Past, present and future perspectives

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The Fortress World scenario has the potential to destroy the environment and, possibly, the whole of humankind (see Figure 4.13). Since there will be no coordinated efforts to ensure environmental sustainability, the situation regarding most resources is one of overexploitation, either to meet the needs of the Úlite or to ensure the basic survival of the poor. Environmental conditions, therefore, deteriorate, as pollution, climate change, land change and ecosystem degradation interact to amplify the crisis. Environmental degradation, food insecurity and emergent diseases foster a vast health crisis, as both free market values and reformist tendencies become incapable of handling environmental externalities. The affluent minority, alarmed by rampant migration, terrorism and disease, reacts with sufficient cohesion and strength to impose an authoritarian Fortress World, where they flourish in protected enclaves. The fortresses are bubbles of privilege amidst oceans of misery.

The Great Transitions scenario, on the other hand, may arise from two totally unrelated considerations. Given that a Fortress World scenario is destructive to the environment and to humanity, it could be a harbinger of the urgent need for all humankind, including Africans, to seek alternative ways of managing the environment. Depending on the level of destruction that people's activities would have wrought on the environment by the time this need arises, a Great Transitions scenario may or may not be sustainable (see Figure 4.13).

Box 4.3 Disenchantment

'Development theory has undergone constant revision and has been informed by a broad spectrum of approaches.One can conclude that the problems of development are larger than the highly heterogeneous policies, plans and programmes undertaken by the full spectrum of economic approaches. It is increasingly evident that our understanding of the reasons why onefifth of humanity enjoys unprecedented wealth while the other four-fifths live in various states of poverty and privation is incomplete. Clearly, conventional analyses of socio-economic, cultural, ecological and political phenomena are limited in their ability to elucidate the multiple problems we now encounter globally.

'The thesis presented here is that development itself, or at least the concepts we use to define it, are deficient.We can speak of a global problematic embodying three broad sets of phenomena; trenchant poverty, environmental degradation and socio-political unrest. Related to this problematic is existential malaise, particularly in those societies considered the most "developed".This global problematic is not transient. It speaks to profound issues about who we are that have become repressed in our individual and social consciousness.'

Source: Gotlieb 1996

On the other hand, the seeds of change are already being germinated all over Africa, and governments and NGOs are already aware of the need to evolve a new course and a new perspective on environmental and development issues. The intellectual community, too, as shown in various aspects of the description of the Great Transition scenario, are already clamouring for a new dictum on development. The honest ones among the developed countries already accept the fact that they have misled the developing world for too long (Gotlieb 1996). Africa's democratically elected leaders have also become more responsible and humane, and are anxious to subscribe to the issue of environmental sustainability. They, however, need to be convinced of the inability of the Market Forces scenario and the Policy Reform scenario to lead Africa to the promised land (see Box 4.3). Everybody detests the idea of a Fortress World scenario evolving and playing itself out in Africa.

Given the current trend in Africa and all over the world, it may be surmised that a Market Forces scenario may only be plausible within a short time-say, ten years-at about which point probabilities are high that a number of branching points will start to emerge. Possible branching points may include:

Nonetheless, the point being made is that the environment is so valuable and the inhabitants so precious that the future need not be left to chance or to some curious form of evolution. The scenarios described in this report have shown the unacceptability of a business-as-usual approach to environmental issues. It has also shown the inadequacy of an acceptance of a Policy Reform scenario. Something that has not worked in the past is not likely to work now or in the future unless the constraints that made it non-functional in the first instance are removed. Certain forces that militate against the removal of these constraints dominate the world political and economic system.

Africa has been very vulnerable to many events happening all over the world or within the region itself. For instance, the consequences of environmental disasters, such as floods and drought, continue to haunt the inhabitants of many countries, and remain one of the great challenges to governments. Of course, the problem of hunger is mostly felt in Africa, where more than 75 per cent of the population live below the poverty line. Many of these aspects of vulnerability have been discussed and described in Chapter 4, and need not be repeated here. But the lesson is that, unless concrete steps are taken in the way we use the environment, the sufferings and problems of the 20th century will be child's play compared to what lies in store. Wherein, then, lies our future in Africa?

For some time, the Great Transitions scenario may remain an enigma to both policy and practice. Yet therein lies the hope for Africa and the African environment. It will remain an enigma for many reasons. First, it is going to be difficult to convince the peoples of Africa that the future of humankind lies in the Great Transitions scenario. Secondly, African countries are not all at the same level of awareness and socioeconomic development, so the idea of a Great Transitions scenario could still look like a dream to some. Furthermore, the expectations in the Great Transitions are things that take time to mature. Take, for instance, the issue of good governance, which democracy represents, and its almost universal acceptance as the best form of government to promote development. In recent times and in many countries, including some Indian Ocean Islands, there have been reports of military takeover of governments. It is, therefore, possible to expect that, even when there could be a belief in the principles of the Great Transitions scenario, the playing field in Africa is far from level. There is a need to emphasize the need for this awareness. Wherein lies the future of Africa?

In order to answer this question meaningfully, we like to draw on the relationship between the Policy Reform scenario and the Great Transitions scenario. Both scenarios are forms of 'backcasting' (see Figure 4.4), whereby desirable futures, and device mechanisms for manipulating the system to meet targets, are defined. The future of the African environment lies in the ability of governments and ministers of the environment to appreciate that current policies and practices remain grossly inadequate when it comes to meeting the demands of a sustainable environment. There are many MEAs currently in operation. These agreements and protocols were designed to assist Africans to cultivate some respect for the environment. We have shown that current rates of population growth, and the demand on resources, render these efforts inadequate. Of course, many of them are a distant cry from what is required to move towards a Great Transitions pattern of environmental sustainability. As a first step, governments should review these MEAs, and create mechanisms in order to ensure their compliance by differ-ent countries in the region. Governments should: