Mega-cities and public health, the case of Lagos, Nigeria
Inhabited by highly adaptable and clever migrants searching for a better life, the culture of Lagos is pure hustle and bustle. Above center is an obviously compact but sprawling market that is, as I understand it, straddling an active train track (just to the right). To the left, we see miles of packed traffic and parked vehicles. As a reminder, adaptation is physical thing that people do, and has nothing to do with Al Gorian carbon reduction. What do I mean? Slapping solar panels on these tin roofs will do nothing to help deal with a massive flood. One is about conserving energy, the other is about real people and changes to a physical system. Giving away free bikes to lower emissions has nothing to do with helping people deal with the vicious malarial and cholera outbreaks that are expected to occur in higher frequency during hotter months. There is a disconnect between the two. One is a philosophy that is global. The other is about direct help to real people in high risk areas. Apologies to belabor my point, but I want to be clear that reducing the amount fuel people use for cooking will not in any way lower the risk of drought that are expected to occur here with a changing climate. Can you see the difference between carbon reduction and adaptation?
My issue is that we are spending way too much time and money on schemes like cap-and-trade and random wind farms, and far too little in helping people that are easily helped. Granted, one is long term and worthy - you really can’t argue with trying to “save the planet.” But, at what cost? I argue it’s at the cost of the geo-economic-tribal classes of places like Lagos.
(SIDE BAR: I do want to note that there are overlapping nuances with carbon reduction projects and adaptation projects in places like Lagos. Stopping clear cutting of rain-forests for wood fuel straddles the line between the two. It both lowers emissions and protects human habitats from flooding and localized drought. I just want to make it clear that there is a distinction between the two, and sometimes one project will have added benefits. It can get confusing when reading about climate change projects. For a good example of this, click here. Note the author interchanges helping people directly and scaling those projects up to address emissions reduction. I disagree with the way the author ties helping people live healthier lives to the Al Gorian CO2 psychology. Why? Because non-profits have been doing these types of humanitarian projects for decades without attaching “climate change” to their reasoning. I digress.)
Lagos is an old port city with standard suburbs and a financial district. Here she is on google maps. It’s on the west coast of Africa nestled just between Gahna, Togo and Cameroon. Ruled by the Portuguese for slave and ivory trade from the 1500s to until 1807 when Britain took over, banned slavery and recreated the port city for agricultural trade. Clearly from the relationships shown on the map you can envision the economic trade connections to Brazil and South America. Now independent, it’s main source of income is, of all products, oil. For more background, skim the UN’s brief profile here. Read on for more on the climate impacts such as floods, storms, sea level rise, and diseases that especially impact women.
Above, Doctors without Borders builds a floating hospital. With increased flooding and sea level rise, it these are the types physical projects that we really need to be focusing on. Again, with the increases in, say, malarial outbreaks, the need for direct action in the form of medicine and physical spaces to treat patients is a completely separate argument for solar panels. I side with the doctors…
For a short take on adaptation projects in Lagos, please see the excellent work
of Ibidun Adelekan, “Vulnerability of Poor Urban Coastal Communities to Climate
Change in Lagos, Nigeria"(PDF).