Day 1: As part of her YEJA prize, Patricia Okoed-Bukumunhe received an all-expenses-paid study visit to the United States. In this blog, she shares her experiences of the projects, people and places she encounters.
As I wind up my study tour, I can’t help but notice the stark difference in the handling of environmental issues in the developed world compared to the developing world. While the United States is trying to tackle pollution and other environmental concerns while at the same time keeping its status as the world super power, the developing world is pushing hard in an attempt to “join the economic race” without drawing from experiences of first world countries. According to officials from the Environmental Protection Agency - the body charged with regulating the environment in the USA - controlling the management of the environment in these tough economic times could not be a more difficult task. Faced with economic protests for more jobs and investment, environmental issues are not considered of major importance. Attending the conference for environmental journalists in Miami and sharing experiences with fellow journalists from the USA, could not have made this clearer. Africa however, is blessed with clean air, natural resources and greenery that are slowly being adulterated along the same path. That said, the USA has taken major strides in protecting the environment. Owning a “green car” or a hybrid is becoming less of a fad and more of a necessity, while recycling is now a habit and no longer a strained practice. From paper cups to plastic bottles, every home and business can take the responsibility of separating waste for recycling. Many television channels also carry advertisements asking people to recycle their waste. The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification adopted in 1999 goes a long way in ensuring ’green’ building practices, by offering certification for buildings that have been designed in environmentally friendly ways. Highlighting these green practices and raising awareness of their benefits is one of my major tasks as a journalist. I now intend to take the experiences and knowledge acquired during the study tour and apply them back home in Africa. I thank the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and the US State Department for sponsoring the tour which was an educational, refreshing and awakening experience.
Patricia on her return flight home
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