Going Green – A World Environment Day Chat with Dr Adenike Akinsemolu and Aspire Power Solutions

June 5, 2023

Team Aspire: What sparked your passion for the work you do?

Dr. Adenike Akinsemolu: I grew up in a rural town in Nigeria, and was fortunate to be surrounded by the beauty of nature while witnessing my parents’ love for planting. I was in touch with nature from a young age and knew that this was a path I want to explore.  A memorable day for me was when I was 9 or 10, and found a bird that had fallen from its nest due to a storm. We took it home and cared for it till it was strong enough to fly off. This left an incredible mark on me, and I was reminded of the delicate balance of life and the profound impact it can have on people around us. 

TA: What do you think are some of the notable environmental challenges we face globally?

Dr AA: I think one of the most significant global environmental challenges is climate change. Going by research that was done by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), global temperature has already risen by one degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels, so what we’re experiencing right now is more frequent spring weather events such as hurricanes and drought.

Biodiversity loss is another critical challenge that we face. For instance, Wildlife Fund estimated that we’ve lost about 60% of the world’s wildlife population in just over four decades, and this decline from a scientific perspective shows the stability, resistance and resilience of the ecosystem. Humans are what we call heterotrophic organisms because we depend on other organisms to feed. Only plants manufacture their own food, so if biodiversity is a threat and things aren’t working as they should, humans will not even have the food to eat. 

Right now, the Global Food Pre Network reports that we’re currently consuming resources 1.75 times faster than the capacity we’re regenerating them. This overconsumption however leads to deforestation and habitat destruction, and this further exacerbates the environmental challenges that we face. 

TA: Bringing it back home to Nigeria, what would you say is the remedy for the environmental challenges we face?

Dr AA: We have to solve it from a multifaceted approach, but the solution is education. Environmental education should be integrated into the formal education system, from primary school to tertiary, and the younger generation needs to be equipped with an understanding of environmental issues and the importance of conservation. We also need to collaborate with other organizations and leverage their expertise and networks to drive positive change and innovation.

TA: How do we get more individuals interested in this conversation?

Dr AA: In 2013, I took up a job in a community college, and discovered that in my class of over 250 students, none of them knew what it meant to Go Green. I had to create manuals that gave a theoretical explanation and with the participation of the school Provost who agreed to support the campaign to Go Green by using a bicycle to come to school instead of driving with his car, we were able to also teach practicality. It got everyone talking, and more people got involved. Essentially, people need to be educated and shown practical ways to get started. Also, incentives always work, so make people see the reason why they should care and put an incentive to it.

TA: What is the impact of most Nigerians owning generators to power their homes, and what would you recommend as a safer, cleaner and more sustainable alternative for generating power?

Dr AA: Personally, I use Solar 24/7, and I won’t say I’m enjoying all its full benefits because my neighbours still use very big generators to power their houses, and I still have to deal with noise pollution. The Government needs to come up with a ‘cap and trade system’ that offers economic incentives to reduce emission and promote renewable energy transition because the carbon monoxide that is emitted from generators are not good for the environment and our wellbeing.  

We also need to fund research in renewable energy because Nigeria as a country is very close to the equator, and that means we have an abundance of sunlight. We also have wind in the north and hydro, all of which can be alternative sources of energy. When we fund research generally, people learn how to harness all these renewable sources of energy that are available to us and ensure that power becomes accessible and affordable for every citizen.

Investing in solar might be expensive, but in the long run I think it’s better because after calculating your expenses on fuel in a year, you realize that having a solar system might just be more cost-effective in the long run.

TA: Explain the term “Carbon Footprint” in layman’s words, and what impact does it have on the environment?

Dr AA: This is the amount of CO2 that is released into the atmosphere as a result of human activities like burning fossil fuels, deforestation, transportation, agriculture etc. These things affect the greenhouse gasses that are trapped in the atmosphere and the effect is what we now see as climate change or global warming because the ozone layer which is what protects us from the direct rays of the sun then becomes depleted. Right now, you can’t predict the weather patterns any more. It can rain heavily today and shine so bright tomorrow. That is the effect of what we have.

Emissions affect our health because there are diseases that are related to this wave. There is also air pollution because, during oil exploration, the atmosphere becomes pregnant with combustion activities and exacerbates respiratory conditions such as asthma, which is very common in our community and can lead to cardiovascular problems. When you have flooding caused by climate change, the parasite from vector-borne diseases like malaria breed and multiply. From an economic perspective, when you have a natural disaster, it results in property damage and a lot of disruptions in industries such as agriculture, tourism, and even insurance. These factors will ultimately impact us economically, leading to an increased cost of living. 

The solution, however, is transitioning to cleaner and renewable sources of energy. We need to implement more sustainable practices and promote energy efficiency. We also need to adopt a climate resilience strategy, and even though we might not be able to replicate it completely, we can minimize the adverse consequences of climate change and ensure that we create a sustainable future, not just for ourselves, but for our children and generations to come. 

TA: Can you tell us something cool about the environment that is not common knowledge?

Dr AA: Trees communicate with each other the way we communicate with ourselves, which I think is pretty cool. They have an underground network called the “mycorrhizal network”, and with this, they’re able to communicate and extend nutrients and water. They’re even able to warn themselves against pests or threats. I think it’s incredible because it’s not just a system of communication, but also a way to offer mutual support.

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