Environmental discourse requires legal take-off

Peter Makwanya

The concept of climate change has been articulated from a scientific perspective, communication front and from an evangelical/ecumenical angle, with little discussion of the legal elements. A legal perspective is needed, not just for advocacy and lobbying, but for taking punitive action on those who violate the environmental.

By Peter Makwanya

This writer is no legal expert, but has been hatched from the communication stable and that does not mean he is green and has no knowledge of legal matters.

This makes this writer, a strong advocate of environmental sustainability of the strong opinion that, the noise he makes, as a climate change communicator or social scientist, is of little significance if it is devoid of the fundamental legal touch. In developing countries, the legal paradigm is the only instrument that budding environmentalists can use to make a difference.

Although, this is a no mean feat, especially against the background of total blind disregard of the Constitution in most developing countries, where laws are designed to target certain individuals viewed as errant. And where even the government can only watch helplessly, as the environment is butchered, suffocated and destabilised, as well as being corroded by dangerous and life threatening industrial chemicals.

As such, with the support of State institutions and State apparatuses, lawyers for environmental rights and protection can have a bite. Right now, even when the lawyers have the will to act, they may not succeed when the government protects those who commit crime. We have seen it happening in this country when building projects were approved on places like wetlands.

As a result, if nobody stands up to fight for the prosecution of those who destroy natural entities and treasures, then we will end up not having any wildlife to talk of. We have also witnessed municipalities being powerless in the face of powerful politicians violating land rights.

In this regard, there is need for the legal recognition and sanctification of threatened landscapes and waterways. This is important in the sense that, those who disrupt the environment do so at their own peril and at a cost too.

Even wild animals in game parks have seen hell and experienced the horrors of poaching. We always hear and watch in awe and glee, as the responsible authorities try hard to be seen as, at least, saying something on national television and in newspapers but take little action.

It is high time we criminalise the degradation of the environment. Even in rural communities, offenders get away with only having to pay a fine of a goat, a cockerel, or a bag of maize by a chief. As for rich companies and the connected, they are untouchable.

Instead of the battleground to be in favour of environmental growth and protection, the battlegrounds are in the game parks, where wild animals don’t die for their meat so often, but for their precious horns. Some battlegrounds are also manifesting themselves in towns and cities violating land rights, with no legal procedures instituted.

Rivers and dams have been loaded with pollutants and toxins, with no arrests having being made. Therefore, why would it be necessary to invest large amounts of money to mitigate against carbon emissions when we witness these counterproductive processes happening every day? We often read of international conferences resolutions of wanting to slash carbon emissions, while forgetting that it is easy to destroy and it has never been easy to rebuild.