Institutionalizing a major paradigm shift in power generation

Green Habitat Initiative

Amidst the current established facts on the need for Nigeria to diversify its economy and the existence of climate change, it is pertinent that the the government should in addition to fixing the plants and boosting generation, also encourage private individuals, companies and corporate organizations etc. to generate power by themselves. Green policies should be a priority if a change is required.

Without doubt, the current power production can be made better by improving the current technology and maintenance. However, moves like these do not encourage the break free from fossil fuel consumption but only increase over reliance on them. The word from the government is always about the number of megawatts they will add to the National Grid at the end of the year. Nigerian citizens are, unfortunately, indirectly motivated by generation targets like these, which discourage them from sourcing alternative solutions to the incessant power problems.

In an…

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Why Bike Lanes In Abuja May Not Be The Worst Idea

Abba, who lives two streets behind where I live in Abuja cycles to work daily. The distance from his residence to place of work is about 8.2km through the fastest route by car. With his bicycle, it is a little higher than that, about 9km. It is longer because he has to avoid the huge express ways that offers the fastest route by car. He is cycling in a smart manner you will say, always trying to stay away from the big and busy highways and utilizing neighbourhood access and collector roads, till he finds himself at his office in Central Business District Abuja.

Personally, I think he is courageous. The number one issue facing cyclers in big cities where despite bike lanes have been established is safety. What about in a city like Abuja where there are no bike lanes? But Abba has never been hit by a car. He is courageous still for trying that. However, there are many like Abba who wish to cycle to work or cannot afford a car or cannot stand our deplorable public transport. What options do they have when they can or wish to cycle to work?

Becoming a Sustainable City

This is the point the United Nation’s sustainable development goal number 11 is trying to make. Broadly, it says make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. Going deeper, one of the main goals is to provide access to safe, affordable, accessible and sustainable transport systems for all, especially to disadvantaged groups by 2030.

A sustainable city can only be built if everyone is given an equitable space to live. To make Abuja such a city, it has to give space to people like Abba to cycle to work in safety. And that is by providing dedicated and protected bike lanes. It is not the worst idea you will say, because bigger cities like New York, Paris, Montreal, Berlin, Toronto and many others have bike lanes across many roads. Cape Town and Johannesburg, both in South Africa have bike lanes. Lagos wanted to, but didn’t do much.

New York has a population of 8.4 million people. The city still provided bicycle lanes. More than 36 000 people cycle to work in New York helping to save the city from social and economic losses. If this 36 000 people will abandon their bicycles tomorrow for public transportation and private cars, we can imagine the traffic jam that may accrue on the roads, the time that will be wasted in traffic and the increase in air pollution.

Merits of Urban Cycling

When urban cycling is implemented, it will help the city in all these aspects positively. More time will be spent off the road rather than in traffic jams or slow moving ones, providing more time for work and leisure. Car oriented policies have degraded the beneficial roles urban cycling could provide. Urban cycling enhances smart mobility, offering residents another option of moving around faster.

Another merit of urban cycling is it gives an alternative to a cleaner air. If more people are encouraged to abandon their cars and use bikes, there will be fewer emissions polluting the air. This year, the city of Milan is considering a move to start paying workers to cycle to work in a bid to reduce the air pollution in the business city. There will be fewer emissions if it happens and that means more healthy people and fewer risks to respiratory diseases. A number of people do not have time to exercise their body through physical activities, cycling may be their best option.

How to Encourage Urban Cycling

More and more cities are not only providing bike lanes, but protected bike lanes with concrete slabs or car parks or trees or the likes. It is true that many drivers can be reckless and once hit on a bike, you are more likely to be injured, gravely. Safety is a big issue and often deters a lot of people from thinking about it as an option. Strategies such as protected bike lanes and avoiding dangerous routes can also be employed.

 

For bike lanes to work, it is not only about painting new narrow lanes to separate them from motorists or informing people of the advantages, but also placing factors to motivate people to start cycling. A major hindrance to cycling will be the climate, which is generally hot in Abuja. How about installing shower and changing rooms in offices. When I asked Abba how he deals with the heat, he said he leaves home very early in the morning before it gets hot. He also carries a spare of clothes at times to change and many sweat pipes.

Second motivating factor is to provide bike racks where people can park their bicycles safely. In the United States LEED green building accreditation programme, which certifies buildings as contributing to preserving the environment by gaining points towards becoming a green building, buildings with shower and changing rooms and bicycle racks for cyclers and bicycles earn more points towards certification. It is an all thought way of encouraging people to take up cycling and it makes sense for their well-being.

How Abuja May Begin

An interesting way to move this forward in Abuja is to have a survey of the distances employees commute to work from their homes. I am quite certain there are many people who only drive for 3 km to work. Even if people are not down with the idea, it is up to the government to motivate them in a bid to reduce traffic jams, air pollution like the city of Milan,  and move towards a more sustainable and inclusive city.

For the short period of time I live in Germany, all cities, big and small have bike lanes. A number of people of different social classes use bicycles. Thus, not only Abuja, as a rapid urbanizing city may employ it, other cities as well should. I personally use a bike for my transportation in Germany and would love to do that when I return to Nigeria. Would you cycle to work if it is made safe for you in Abuja? Or are you afraid you will get hit by those rough drivers? Or is it the sweat you dread? Please share your thoughts below.

What Do You Get From Looking at a Portrait of Yourself?

Getting My First Caricature Portrait

I sat on a four legged chair with a back rest for over twenty five minutes on the 659 year old Charles Bridge in the beautiful European city of Prague in Czech Republic, as the artist drew a caricature of me. My legs were crossed, my two palms also clenched to each other, rather loosely, and placed on my knee. My sunglasses were tucked in my shirt, just below my neck. My left side beards have finally connected with those from the right, in a rather disorganized manner. I tilted a bit sideways and grinned, looking in the direction of the painter. I had to be like that for that period of time.

Passersby grinned at me. Some look at me and stare at the artist’s drawing and wave a thumb up at me, probably acknowledging the artist’s good work or our similarity. A few were so attracted to stop and take a picture of the setting, both me and the artist at work. It may have been a great photo. One of those cool photos you get into but you never get to see them. Anyway, the artist was done and I rolled the masterpiece, held it in in my left hand and continued the tour.

Arriving back to my residence in Germany, I taped it on the inner side of my bedroom door and threw my towel over it. I always hang my towel over my door. So for the most part of the time and when I rarely do, I can only see the lower side of the picture which shows my crossed legs. The face is always covered by the towel, denying me the opportunity to look at my face and evoke the memories of that trip.

I used my phone to take a snapshot of the image and I uploaded the image as my Whatsapp profile picture, a lot of people didn’t recognize me. Not that the artist didn’t get it right. Oh he did! It was a remarkable piece of art, drawn in a short time with much attention to detail seen in the art work. But they didn’t recognize me because I had kept beards for about two and a half months and it is a caricature of me. It is not exactly meant to look me, just an exaggerated impression of me.

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My caricature
A Way to Get a Better Portrait

But seriously, why do I need to hang a portrait of myself? I always wonder when I see people hang pictures of themselves with no obvious background that evokes a memory or shows a feeling. Perhaps to them only. Having a picture of myself with no iconic background like the Eiffel Tower, the Taj Mahal or even the Egyptian Pyramids, not me. Some photos make us look so good and for some reason, it makes us feel good on the inside. So why not look at it every day and bring those sweet feelings for you.

I had asked for a portrait of myself as a perfect way of remembering my trip to Prague. Anytime I stare at the drawing, the only thing I remember is where I sat to be drawn. The perfect memorabilia I thought.

The First Self-Portrait

Later, I found myself in Albrecht Durer’s house turned museum. According to popular references, Albrecht is the first person to paint a self-portrait and hang it in his dwelling. He was a successful German painter that lived in the 16th century. It was  around the year 1500 when Albrecht Durer painted the first self-portrait of the world. He felt he could paint himself and hang it somewhere to enjoy looking at it, most probably. Because that’s what paintings are for right? This notion of creating so many images of ourselves in form portraits or selfies is of interest to a lot of researchers, often trying to investigate whether it has to do with self-esteem, appreciation and how people see you.

Albrecht Durer beautifully painted himself here.
Albrecht Durer beautifully painted his self here

 

 

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As of then, no one could understand the point of Albrecht’s painting a portrait of himself. He further went ahead to inscribe “I Albrecht Durer of Nuremberg painted myself thus, with undying colours, at the age of twenty-eight years.” Quite pompous some might say. Even those who preserved his works and his house as a museum didn’t find a reason why he painted himself.

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How historians remember him. They called his self-portrait an eternal riddle.

But nowadays, it is very common to see a lot of people hang  portraits of themselves in their living rooms or offices. I am curious to know if you derive anything from looking at your portrait. Do you generally fancy looking at yourself or what is it you gain from having a self-portrait of yourself hanging on the walls of your house or office? Please comment below.