Being environmentally aware means understanding the consequences of human actions on the natural world and taking steps to protect it. In December 2022, the ‘Readers are Leaders’ project held its first event focusing on environmental awareness and climate action. Over the course of the 1-year project, the children in the reading groups will participate in 12 environmental awareness sessions. The guest speaker for this event was Mr. Lloyd Nundwe, Chief Inspector from Zambia Environmental Management Authority (ZEMA), an organisation that is responsible for ensuring the preservation and protection of the environment.
Mr. Nundwe began the session by introducing his company and its mission. He then posed questions to the learners to see how they perceived the environment around them. Many of the learners defined the environment as a place that we live in, consisting of trees, plants, animals, and other natural resources. The children discussed various factors that negatively affect the environment, such as littering, open burning, improper waste disposal, chemical safety, and climate change.
He explained that Zambia’s environmental standards are governed by the Environmental Act, “Littering is one of the factors that are negatively affecting the natural environment”. Another factor he discussed was incorrect waste disposal, which is a major problem in Zambia and is caused by digging waste pits in the yards of most Zambian homes. This degrades and intoxicates the soil. The solution discussed was that trash should be disposed of in bins and then collected by the council in order for them to dispose of it safely.
Climate change is a significant aspect of environmental awareness, as it represents the long-term shifts in temperature and weather patterns caused by human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation. He explained that climate change is a major threat to the planet and has far-reaching consequences for both the natural world and human society. The increasing levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, largely due to the burning of fossil fuels, are causing the Earth’s temperature to rise. This warming is leading to a range of impacts, including more frequent and severe heatwaves, drought, and storms, as well as rising sea levels. Many of these impacts are already being seen in Zambia.
Open burning is the burning of materials in the open air without the use of a burn barrel or other containment device. This type of burning can release pollutants into the air and is generally discouraged because of the potential negative impact on air quality and human health. Open burning can release a variety of contaminants into the air, including particulate matter, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, and other harmful substances to human health. In Zambia, open burning is prohibited by law, and a fine of fifteen thousand kwacha (k15,000) is charged to people who break this.
Chemical safety is an important aspect at home, in the community, and at the workplace. Mr. Nundwe emphasized that children are not allowed to handle chemicals in any way, and this also applies to pregnant women. Chemicals can pose a variety of hazards to children, workers, and the environment. Proper handling and storage of chemicals are essential to prevent accidents and minimise the risk of injury or illness. Lastly, he brought out some posters to show the learners.
Overall, the event served as an important reminder that everyone has a role to play in protecting the environment and that small actions can make a big difference.