Since April 22, 1970, April 22 is celebrated as World Earth Day to promote environmental protection. This past Earth day, I participated in the Lingadzi River clean up in my home city of Lilongwe. We started with collecting plastics along the river at the Lilongwe Wildlife Center before moving on to the Lilongwe Nature Sanctuary where I was part of the team that collected plastics in the forest across the river from the Sanctuary and along the river line. An interesting fact I learnt this day was that, Lingadzi River contains crocodiles and we were told to be careful and not get too close to the water. Boy, was I shook! We don’t just have Hyenas but Crocs in the middle of the city! We also encountered a lady who was collecting firewood in the forest and I was quite taken aback as this is literally in the middle of the city and this particular forest is a protected area. It was a stark reminder about how the destruction of our forests is an issue that needs to be taken seriously and how poverty also plays a role in environmental destruction.
Taking part in this activity was quite fun and informative. We collected a lot of plastics specifically bottles and encountered quite a bit of styrofoam waste as well. We also noted that the river levels get quite high during the rainy season as we found trash up some trees that probably ended up there during this past rainy season which was very heavy, a result of climate change and another reminder of why environmental protection is important.
I must admit am quite green when it comes to environmental activism and finding myself in a biodiversity centered graduate program has exposed me to different aspects of biodiversity conservation. Taking part in this activity cemented in me the need to do more to fight climate change and conserve our environment. I am still quite torn about the trees that were cut in the area close to the Lilongwe Nature Sanctuary for the road expansion project (a story for another day) but I understood why they had to be cut. Walking along the cleared road expansion area, I had a discussion with some of my fellow volunteers about the conflict between development and environmental conservation. And if I have learnt anything from this past Earth day, it is that the time to act is now before it is too late, no amount of development is worth the price of environmental damage. Let us find a balance before it is too late.