. Izael Da Silva.

If you have a story, kindly email: communications@strathmore.edu


Philosopher’s Breakfast is an initiative of School of Humanities and Social Sciences aiming to create a platform where Philosophy meets reality. To take part in the April’s edition, book through jbranya@strathmore.edu.