Issues relating to climate change, biodiversity destruction, natural resource extraction, gender, conflicts, social and environmental justice have caught up with us and become too important to be ignored.
The high temperatures and phenomenal weather changes that we are experiencing in Ghana have turned what was previously regarded as abstract global issues into real life experiences.
God reminds us in Leviticus 25:23-24- that “The land is mine and you are but aliens and my tenants. Throughout the country that you hold as a possession you must provide for the redemption of the land”.
The life of Jesus Christ abounds with many examples to demonstrate the need to use the gospel to meet the spiritual and material needs of humanity. The Holistic Ministry does not distinguish between spirituality which draws Christians to the saving relationship with Christ and the “Social Ministry” which involves social actions by Christians to give practical meaning to the love and care for God’s creation. The Holistic Ministry is the belief in one gospel which brings salvation in its fullest sense including salvation from sin, hunger, poverty, environmental degradation, human rights abuses etc.
The grave social, economic and environmental problems facing the world show that human beings have violated the laws of nature with impunity and woefully failed to protect God’s creation. Greedy consumption patterns have goaded us to abuse nature. We have not exercised responsible management of God’s creation. Unfortunately, we seem not to be learning any useful lessons that the problems confronting the world had resulted from the mistake in not considering the environment as the basis for the survival of humanity but had placed economic and financial considerations above environment issues. We are destroying the basis of our lives for a pittance and not taking counsel from the Biblical statement that it is unprofitable to gain the whole world and lose one’s soul.
The misplaced priorities have been exacerbated by the fact that politicians have been voted to power not on the basis of how they would protect our already destroyed environment but by their development programmes whether these so-called development programmes would worsen environmental destruction or not. In the end, we have not had development in its true sense but for certain, we have ended up exacerbating environmental destruction. All the major political parties in Ghana do not have firm commitments on how to address the rate of environmental destruction of this country in their Manifestoes because of a marriage of convenience that exist between politicians and polluting companies. Party Manifestoes are mostly decorated with few sentences on the environment. We cannot rule out the role of multinational companies in the pollution of the environment.
According to U. Utah Phillips, “The Earth is not dying - it is being killed. And the people killing it have names and addresses.” I share in the statement of Utah Phillips that some of the big multinational companies are contributing to the killing of the Earth. Citizens cannot be blamed for suspecting that the polluting multinational companies fund political parties and as such dictate who should be our political leaders. Politicians end up dealing with the polluting companies with kid gloves because there is a mutual understanding that “you don’t cut the hand that feeds you”.
Governments both past and present have shown gross disregard for important policies of the country that safeguard and protect the environment. Mining in forest reserves contravenes certain provisions in the National Land Policy developed by the Ministry of Lands and Forestry in 1999. Section 4.5(a) of the National Land Policy states that,“To ensure the conservation of environmental quality, no land with primary forest cover will be cleared for the purpose of establishing a forest or tree crop plantation or mining activity”.
The National Land Policy of 1999 states further in Section 4.4(b) that, “ All lands declared as forest reserves , strict nature reserves , national parks, wildlife sanctuaries and similar land categories constitute Ghana’s permanent forest reserves and wildlife estates , and are ‘fully protected’ for ecosystem maintenance , biodiversity conservation and sustainable timber production”.
In February 2010, Newmont Ghana Gold Limited was granted a Mining Lease for its Akyem project to establish a pit of 2.5km long, 0.9km long and 0.5km deep in the Ajenua Bepo Forest Reserve, a Forest Reserve of biodiversity importance. Whilst the company and government justifies mining in Ajenua Bepo Forest Reserve with the statement that the forest reserve is already depleted and the company would grow trees somewhere to mitigate the biodiversity destruction, the farmers in the area contend that the Ajenua Bepo Forest Reserve promotes rainfall and agriculture in the area and also serves as the watershed for many rivers. Biodiversity which demonstrates God’s magnificence is definitely more beneficial and complicated than tree plantations. Companies such as Chirano Gold Limited and AngloGold Ashanti have been permitted to mine in Tano Suraw and Kubi forest reserves respectively.
The forest reserves in Ghana are sitting on minerals and have thus become targets by greedy mining companies and one economic reason or the other had been given for the destruction of the forest reserves to pave way for mining. NGOs, Faith based organisations and advocacy NGOs that had raised their voices against the wanton destruction of God’s creation have been tagged as being against development.
Interestingly, cost-benefit analysis that factors in economic, social and environmental cost associated with surface mining would reveal that streams of revenues from mining cannot address the problems of water pollution, human rights abuses, displacement of people, low compensation payments etc. In 2005, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) released a report that indicated that only 5% of the total revenues from Ghana got retained in the economy of Ghana. The contribution of mining to Gross Domestic Product of Ghana is about 6% and yet we are prepared to allow the pollution of our rivers, destruction of forest reserves, payment of compensation as low as one off payment of 9-18 Ghana Cedis for a cocoa tree that can earn a farmer at least 20-40 Ghana Cedis for a cocoa tree per year for almost 60 years in addition to scholarships and other perquisites.
God in his wisdom blesses a nation with minerals for the benefit of present and future generations but when misused, leads to what is normally described as resource curse. It is a paradox of plenty for Ghana with its mineral endowment to be described as a poor country with cup in hand always seeking grants and loans to support national budgets when mineral revenues are beyond $2 billion. God is giving us a new opportunity in oil and it is my prayer that we would not go the messy road of gold mining.
The voice of the Christian family had not been as strong as expected of people whose faith demands that they protect nature as God instructed us in Genesis 2:15, to cultivate and care for God’s creation. Article 41 K of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana states that it is the duty of every citizen to “protect and safeguard the environment”.
The Church has its own challenges and limitations. The church is a heterogeneous community and in most cases, the very key people who have been part of the problems of the environmental crisis of the country are influential and respected people of the Christian community. Once their bread gets buttered by managing institutions and companies that profit from the environmental problems of our country, these agents of multinational companies would stop at nothing in ensuring that the church does not join the growing forces against the forces of greed and destruction.
The Church needs to rise above the dictates of men and women in order to fulfil its prophetic mission of full spiritual and environmental salvation. The Church has no option than to state a strong position against the destruction of the environment, human rights abuses and the exploitation of our natural wealth which ends up impoverishing our people. The Church has to hearken to the call to protect God’s creation.
Source: Daniel Owusu-Koranteng
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