World Environment Day 2016: Living with Foxes

The first week of June this year marked the celebration of the World Environment Day (WED) 2016 in Germany. Globally, the WED is celebrated on the 5th of June annually to raise global awareness in taking positive actions to preserve the earth and its natural resources. This year marks my fourth consecutive year of joining environmentalists around the world in celebrating the day. The most memorable of the four was the first, in 2013. We were at the peak of our campaign to raise awareness and put an end to food waste in Kenya. Sada and I decided to raise the awareness of food waste (leftover of cooked food) in university campuses in Kenya on the WED 2013 which was also in line with the theme of that year’s celebration tagged Think.Eat.Save. We designed fliers containing vital information regarding food waste and why it should be stopped. The campaign, hectic though, was largely successful I will say as we were able to cover two university campuses, albeit with the help of other volunteers. After then, we stepped up the anti-food waste campaign effort by conducting a food waste audit in all the cafeterias of our then host institution, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agricultural and Technology, in Juja.

It was a very interesting project for us. We met with the university kitchen caretaker, who is in charge of the kitchen and she gave us all the go ahead to have access to the kitchen and measure all the food waste (leftovers). Before we started the audit, members of all the kitchen staff were briefed on the audit and therefore should not throw any food waste without it being approved by Sada or me. We basically became kitchen staff during that week. Dressed with white lab coats and covered our heads with caps in line with the health and safety standards of being in the kitchen. After a meal, say lunch for example, the kitchen staff in charge of collecting the leftover food on the tables in the cafeteria will collect them and empty in special containers we acquired for the purpose of auditing. We had labelled the containers with the different names of the cafeterias on that campus. After gathering all the waste for lunch, we put it on a weighing scale to record it in kilogrammes. This continued for each and every meal of the day for the next 9 days.

It was disheartening to know the high amount of food waste (left over) in the cafeterias, while many people including children out there are hungry. According to the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), one in nine people in the world go to bed hungry with most of them in developing countries. It is worse in sub-Saharan Africa as it is one in four. Hunger kills more people in the world than the combination of Malaria, AIDS and TB. But here we are contributing to the 1.3 billion tons of food waste yearly. This 1.3 billion ton represents one third of the total food production in the world. This is something we should think about every day when we want to discard the edible left over from our plates. It should be a moral benefit that food waste should be stopped.

After auditing the waste, we continued further by creating a bigger awareness campaign project in the university in order to stop the terrible act. I pioneered in creating a global community development project on AIESEC platform where interns from countries like China, Iran, Mauritius and Kenya volunteered to execute.

This is why it left lots of memories with me.

But this year’s was quite a memorable one too. I joined the President of Germany Joachim Gauck, along with many others in celebrating the need for environmental conservation. It held at the large green park in the vicinity of his office building at Schloss Bellevue in Berlin. The green park made a fitting venue for the WED celebration.

Alas, it was a great day of learning about what Germany is doing in environmental conservation. Numerous organizations, numbering more than 200 presented their work to esteemed guests. From those working on cleaner energy, improving energy efficiency, environmental monitoring etc. they were many themes to overwhelm your presence. As the norm, I went round to see and converse with the exhibitors to learn about their work. One which struck me, fortunately was the last booth we stumbled upon with my fellow Green Talents colleagues.

When someone hears of environment, she thinks only pollution and waste mostly. But this last organization, the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW) were doing something else. They were interested in the roles foxes play in the city of Berlin. Yep, you read that right, foxes from the wolf family. And I asked with curiosity, “Are foxes roaming the streets of Berlin?” Of course, they are, the exhibitor replied. I cannot remember seeing a fox in the few safaris I went in Kenya, but here in Berlin, you do not need to go far to see them, mostly perambulating in Tiergarten. Tiergarten is a huge green area in the city of Berlin.

The exhibitor mentioned the reason why foxes are coming to the city is because of the ease with which they find food and the less likelihood of being hunted. The researchers are monitoring the movements of the foxes as well as what they eat. They have cameras installed at some locations, fitted the foxes with GPS transmitters and also asked inhabitants of Berlin to report the location and time they come into contact with these friendly wildlife.

This greatly shows the extent in which some counties and people have gone in understanding the interaction of wildlife and the environment. The extent to which foxes play a role in our ecosystem is unknown to me now. Before we left the booth though, I asked the exhibitor to inform us of a very interesting finding or fact about these city foxes, to which she mentioned they are smart. And I quickly remembered the English saying, as cunning as a fox.

Overall, our continued existence on earth will depend on how conscious we are to decisions we are making. How much consideration do we give to the environment and our biodiversity? What will be the effect of the action and inaction affecting the environment well-being? All these will culminate to the efforts we need to put in ensuring a more sustainable environment. More people are losing their homes, lives and properties due to the negative effects of climate change. It is therefore of utmost importance, than everyone, including you and I, should start playing a better role toward saving the earth for the future generations.

I will be glad to hear how you celebrated the WED 2016 or what actions you are taking to protect and conserve the environment. Are there serious environmental challenges you are facing in your neighbourhood, city or country, let’s talk about how to put an end to that.

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