Past, present and future perspectives


We can draw some general conclusions from the scenarios about the state of the environment not only in Africa as a region, but also in its sub-regions. Some of these are:

Nevertheless, the scenarios described in this work all have one thing in common. They are forms of peeping into the future from a current situation: the state of the environment. In other words, they are humanity's attempts to conceive the future for the purpose of evolving a society which benefits humankind, not only in our present circumstances, but also in all future endeavours. For this reason, the scenarios are greatly influenced by our current situation, and by the operating driving forces of the world economic system. In the context of Africa, the major driving forces are globalization and the unsustainable level of the world environment system. While these represent major uncertainties, as we progress through the new millennium, they remain important considerations in the way in which they impact the environment at global, regional, subregional, national and local levels.

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Figure 4.13: the Scenarios compared
The Market Forces scenario is predicated on the assumption that existing strong linkages with international financial institutions, multinational corporations and global markets will continue to drive the world economic system which, in turn, will impact the African regional environmental system with its catalogue of goods and bads. Furthermore, there will be effective mechanisms through which environmental bads are processed and converted into forms that ensure the sustainability of the African environment. Even at the beginning of the 21st century, this assumption has become more theoretical than practical, both in its interpretation of the development process and in its attempts to order the impacts on the environment. In the African situation, market forces have brought more socioeconomic problems than were experienced in earlier decades, and people have neglected to consider the negative impacts of their activities on the environment. The peculiar position of Africa as the backwater of the advanced countries, coupled with the almost obliterating levels of poverty in the region, make consideration of environmental sustainability secondary. Market forces, consisting of economic principles of development, have always played themselves out to the detriment of African people. Africa and Africans continue to remain vulnerable to unrestrained economic exploitation of resources, and this trend leads not only to unsustainable patterns of living, but also to unsustainable assaults on the environment (see Figure 4.13).

The Policy Reform scenario is a natural reaction towards seeking a balance between socioeconomic development and environmental sustainability. Current threats to the environment-as seen in rising levels of CO2 in the air; the inability to manage all forms of solid and liquid waste, especially in the cities; the continued destruction of forests and biodiversity; and the decreasing levels of environmental health-are indications of the inability of market forces to order reactions to environmental sustainability. The Policy Reform scenario, therefore, proposes to achieve a balance in sustainable economic and social development while, at the same time, respecting many environmental issues. Under these conditions, targets are set by regional organizations, such as the OAU and AMCEN, and serious efforts are made to adopt Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) and protocols, and to make these operational. We are all witness to the fact that the ratification of these treaties is a far cry form their actualization in individual countries. Consequently, the problem remains of managing the environment in a sustainable manner through the mechanism of MEAs and policies (see Figure 4.13).

A major problem of the Policy Reform scenario lies in its inability to go all the way in outlining requirements for sustainable social and environmental development, partly because of the strong interplay of market forces in the scenario. There are also other political and national considerations in the implementation of MEAs. Furthermore, the danger also remains that inadequate and inappropriate attention to environmental issues, in the short term and in the long term, may lead to the breakdown of law and order. Many of the current tensions and disturbances in Africa may be traced to one form or other of the numerous environmental pressures in the region.

Of course, the movement to a Fortress World scenario is much closer than is usually envisaged. Wealth is distributed in a lopsided manner-between people, between urban and rural areas, and between regions-and it is difficult to introduce policies that can reasonable alter these distributions of wealth. Within any of these units, there are enough tensions to lead to a breakdown of law and order. And so the wealthy have already learned how to protect themselves. The crime levels in cities, and the fact that these are perpetuated openly, are indicative of a gradual breakdown of law and order, which could be a reaction against the society and those who manage it. It is, as yet, an unorganized reaction, but it is already a dangerous trend. Coupled with other forms of tensions-such as those which could arise from religion, and from political alliances which the wealthy have managed to exploit for selfish reasons-a Fortress World scenario is very much just around the corner.

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