Uncertainties about the future can give rise to totally opposed visions, whereby one may regard the glass as being half empty or half full. Relative to the future of our coastal area, for instance, it may happen that consideration is only given to risk factors:
- A development process heavily dependent on natural resources. The need for natural resources is so strong that these barely have the time to regenerate: soils are depleting, forests are disappearing and the sea is impoverishing.
- Over the last 50 years, the region’s population has increased three times and continues to grow at a rate considered as the highest worldwide.
- The impact of climate changes translates into floods, storms, migration of fish stocks to the North, algal blooms, etc.
Depending on whether the glass is looked at as being half empty, the conviction will be that the combination of these three factors will unavoidably lead to a disaster. Nonetheless, the challenges of the future may also be faced with the brave resolve by turning weaknesses into strengths, to take cue from martial arts.
- Our societies where young people aged less than 20 account for more than 50% of the population are dynamic, creative and have extraordinary adaptation capacities.
- There is still a great wealth of traditional knowledge on the environment, provided one is capable to identify and use such knowledge towards managing natural resources, as well as impart it to younger generations.
- Our natural environments are relatively in good health, with upwellings, mangroves, seagrass beds and mudflats still generously providing us with resources.
- We should learn from the mistakes of our Western predecessors to avoid pitfalls, while using smart modern technologies such as the VMS system for monitoring industrial fishing vessels and remote-sensing through such tools as kites, satellites and drones, the application of genetics to species conservation or even all new communication tools.
- Our almost unlimited solar energy potential should be tapped to help avert risks associated with the use of non-renewable sources.
- The recognition by rich countries that Africa bears very little responsibility in climate changes although, paradoxically, extremely vulnerable to this phenomenon; a blatant injustice that needs to be factored in development assistance and technology transfer.
The missing element, it must be confessed, is the sense of urgency, as history is unfolding at a mind-bogging pace; this is a collective energy that prompts us to respond as a group by pooling our individual strengths in the service of a shared vision, one that should give room and space to our reasons for hope.
Such is the spirit in which PRCM partners organised a side meeting at COP 22 in Marrakech, where participants jointly delved into factors of resilience of the West Africa coastal area to climate changes, in order to come up with concrete proposals that would be tabled to member states and donors.