Shell + Economist = Prize

Shell and The Economist are awarding $US 20,000 to the writer of the best essay on the topic “Do we need nature?”


austin imhonlele's picture
austin imhonlele on August 22, 2003 - 16:40 Permalink


If nature is generally defined as plants, animals and things that exist in the universe that are not made by man, It therefore means that everything and the human nature comes from God.
&#8220The earth belongs to God! Everything in all the world is His! His is the one who pushed the oceans back to let dry land appear&#8221
Without human intellectual nature no meaningful economic and technological development can be achieved in any economy.
Our life-support systems, health, is maintained by all the species that make-up the biosphere from the smallest to the largest. The survivals of all these species are interconnected and dependent on each other.
Bacteria and insects break down organic materials to produce soil and nutrients and so plants can grow. Plants provide oxygen and food for animals and many other benefits. Bees, other insects and animals pollinate the plants and so they can reproduce and keep the cycle going. They also maintain the health of plants and speed their seeds.
The actual processes that take place between species and the environment are extremely complex and vulnerable. If humanity causes the extinction of one species, it&#8217s really the extinction of many species and the decline of our life support system for future generations.
Biodiversity provides problem-solving raw materials for shelter and useful products, medicines, and allows us to pollinate and maintain healthy crops from being infested by insects ad diseases without the need or hazards of chemicals.
God&#8217s gift must not be taken for granted it must be cared for, if not, humanity will face the grim consequences of the action.
Since God has given us the knowledge and wisdom to be creative and innovative, energy technologies, which have been refined by man from the numerous gifts given to man by God, need to be developed for each specific environment.
However, developing countries cannot afford to be dependent on technology transfer and foreign supply to sustain their technological progress.
Thus, any proposed energy technology needs to be researched not only into its technical applications, but just as importantly, into the cultural, political, economic and environmental context of its operations.
It would appear that being part of a specific regional culture, and understanding a specific environment, as well as the needs and desires of a specific group within a region, would place the planners and engineers of a regional innovation system in a better position to design a system tailored for the specific needs of the region.
For this system of innovation to be established or achieved a developing country like Nigeria for instance, it is very imperative to consider the notion that o invest into technology transfer without considering the local context is more likely to result into failure.
That is why it can be argued that systems of innovation, in order to ensure success, have to be compatible with local sources of knowledge. In other words, it is far easier for outside investors to inject capital into a renewable energy project, than it is to adapt the technological innovation to the local context, that is local expectations and conditions. Without the technological infrastructure in place, suitable to natural and local conditions, the capacity for innovation will be reduced and as a result, the risks and the cost of innovations are going to be far greater.
Community participation is an important aspect of local innovation systems. Grass root involvement in the implementation of transferred or locally developed technology is a very significant element of the process. Even in the case of failure, the community would have gone through an active process of learning.
For a system of innovation to be effective, a link between government, academia, industry and the people needs to be established. It is good to bear these fact in mind, that without a government policy to stimulate innovation, national, supra-national and local innovation systems will definitely find it difficult to be effective. However, without scientific research, technological innovation is unable to grow. Also, without industry, providing the infrastructure and a proportion of the capital, innovation cannot take place.
In addition, without on one hand consulting with, and on the other, educating the people, technological innovation will be unsuccessful.
In an ideal situation, government policy on innovation and localized systems of innovation would work in union to remove barriers and promote the transformation of technological and scientific advances into better economic performance and improved living conditions.
Apart from policy measures that would promote introduction of technologies based on individual renewable energy source, there is also the need to adopt an integrated approach to sustainable energy development. Other policy measures like solar energy, biomass, wind energy and hydro-power need to be adopted as &#8220the thrust of the policy on solar energy should be encompass solar energy devices into as many spheres of the economy as possible.
The strategy for this includes continuous active support for research and development activities to cater for site specificity of designs for all parts of the country.
Another way to achieve this is the demonstration of pilot projects to generate public awareness on the potentials of soar energy technologies and to provide financial incentives to encourage the use of solar energy systems, particularly in the rural areas where the greatest potentials exists. Also is the introduction of regulatory measures to encourage and protect local capabilities.
These policies should also be applied to biomass, and reduction of wood consumption as fuel, should be emphasized. This could be achieved by the adoption of efficient wood-burning, stoves, systematic cultivation of fast growing trees needed to facilitate the regeneration of forests. The alternative technologies to supplement wood both as domestic energy source and also as a building or furniture materials.
The introduction of biogas digesters to cater for cooking energy needs of households and institutions would also contribute to effective reduction of wood consumptions.
If the same policy and strategies were applied to wind energy and emphasis was placed on exploitation of wind energy, for rural water supply and electricity generation, Nigeria would successfully meet its energy demands.
Nigeria and other developing countries will also have to manage its water resources for the development of its hydro-electric potentials and for other uses.
Additional strategy is to include the intimating and updating of data on the potentials of small -scale hydro-plants and the preparation of inventories for their locations.
To resolve the energy problems for developing countries, it will require the promotion of rational and efficient energy use among the populace, guarantee energy security for the rural populace, creating an enabling sector, integration of environmental considerations into energy development plans, and the strengthening of technical capacities in the energy sector by offering of specialized training and development of sound technical education in the educational system and ensuring that the available pool of human resources are given opportunities to &#8220learn-by-doing&#8221.
Insrengthening research, development and demonstration activities in the sector would also boost technical capacity.
There is need to simplify the technologies and ease maintainace as well as their environmental friendliness over fossil fuel system.
There is also the need to practically encourage the adoption of more efficient energy and use devices. This, along with the adoption of environmental impact assessment will ensure more sustainable national development.
For the developing nations also to come-up with an optimum energy mix which would cover all sectors of the economy, research, development, demonstration and diffusion activities in existing research centers and institutions must be given more support.
Apparently the goal of increased use of sustainable energy systems and practices can only be realized with strengthened energy institutions. Organizations or offices at state and local government levels, that will ensure full implementation of projects and programmes of the snappy commission of the country, must be identified.
It is also quiet necessary to know that for a stronger economy in Nigeria and many other developing countries in the world to be achieved there is need to consider the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) as a vital plank in the realization of economic growth.
To realize this, there should be a decisive and determined switch from heavy capital intensive, large- scale industrial projects to small-scale industries with immense potentials for rapid, sustainable industrial development. This will boost the potentials for ensuring a self-reliant and raw materials.
SMEs if implemented can also increase empowerment rate, guarantee a more even distribution of industrial development in any of the developing country, including rural areas and jump-start the process of growth of non-oil exports.
The role of SMEs in the economic growth and development of any nation can be critical. SMEs are recognized worldwide as the catalytic engine of economic growth and transformation as most developed countries like United States of America, Britain and Canada have linked their industrialization process to the development of SMEs.It helped the United States of America to transit from an industrial to information technology driven economy. The Asian Tigers Taiwan, Indonesia, Hong Kong, South Korea and Malaysia anchor their rural development process and hasten the quality of life their people to the SMEs facilitated the creation of about 95 percent of the total national wealth in China and 70 percent of jobs in the European Union (EU). It is also important to note that 99.9 percent of the 15.7 million businesses are in the SMEs sector .
In the United States of America the role of SMEs in the economy evolved over time while in Eastern Europe, it emerged as a result of privatization and the break-up of large state owned enterprises and the creation of small firms due to market liberalization process.
Likewise the emergence of SMEs in some other countries is similar to what happened in the Eastern Europe.
If the SMEs policy is solidly implemented and allowed to dominate the informal sector of any developing country like Nigeria they will constitute a sizeable component of the private sector should strive to promote the SMEs and sustain them in their national interest to derive benefits of economic growth and development.
The flexibility and adaptability of SMEs to changes and challenges of the Nigerian economy coupled with the fact that they are predominantly privately owned, makes the SMEs a major sector for sustainable growth and empowerment generation opportunities more than the large firms and they can account for up to 90 percent of employment in most economies of the world. Besides, the labour intensive nature of most SMEs, it enhances their relevance, given the relative shortage of capital in the developing countries for businesses. This will account for their concentration in primary activities such as commerce, peasant farming and artisanship where we must note a lot of secondary employment will be generated for the growing ranks of the unemployed.
The sector if well implemented in any developing economy will form the backbone of the market economy and transition in long-term.
Studies have shown that SMEs engineer the transition of economies (like the case of the USA) from agricultural into industrial while facilitating industrial restructuring (e.g. in Europe) and thus generate drastic growth and development e.g.(the Asian Tigers).
Besides, the ease of entry into the SMEs sector aids the disposal and diversifications of economic activities between and within localities. As they are ubiquitous and can emerge in any line of business to fill identifiable gaps in consumers&#8217 needs the serve to provide economic flexibility and injection of dynamism into the national economy. Also, SMEs provide ample opportunities for the expression of latent entrepreneurial traits as evident in some present-day indigenous giants which at inception operated as small entrepreneurial firms.
The labour intensive nature of SMEs reduces their reliance on complex equipment and infrastructure and thus development of such areas. It contributes therefore to the spirit of sufficient and self-reliance in people in the rural sector. This to a large extent reduces rural-urban migration.
Most SMEs are usually started with the entrepreneur&#8217s personal savings without any form of institutional help. Thus, financial resources that would have been otherwise used for some unproductive purpose and consumption are deployed into useful productive ventures for the overall growth of the economy .It thus fosters the development of the savings culture which is vital for the enhancement of inventions in the economy.
Unlike large firms, SMEs use mostly local available resources in their production process. The sometimes recycle already used products into useful raw materials that can be used in the production of goods and services.
An important role SMEs play is the check on large firms from becoming monopolies.
It is also the case that SMEs provide complementary services to those of large firms.
Many large firms depend mainly on SMEs for raw materials and other intermediate inputs in their production process.
It is obvious that large firms can hardly exists without the restructuring of large firms by streamlining manufacturing complexes into units with no direct linkages to their primary activity. Consequently, they form intermediary between large firms and consumers.
Apparently, the SMEs are known to be more efficient in meeting customers&#8217 demand and to satisfy them more effectively than large firms because of their flexibility and adaptability to the local environment given better knowledge of the needs of the people. They also adapt frequently and easily to changes in the economy faster than large firms. The flexible nature of the business makes it easy to adopt and attract new and domestic technologies and skills for national development.
It is quiet clear that the value of nature is infinite. We can not survive without it. Creating natural wealth contributes to human welfare by meeting a wide spectrum of human needs ranging from very tangible subsistence to highly intangible psychological needs. Nigeria can depend on natural ecosystems for providing many valued resources and services. Like it is in other developed countries (like Canada).
Understanding the interdependence of human and nature, can help guide policies for sustainable development in ensuring the preservation of nature, ecosystem health, and human welfare. However, the value of goods and services that nature provides to people is not fully reflected in commercial markets or adequately quantified in terms comparable with produced assets. A consequence of this is that natural wealth in often given too little weight in policy decision, recently in potential harm to current and future human welfare.
From the foregoing indices of economic growth and development, it is apparent that. Every nation strives after socio-economic growth and development in the modern sense but, despite the fact that some of the developing countries like Nigeria is blessed with human and natural resources it is still not able to implement policies to explore its diverse natural resources for economic growth. And still very low on the ladder of socio-economic growth and development.
Nigeria and most other developing countries where the bulk of the population remain entrapped in conditions of deprivation of human decency. This assertion is buttressed by the united Nation Development programme (UNDP) report published on July 24, 2002 which ranked Nigeria as the 26th poorest country in the world in its 2002 &#8220Human Development Report&#8221 The report of (UNDP) is not surprising because with Nigeria&#8217s numerous natural resources it still wallow in Virtually all the known characteristics of under-development.
It is therefore imperative to demand a stable but flexible social and political framework which is conducive to development and which is capable of accommodating and even encouraging rapid structural change.
Unless local attitudes and institutional conditions exist which are amenable to structural change and without holding back the growth promoting groups in society, as well as providing opportunities for wider segments of the population to participate in the fruits of economic progress, efforts to stimulate growth and development through narrowly conceived economic polices are likely to fail.
Africa countries lag behind in growth and development, due largely to the inflexibility of their social and political institutions and the reactionary power of certain vested interest groups.
Economic security, good governance, and a better dialogue with civil society to build a social consensus for reforms should be the key concerns of African policy makers in the future.
In addition to implement sound macro-economic policies and bold structural reforms.
An African — renaissance appears to be unfolding.
Most countries, through most of their years of independence, have been ruled by autocratic leaders &#8220autocratic&#8221 because whether enlightened or not, they stood above the law.
Today, the rule of law is asserting it self-more than ever before.
Africans are demanding accountability and honesty from their leaders, freedom from repressive governance, and the right to participate in influencing and formulating public policy.
&#8220Man is here on earth to extend the work that God began and has already predetermined.
The earth and everything in it belong to him, and I must reasonably conclude that he would not tolerate any sustained attempt of man to have dominion (in God&#8217s domain!) except in accordance with godly standards and values&#8221

JULIET R TATUM's picture
JULIET R TATUM on December 2, 2004 - 01:35 Permalink