Environmental Assessment: Gradually Changing Landscape of my Hometown
Our natural environment had an abundance of trees and oxygen, wildlife making noise everywhere you went, lakes and streams flourishing and nourishing farms and crops, herbs and medicinal plants nearby and easy to find, shade everywhere for cool relaxation, a place favored by natural selection; that is how my home village used to be. Today, due to gradual changing of the landscape as the result of human activities, people in my home village are now losing their forest, losing the animals, losing their lakes and streams, and worst of all, are suffering from low agricultural yields. Yet these gradual changes go unnoticed.
Losing their Forest
As I quietly walk like a predator on a dusty motor road leading to my home village a few kilometers away from Voinjama, I deeply felt the ultraviolet rays on my face. I walked for the next five minutes and I would not see any trees to rest under, to hide from the sunlight, or to feel the cool air. However, as I walked contemplating the burning sun on my skin, I felt that Voinjama is growing, and therefore we may soon have no high bush or forest left. But as I went further, I noticed it was not only around Voinjama; in fact, I barely saw shade ahead.
Even though it is a dusty motor road, it used to be covered with tree branches crossing from one end to another, protecting people from the sunlight. I still remember when I used to walk every morning to school in Voinjama and my late grandfather used to give me a plastic bag to protect my books from droplets of water from the leaves of the tree branches that hung across the road. At times, especially during the rainy season, if the rain had just stopped falling two or three hours before daylight, I had to put both my books and my uniform in the plastic bag to protect them from getting wet. Somedays I would deliberately refuse to put my uniform in the plastic bag and by the time I got to school, my entire uniform was soaked.
Nevertheless, as I got close to the village, most of the mountains that used to be high forests are now low bushes, and many of them are gone. The loss of miracle forest is the one that puzzles me most. I call it miracle forest because there is a big rock that weighs about 1,000lb or more lying between the branches of a tree. The rock is seen unexpectedly, and some days it is difficult to spot and you may spend the whole day looking for it and will not find it. Normally no one is allowed to hunt or farm in this forest, but today it is a site for both.
After a couple of days in the village, I began to ask friends, relatives, and family about the causes or reasons why we are losing our forests. The most popular answers to my question are farming, charcoal production, and construction. Charcoal now serves as a source of income for many people; however, from what I understand and observed, people look for forested areas for farming because after harvesting, they will use a power saw or axe to crosscut all the trees they have felled during the farming process in order to make charcoal to sell.
Losing their Wildlife
As a result of the disappearing habitat in my home village, wildlife are progressively vanishing as well. During my stay there, I didn’t hear or see a single animal everywhere I went. When I was schooling there at the age of ten or less, every time we were going or coming from school, we would see animals such as antelopes, monkeys, squirrel, snakes, and birds crossing or walking on the road ahead of us, or hear them in the bush, especially the birds making beautiful sounds. When one walks quietly with their ears being attentive to the sound of the birds communicating, you feel excited. There you begin to realize that we are deeply connected to the natural world and there is no way we can detach ourselves from it.
My grandfather taught me how to understand a particular bird, the various ways they talk and the reason why they talk that way. This bird talks in three different ways: when a stranger is coming to you, when a relative or someone you know dies, and when your trap catches an animal. I actually understood the three different ways they talk, and I would tell people what was going to happen. Today in my home village, you rarely find or hear these birds, except when you are a far distance away from the village. They are no longer closer to the village because their habitat has been destroyed and they are also hunted for commercial purpose. In fact, hunting of some birds now serves as a source of income for people.
Scarcity of Water
In addition, the lakes and streams are also drying up, especially during the dry season. Rural women cover far distances to fetch water for domestic and agricultural purposes nowadays. In the past, things were not this way, and water was in abundance all over the place. I noticed all the major streams that are crossing the dusty paved road are no longer large like before. They have decreased in width and some can no longer provide one’s needs, even during the rainy season. This brings to my attention that trees and water are interrelated, and when trees are taken away from our environment, water will certainly disappear. This is exactly the reason why ecologists say everything in the ecosystem is equally important and if one is affected, then the entire ecosystem is compromised.
Low Agriculture Production
A scarcity of food is also progressively increasing in my home village, where people are finding it difficult to produce enough food from their farms. Even those living in the city (Voinjama) find it difficult to eat with just $5 USD per day, as the cost of food rises. Farmers are complaining that their crops are no longer doing as well as before, forcing them to increase the price of their product in the markets. Walking around the market, you will regularly hear businessmen and women arguing with their customers over prices.
Finally, human activities are the principal cause of climate changes that are taking place in my home village, altering the landscape and making life more difficult on Earth. However, it is possible to change our ways and reverse some of these damaging effects. This is possible when people are educated about the importance of their environment, about the negative impacts of their activities on the natural world, and when every individual and nation takes responsibility to make the planet a safe place for all life.