It Is Time Kenya Subsidized Paternity Tests and Established a National DNA Database

DNA TEST

A few days ago, I was having a discussion with a lady friend who confessed to me that she got married by her current husband because she got pregnant. She then told me that the pregnancy was not his but she has never got the courage to tell him so. They have since gotten two more babies. As was the case with the first born, she suspects the third born is not the man’s and was most likely conceived out of an illicit affair with a colleague during one of the office party adventures. She was having a hard time in her marriage then and decided to offload her stories on the colleague. But then they got so close and intimate and thanks to the party beers, things got horizontal. A number of meetings with the good friend latter, a pregnancy followed and a baby could have been the outcome. But she is not sure and this uncertainty is depressing her. The supposed to be father of these children who proudly holds their hands for an estate stroll every weekend, and who dedicatedly toils his life away to provide for ‘his lovely family’ knows nothing of the lies upon which his marriage began and on which his children were begotten. His is an imagined perfect world that would crumble any time when the fathers of his beloved children come to collect. He has built his family on a quicksand and may know the truth when it is already too late or may never know it at all. What a wasted life the man would have led; what a peaceless life the woman will have endured.

Upon listening to this story, and during my own quiet time, I started imagining how many adults, especially men, are living through this abusive experience. I could see them in my mind walking kilometers every morning and every evening going to hustle for their families. Many of these supposed to be fathers engage in hard manual labor carrying stones at construction sites. They toil in white settler farms, factories, warehouses loading and offloading sacks of Chinese products, in their village sambas, and such other places. They stomach insults, assaults and overwork from bosses daily with the knowledge that these hustles will put food on the table, clothes on the backs and fees in the school accounts for their children. But I wish they knew what happens when they are away toiling. How bodies are busy somewhere else making them more children to feed, cloth, educate and bring up.

Do such fathers deserve some justice from the society? Don’t you think some affirmative action is necessary to protect these helpless and deliberately abused souls? It is time that The Kenyan Constitution and our legal systems guaranteed fundamental rights including a right to information that is important for the personal development, social justice and psycho-social safety of the individual within the family context. Women have been given this privilege by laws that require husbands to ask for their permission when marrying another wife or when taking a bank loan where family property will act as collateral. It is the responsibility of society to provide all her people with information relevant for making decisions that have a significant impact on their future and their legacy. As such, it goes against the laws of the supreme God that we as a nation claim to worship to be comfortable with allowing a great chunk of our population to live a lie. Such is a deception that also threatens the peace and unity that the national constitution demands of and desires for our citizens. How can peace and security co-exist with dishonesty malice and wanton manipulation of the males (or some clusters) of a society? Isn’t it worrying to see men killing wives and children then committing suicide day in day out due to these ills?

Kenya has very few hospitals, clinics and laboratories that offer DNA services. Here, the average lab cost of paternity DNA tests is 20,000 Kenya shillings for the alleged father and child. The total expenditure when acquiring the service however goes up in most cases due to the additional processes involved that would see an individual spend even more. The crisis is also compounded by the assumption in the country that people only take DNA tests to sort out a legal or criminal matter added to the general affinity by our society to feed people with the truth. The adage that what you don’t know does not hurt you fits Kenyan societies well. But the existence of this problem is also eating her people up; from the inside. Due to these bottlenecks, a simple thing such as undertaking a paternity test has been made out of reach for the average Kenyan. With reports indicating that nearly half of Kenyan households earn less than 10,000 Kenya shillings per month, getting DNA tests to confirm paternity of children is an unachievable life-long wish for Kenyans who have to live with the constant doubt about who actually hit up that egg.

Article ten of the Constitution of Kenyan dictates the values by which the general society should be governed. These principles include integrity, transparency, accountability, respect for human dignity and mutual respect for each other. Conversely, it robs one of his dignity and respect as a man to bring up children that one did not sire while all the while thinking that the children are his own. It will be misleading to tell such people that they should not worry because what they do not know will not hurt them. In most cases, this information comes out anyway, albeit, rather too late and is a source of hurt and regret. Men then discover that their twenty years of toil and putting food on the table for the children they were so much proud of and called their own so loudly before anyone and everyone who could hear was a stupid joke. It is immoral to watch this happen to the dominant tax payers, to say the least.

That mothers can keep such important information from the bread winners for these children violates the principles of transparency and accountability upon which Kenya is founded. Even on occasions where the man does not end up marrying such a woman, he will morally be forced or obliged to send upkeep for the child for his entire life and is often intimidated with likely legal ramifications if he defaults. The government making it hard for the males of the country’s population to know whether ‘their children’ carry their DNA by hiking the cost of DNA services therefore becomes a form of cooperation in violating rights of these citizens and accomplice in covering up a crime. It should stop. This practice steals the joy and quality of family experience from the couple, and even the children who may often be told by neighbors that they don’t look like anyone within their own family. Such children live with a lot of unanswered questions all their lives. Fathering and fatherhood is a sociocultural and a biological construct and must be allowed to bear its full definition to the interest of all family members and the society at large.

Global statistics indicate that out of wedlock births are on the increase. According to data published by Yale University, on average, 60% of children are born out of wedlock in open societies that do not put too much restrictions on socialization between the male and the females. This is the case in a majority of South American countries. The trend is catching up with other nations with European families majorly having single parent families. In these regions however, transparency is allowed so that parties to a marriage voluntarily accept to parent children they did not sire. Contrary to that, Muslim and Buddhist societies of Asia and Northern Africa have out of wedlock births at less than 1%. The low figures can be attributed to the social controls put in place by these cultures and religions which frown upon cross gender socialization out of marriage particularly by married women. The study states that 30% of Kenyan children live in single parent families.

In many Kenyan communities, having a child out of wedlock is a source of shame and ladies will do all they can to hide this reality out of public eyes. In most cases, upon discovering they are expectant, the women will either procure life risking illegal abortions, relocate to an unfamiliar territory where no one will ask them questions, hide the pregnancy and the baby from public eyes, or box in a man to take responsibility over her and her unborn child. Many come we stay marriages begin this way and such an erratic foundation for a lifelong partnership reduces opportunities for mutual respect, trust and love. It should not surprise us therefore that Kenyans butcher each other inside them. This trend should change.

For a country that acknowledges the role of culture in shaping her civilization, allowing this mischief to continue sets a bad precedence. It is a wrong umbilical cord for any country to consistently base her regenerative potential. It amounts to corruption in all its forms. A child is an indigenous seed. Its genetic and other unique characteristics should facilitate the living on of the father in future generations even after he is long gone. It is expected to further the genealogy of the parent; of the father in a patriarchal society like Kenya. Dying with the assumption that you have left descendants behind when they are not yours is disrespectful and does not honor our fathers in their graves for their struggles, they put in to secure a future for this nation. It violates the spirits of our constitution in section 3b of the eleventh article which demands respect and protection of the uniqueness of such indigenous seeds and DNA. It does not respect Kenyan men.

To overcome this abuse, there is need for the Kenyan society, particularly the government, to expand access to DNA services by opening up DNA centres and subsidizing the cost of these services. Further, the government should do the right thing and make DNA testing mandatory at birth so that our children are brought forth on the path of truth. This will bring about transparency in the basic institution upon which our society is built; family. It will then make it easy for this transparency to blossom elsewhere in the society. This way, we will get back to being on the right track of ensuring that corruption is defeated in all its various other forms.
Additionally, having a DNA database is good for the country. It will help the country lower the currently explosive crime rates by making it easy to identify and zero down on criminals. Such practices help the government arrest the right criminals as opposed to putting the wrong people in custody for crimes they did not commit. It further saves us the embarrassment of having a population that does not know their identity with certainty and can only guess or suspect who their fathers and offsprings are based on the size and shape of their heads, the length, width and thickness of their of their noses, lips and eye lids, their height and complexion, and cooked up narrations on how their great grandparents looked on occasions when looks are incongruent. It also helps a society understand itself by knowing the genesis the behavior her people exhibit. This makes it easy to determine, plan for and prescribe controls for erratic behavior of a nation’s people across generations.

To say that confirming a child’s DNA at birth will break families is defeatist. There are very many Kenyan men who have voluntarily consented to bringing up children they did not sire. The bringing up of such a child should be consensual and based on the man’s willingness to do so. It should not be based on misinformation and deceit. DNA testing allows the child to access vital information which will allow him understand his physical, temperamental and health dynamics early enough and plan on how to cope with his realities. As such, the child is prepared to live his life based on truth. We cannot constantly tell our children to unearth their tax paying potential; talents, when we do not allow them to know where this potential comes from in the first place.

Many a Kenyan child have experienced hurt at adulthood on discovering that their lineage was corrupted and is not what they thought it to be all along. It brings so many changes in the child, siblings, relatives, friends, neighborhood, and particularly, the purported father’s life that are hard to stomach; the shame, the depressive thoughts, and the new journey of establishing one’s identity and relations so late in life. Such can be the reasons why we have many cases of suicide, family conflicts and divorce, and single parent families. Facilitating easy access to DNA services through subsidized costing can cure these and reduce the burden for putative father. In addition, it will open up a business line for the medical facilities conducting these tests by increasing demand. Established nations such as USA conduct subsidized DNA tests on their children to confirm paternity in occasions when the child is born abroad to confirm that they are genuine candidates for citizenship. It is a high time Kenya cooperated.

Let Us Remember the Past African Civil Wars as We Allow Corruption to Thrive

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Reports showing that Kenya is losing billion to corruption in various government units have become too characteristic of this country. We have experienced grand theft of public resources for so many decades without anybody being brought to account right from independence. The corrupt and their ilk of ‘leaders’ who had reportedly looted hundreds of millions all these decades still cruise free about town and some have even since gotten public endorsements to continue ‘leading’. Seemingly, Kenya was founded on corruption and this is the norm.

As we engage in daylight thieving, remember that a majority of the 20th century African civil wars that resulted in deaths of millions of people were blamed on embezzlement of public resources. A case in point are the over decade long Civil wars in Liberia and Sierra Leon in which over 300,000 people lost their lives and millions of others left with injuries. At their beginning, presidents Doe and Momoh were blamed for overseeing the looting of billions of national treasures, sidelining factions of their citizen, silencing voices of dissent, buying foreign support. When war finally broke out, they were justified on grounds of high poverty and unemployment indices, disease, political uncertainty and general sense of exhaustion by publics.

Kenya has come close to experiencing war severally. The 1982,1992,1997, 2007/8 and 2017 skirmishes reminds us of our vulnerability to such atrocities. In fact, during the 2017 elections, Kenya was saved by Raila Odinga’s statesmanship, and I know not all will agree with this. Had Raila decided to help his supporters pay back the ills they have suffered for all these post-independence decades, Kenya would have burned.

Our republic has had this corruption circus for far too long. It is time we realized that corruption threatens our well being. We have played by the rules of the jungle for long enough. Heads must not only roll, it is time the corrupt be made to experience physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and all other forms of pain as they have caused this society all these decades. It is time our 82 prisons hosted these low-profile thieves. Let them suffer the agony they have fed this country in betrayal of our trust. Let’s we-write our history for good.

Riddle me this? How can theft be so rampant in a country that has 9 idle maximum-security prisons, over 120 courts that are staffed with hordes of judges and lawyers, working CID and prosecution departments with ‘sober’ and educated men and women who take hefty paychecks every month, a multitude of forensic auditors both in public and private service, a sane executive, a parliament with among the best paid legislators globally? How has this theft been allowed to go on for so long? Are we so childish, stupid or illogical?

It is a high time we treated impunities with punitiveness, an eye for an eye, ruthlessness for ruthlessness. In the same way that schools, hospitals, transport systems, government offices and communities cannot function, or at least have peace, make the corrupt know no peace. Let merciless thieves know no mercy. This is what any sober parent would do to an evil child. Even God promises to pay evil with fire. How can we, as a nation be so lenient and ignorant (stupid)? In a country that has laws and an educated but jobless youth majority, this has gone too far.

We are setting a very bad precedence for our generations just like our fathers did for us. this is how unsustainable national cultures are born. This is how civil wars begin. It has to stop. Corruption cannot be the only topic being discussed in our media stations year after year. Is it not sad that whereas over 80% of our adult citizens have never seen a million shillings, some evil Kenyans can afford to run away with 1000 times that amount of public cash and go unpunished? Are we not at all sympathetic to majority Kenyan tax payers who toil from morning to evening in farms under the scorching sun, the factory and other workers who stand at workplaces for hours daily to make a living and in effect pay taxes? How do we ignorantly afford to keep sinking lower and lower as a society? Have we killed our humanity?

It is time the well-meaning Kenyan leaders, right from the president and his deputy, if at all they do mean well, took up the responsibility of re-patching and laundering the corruption burdened garment, the Kenyan nation. It is time we consciously worked to avoid gathering a recipe for another African civil war. The ordinary Kenyans are tired and you can only push people so far.

Factoring Descendance and Inter-generational Wealth Accumulation into Equitable Global Sustainable Development Planning

Janes

Global statistics including those in the wealth inequality report released by Oxfam early this year point to an ever-increasing gap between the rich and the poor. In my view, there is an urgent need to address family wealth imbalances in communities across the globe. Whereas everybody would assume that being wealthy or having is purely attributable to one’s hard work, that may not entirely be the case all the time. It is a fact that acquisition and maintenance of economic resources requires great effort. But, today, one’s descent matters most. In modern social discourses, it is becoming common to be asked the question of which family you come from in order to determine whether one will get the wife, the job, the business deal, or any other opportunity that one seeks. And as good as this is for those who have powerful names, where does it leave the rest who are not so fortunate?

In a system that values higher education, and a system that cuts off failures from government and private sponsorships in further education, the children born to the middle class and first-class members of society, with opportunities for private caching and access to better facilities grab a great percentage of the available opportunities and the few who fail will most likely self-pay for their higher education. Children from poor backgrounds on the other hand most often stay stranded with shattered dreams and are forced into subsistence living, usually on menial and petty jobs, their entire lives. This inhibits their ability to provide for their children, give them better education, and in effect, the vicious cycle of illiteracy, poverty, disease, over-reliance on the raw natural wealth for survival, lower life expectancy, lower happiness indices and higher mortality than societal average will repeat themselves in these families across generations.

Moving forward, it is my take that inheritance is going to be a major factor in wealth ownership. Left over cash from monthly salaries after expenditure will not be enough to constitute or build up wealth. The world is shrinking as the global human population grows. In effect, ownership of land, a home and other forms of capital will not be a guarantee as they grow more expensive beyond what the average induvial earnings can afford. Most people will be forced to survive on their daily labor, basically, working for others who own vast inherited resources. Talk of farms, estates, shares in companies and factories that produce goods for the entire world. The owners of such resources will determine how people live and who has a say in how society should run in future. The have nots who will constitute over 90% of population by virtue of what entail to be classified as having will not matter. They will not have any options other than to struggle so hard in order to survive. And the picture only becomes clearer when one looks at the political and economic happenings in Syria, the USA, China, Russia, Tanzania, Burundi, Congo, Spain and in Kenya where a few wealthy and ‘powerful’ individuals determine how the rest live and the so called rest are forced to toe the line based on their perceived lack of power, fear and their dependence on the regimes to survive from day to day. These societies set systems in a way that makes the poor believe that their wellbeing hinges on the continued dominance by the mightily powerful few decision makers.

For a world characterized by cut throat competition, there are individuals and families with an inheritance of rental estates and farm lands that are already raking in billions of shillings for them and their future dependents. The so-called children (or generally, descendants) of the haves are lucky to have good and famous names to themselves that they expect to open doors for them wherever they go. They are not required to know much or have much in order to get accepted into positions of influence. Their names are the miracle wand. All they have to do is to shove a name card and their capabilities will have explained themselves. Yet, there are those who are being brought into the world with nothing to their names. In fact, their surnames are a liability that will close doors instead of opening them. The blood they carry has nothing to show for its existence; talk of the old sins of fore fathers that descendants have to pay for through lifelong poverty. These individuals will be expected to fend for their parents and extended relations, and still find a way to try and compete at the same level with the descendants of the haves, so as to also leave wealth for their future generations. Naturally, it would be expected that they will try to play catch up their entire lives and so will their dependents after them. Such is the imbalance that characterizes our world.

Two extremes, an engineering, medical, psychologist, or any other graduate from the lower end of the string will be expected to look for a job, start from the bottom and grow slowly before he can actually make a name of r himself. Children of the rich on the other hand use their parents’ names, connections and wealth to get managerial positions on graduation, or to start businesses that immediately become competitive at the global state based on how much different types of capital are all the time at their disposal. It makes it very hard for those beginning from nothing to make it for themselves, leave a lone making it for their descendants on a globally competitive scale. Saying this should not create the assumption that I am trying to take away hope from the poor. My intention is to point out a skewness that should be addressed if all humans are going to be equal and have uninterrupted equal rights and chances at life and personal fulfilment.

Already, within the 21st Century, dominance of the political systems in states is majorly by families that have accumulated wealth and grown it over time. To confirm this, one needs to find out the cost of running a political campaign for the post of a state president, a regional governor or a member of the national assembly in most nations. Getting into political leadership is very expensive and demands that one has a very stable funding base; most of which money is usually contributed by the candidate himself and wealthy financiers who want to protect their business interests in the next centuries. Africa is not exempted from this trend. Similarly, starting a business and making it successful demands that one is ready to compete with and outperform companies with decades if not a century of experience in doing the same thing.

These trends did not just begin today. In Africa, as is the case elsewhere world over, for example, government jobs as well as political positions are dominated by descendants of former colonial chiefs and public servants who were loyal to the colonial governments, and the descendants of the connected few who benefitted from the transfer of power, wealth and the state to locals when the white colonialists closed shop at the advent of independent states. These former African chiefs and public servants took their children to the best schools (including abroad), who in effect also educated their children. If one was to trace their lineages to date, it would be confessable that they are among the richest in their communities and are generally considered as the ruling and middle classes. Those who did not fully participate in these initial government brokerages and their descendants are at the periphery of their societies. They are mainly seen as the national burden and embarrassment. They constitute the beneficiaries of state welfare programmes for the poor be it through free public education, medical care at public hospitals, homes for the homeless, food for the poor, and the like.

Sadly, the wealthy families are not entirely a product of sheer hard work. Following the formation of independent nation states, African bureaucrats for instance immediately embarked on aggressive looting of public coffers and other state, community and individual resources including land. The likes of Mobutu Ssesseseko got richer than the states they were meant to manage. Though the fate of Mobutu may have been different, many such global despots, and the Castros in Cuba come to mind here, went unpunished and their descendants are rolling large as a result of their ancestors’ loot. Such other people existed in the public service who may not have carried everything from the state, but who stole significant enough wealth to make them among the richest in their countries today. Further, the said individuals established themselves in their states’ trade infrastructure. Their companies are the ones that do business in billions of US Dollars today. This means that their wealth is not made to only benefit their current generations but several other generations to come within their genealogies which begs the question, what of the have nots?

In the world of trade, owners of businesses that have decades if not centuries of history such as white farmers in Africa who have made money since the 19th century should be better off than their ordinary neighbor families. There are families with hundreds of years of money making history. They own banks and have companies big enough to supply the whole world with a line of certain products. This translates to billions of cash getting into their families annually. Talk of the white farmer families that have grown tea, coffee and palm trees in Africa for the last 150 years, the banker families whose banks have continental if not global reaches, the black families that have owned and mined gold fields for the same period, or still, the royal families in the middle east that own rich oil fields and still keep acquiring more. Their wealth accumulates as the contemporary poor families struggle to manage from meal to meal or from one rent to the next, trying as much as possible to manage to pay fees from one term to the next for their children who, seemingly bright, are expected to ‘make it in life’ and lift off the family burden. But who, being depressed with all these things that happen around them, are sucked back into the exact cycle of poverty that has always characterized their family trees. The rich live in the world of gods.

Further, there are instances where the benefits that accrue to having public offices and trading with the state do not only trickle to certain families but to certain communities (tribes) that have closer relations with the state. Talk of the tribe of the president or the clan f the governor as is currently being witnessed by the devolved governance in Kenya, and has been experienced in Rwanda, Ethiopia, and in Nigeria before. Such practices tend to set certain communities apart as the special ones. Such are the richest and the best treated by the government. The practice creates dejection from other communities which get the impression that hard work does not pay but instead, having access does. Running public offices, in this case, become attached to having the opportunity to loot. In effect, competition for political power becomes more cut throat where enemies must be eliminated making political campaigns characterized with war and genocides.

There is an urgent global need to financially lift the down trodden, the completely have-nots. If this is not done, then we will have generations of individuals along certain family trees who have it all. People ho have trillions of monies that can only compare with the wealth of nations. On the other hand, there will be families that have gone through generations of abjection. The human society will have such a sharp divide among its people. Those who have all the understanding and the control on one hand and others who don’t have anything and don’t know where the future lies. Such a sharp divide will not only make it hard for governments to govern but will also result in enslavement of the poor by the rich, overreliance on the few to fund the running of governments as those within tax brackets reduce, conflicts between governments and their subjects, and class wars in societies that will be completely attributable to these imbalances. Societies will have more homeless, jobless, sick and illiterate people whose only salvation will be governments’ social support programmes, which will not be available. Societies win when everyone or a great majority of the people are empowered.

Changing the bad history that characterizes poor families in any state should not only be the responsibility of governments. Whereas it is true that the history of nations is marked with visible great efforts by states to provide food, health services and education to the poor and vulnerable communities/ regions, there is need for these states to switch from giving these handouts (read material or financial support) to actually educating the poorest on the dynamics that operate around them. They need to know where the world around them is moving to as they are busy trying to make ends meet from day to day. The poor need to know that they can do something about their situations and adopt sustainable livelihood methods with the support of their governments. Gone should be the regimes among the poor of living from hands to mouth all the time and then begging for support when hand to mouth fails. And as this happens, there is need to regulate profit by individuals so that extra income by the super wealthy is pumped back into empowerment programmes for the miserable poor who have potential.

The poor should be made to know the value of building their stock piles of resources, whether in food or finances, however painful this transition will be for them. They should be empowered to acquire that mind shift and know that they are treated as equals (which they actually are) in a community of peoples, families and clans, and that their transition from despondence to affluence (or economic stability) is good not only for them but for their descendants too. Everybody should learn to plant a seed for the future not only of their own but of their children’s children. That is what is entailed in the words and the spirit of sustainable development. Moving together as brothers and sisters and not as lords and servants. It entails planting a seed for the future. No child would want to be born into poverty and struggle. We should not allow any children to be born into such as others are born into a world of passing by without making any positive contributions to humanity because all that they need was made ready for them before they were born.

With devolved governance systems picking up across the world, local authorities should take up targeted isolation of marginalized and poor families and individuals who have potential to succeed in whichever ventures, whether business or academic, and facilitate them to participate in these fully. By so doing, such individuals and their loved ones may have some hope of turning their histories around with time. In particular, local scholarships and bursaries from government should specifically target these poor folks. Similar efforts should be put into business incubation and financing programmes for the poor determined investors who can benefit from low cost funding and other determine government incentives. Although such plans and efforts my already exist in many nations, they usually end up benefiting children and relatives of the rich public administrators trusted with managing them, or also come with so many other bottlenecks that stifle hope among the desperate entrants.

All in all, there is need for equitable need for equitable wealth acquisition and distribution to guarantee sustainable growth by all across generations, and in all communities. Lack of this does not guarantee the safety of wealth accumulated by the few rich at the expense of the majority poor who live in servitude. It is not possible to talk of fair business and employment environments if these do not provide indiscriminate opportunities for all under similar entry criteria. This does not disregard the fact that our world is a competitive one. There is still need for a balance and equity, either way or this will force itself on us in a nasty showdown, somewhere down in our history as humans as has been witnessed in some societies. We cannot just assume that Karl Max was wrong and will always remain to be that way, wrong.

Of landlords who eat us all whole and an unregulated system that cares not

For over ten years now, there has been public debate regarding the time bomb that story buildings in Nairobi and elsewhere in the country are. This period has seen tens of apartments blocks collapse in Nairobi, Kisumu, Kisii, Nakuru and other Kenyan towns leaving behind thousands of lives either lost or affected and billions of shillings in damages. Following every one of these incidences are usually promises by the National Construction Authority on which buildings they are going to demolish and how keenly they are going to enforce building codes. Then the police will be all over searching for landlords who usually, upon learning of the collapse of their buildings, run into hiding. But that is usually the end of well crafted public display of effort and concern. After that, things go back to normal. Nothing changes at all. But this is just one issue. What of tenants’ welfare once they get into these weak and sometimes leaning buildings? Who cares what goes on behind the ever-locked gates of these apartments with regard to occupants’ health, safety and security?

Well, I have observed a trend among landlords that needs speaking against with the hope that some action will follow. Having lived in Nairobi for six years now, I, like any other city hustler, have changed houses in Nairobi enough to know that most of the so-called landlords are cut from the same cloth but for a few cases. It is simple. The landlords, just like the national and county governments, do not care much about the safety and satisfaction of their tenants. Our landlords are just another conduit through which money disappears without much expected return on expenditure. Like all the other cartels, their job is to syphon more money from tenants and issue eviction notices without a care about the kind of shithole of houses that tenants live in, every coming month.
Most landlords do not have any direct interaction with the tenants other than through their bank accounts. The rest of their interactions are mediated through the use of third parties. Tenants never get to know how their landlords look. They most probably only know their names because it is also their account name, or where the money is deposited in a company account, then one never gets to know who owns the house they live in the City in the Sun. When looking to rent a house in the apartments that bear the “to let, spacious two-bedroom house, call…” signs, you will meet a somewhat friendly looking caretaker or agent who will promise to paint the house, fix water and sewer system problems the house has, replace broken window panes, repair the badly damaged wardrobes, provide keys for every room, simply, do it all before you move in. Then, these agents and caretakers are usually very fast to hand a potential tenant a piece of paper with bank account details on it so that you commit and fix yourself. Consequently, once you make that first payment, you realize you made a mistake. It is like accidentally falling pregnant for the bad boy you were just playing with without any intention of marrying whatsoever. Game over!
As is usually the narrative, even before a tenant moves in, they will be told the fundis who were to fix the problems with your new house have not been cooperative and so, since you are dealing with tarehe tano deadlines from your old landlord, or you will forfeit your two months deposit, a tenant has no alternative but to move into the ‘new’ house that has the same problems he was trying to run away from when he decided to change houses. And as the story goes, the moment you move in, the smile on the caretaker’s face disappears and is immediately replaced with such a persistent frown that says rent shall never delay and don’t ask any questions, and a cat and mouse game, so much that the repair works becomes just another story he was told. You discover that have just gotten yourself into another hell.

Despite not knowing the owner of your house, you get his threats every time you delay to pay rent by two days. Worryingly too, most tenants don’t know of any government agency that they should or can run to, complain and have their issues fixed. Ours is a system where the so called corrupt police are supposed to hear it all and fix it all, from marriage counselling to inspecting virtually everything else. There are professional tasks that should be done by other professional inspectors and dispute managers. It is not proper to bundle up all tasks related to running the state and dump them to the police. It is confusing. Some of these things can be done by public health and safety inspectors.

Landlords in this city are so hands-off in terms of customer support and hard hearted. They do not even care what your name is or whether their buildings are occupied by ghosts. The only language they understand is money and more money. That is why they increase rent as they want, evict tenants as they wish and hold onto tenants’ deposit on relocation without a care. To them, it matters not whether a tenant just lost his job, his child just flew out of the carelessly done balconies and window grills from sixth floor, or if you broke your spinal cord when you fell on the carelessly done and irregular staircases that are meant to take you to and from your house. The caretakers will tell you that rent is rent and must be paid irregardless. Ama Ukichoka, uhame. And if you prove difficult, then threats and other forms of harassment will follow as we witnessed in Langata in December last year (2017).

Some of these apartments are built using money looted from tax payers in shady deals. Where do we think all the money lost in corruption scandals in this country go to? Is it no wonder that the landlords don’t want to be known and their faces seen? Some landlords, to avoid overgeneralization, build these houses through fraud, and then fraudulently charge exorbitant rent and maintenance fees on innocent optionless tax paying Kenyans whose only mistake is to work away from home and be in need of shelter. It is a common rumor in town that some landlords are bribed with land and building materials in exchange for favors elsewhere. In effect, they buy land, build apartments and start earning rent without ever spending a cent. They also rarely, if at all, visiting and inspect ‘their’ property to confirm that they are safe for occupants.
According to international laws which, ratified by Kenya, forms part of our national constitution, and which should have in effect guided the writing of the tenant and landlords bill, housing is a basic right and need. Everyone has a fundamental human right to descent housing, which ensures access to a safe, secure, habitable, and affordable home with freedom from forced eviction. It is the government’s obligation to guarantee that everyone can exercise this right to live in security, peace, and dignity. This right must be provided to all persons irrespective of income or access to economic resources. And providing this right comes with a responsibility that should be institutionalized in some arm of the government but this seems not to be the case in our land though. Our legal provisions, which generally only exist on paper, are too keen on dispute resolution without regard to occupants’ health and safety.

In addition to the harassment, most of the apartments in Nairobi have dark and unlit stairways which are also rarely if at all washed. They are both a safety, public health, domestic and occupational hazard for people who live and work in them. These apartments, and particularly their stairways rarely have enough air circulation, are never re-painted and have cobwebs and dust all over but there is nobody who inspects them to ensure that their occupants are safe. Further to this, there are no checks, not by the landlords, the state or county governments to ensure that routine maintenance of these buildings is done. Also lacking is the construction of access roads to estates where tenants live. As a consequence, many urban dwellers have to wade through mud in rainy seasons and dust in dry weather to go and make money for the governments, and then come back to be harassed by evil agents and caretakers on behalf of landlords.

There is therefore need for the national and county governments to act and correct all this madness that tenants live through in Nairobi and other towns in Kenya, as soon as now. In particular, this task should be taken up by the already existing government agencies that seem not to have it in their list of responsibilities. Such agencies include the Ministry of Transport, Infrastructure, Housing and Urban Development, Ministry of Health’s Departments of Preventive and Promotive Health, Standards and Quality Assurance and Regulations and that of Health Sector Coordination and Inter Government. Others stake holders in this should include the National Disaster Operation Centre, County Public Health and Safety Departments, in all the counties, and to some extent, the National Construction Authority. These agencies should, through well-coordinated joint effort to address concerns including; undertake policy formulation on these matters, allocate responsibilities on who should shoulder which responsibilities, perform monitoring and evaluation of the tenant welfare, health, and safety conditions, forward of cases of deviance for prosecution, perform continuous training of landlords and awareness creation among tenants, do research, and recommend new approaches of making residences safe and healthy for occupants.
Alternatively, considering that coordination has been great challenge for various government units in the recent past, even with regard to general disaster management, a simple solution would be to set up a well-staffed and equipped inspectorate with national coverage to see into it that public safety and security in residential buildings, and even workplaces, is given maximum attention. This inspectorate will then shoulder all the responsibilities right from policy formulation and implementation to training members of public and doing new research on alternative approaches that can be employed to address this mess. Like the other very many neglected sectors of our society, it is a high time that provision of housing is regulated and regularly inspected by the state and its local representatives.

On the other hand, to make buildings occupation worthy, it should be mandatory for landlords to maintain their buildings; check the lighting, water supply, waste management and ventilation from time to time. They should also put in a new layer of paint after a certain number of months, especially on stairways to keep the residences descent. Finally, the landlords should, out of courtesy and customer support, but also as a punishable legal requirement, keep in touch with their tenants and at least visit the buildings to see for themselves what goes on in them rather than leave them at the mercy of mean care takers and agents. Landlords must learn to pump a bit of the rent they collect back into maintaining their buildings. A building once put up, just like a farm that needs weeding and manuring, must be maintained so that it is able to attract new client, but also, so that those who reside in it are safe and satisfied as clients. They cannot just be so money minded to the extent that the welfare of their building and those who give you that money becomes a non-issue. It is both evil and shameful.

We are Misusing God’s Petticoat

When growing up, we had a playgroup where there was this boy, let’s call him Jaymoh. Jaymoh was this special son, pampered by parents and elder siblings. He found it easy to insult others, slap, hit others with pebbles, and report fake allegations of us having beaten him when plying, to his elder brothers who would in return chase us around and beat us up. Ours toys were his by default and his toys were his alone.
There are occasions when Jaymo would hit you, steal your toys/ball, and then go hide behind the mother/brother/father. Jaymoh found it very easy to even hide under the mother’s wide skirt (remember the days when mother’s wore wide kamisis?), or under the mum’s stool where she was seated chatting with other women.
He mastered the art of acting a victim and assaulting other children. Any toy/ball you had was only yours for as long as Jaymoh had not picked interest in it. And we did not like it. And we tried and had our revenge when Jaymoh’s protectors were not watching.
Still, I think Jaymoh’s family furthered this misbehavior by being overprotective of him. He lost all his friends in effect.
Luckily, I tend to think, God does not act like Jaymoh’s parents and siblings. There has been this strong attempt by both Jubilee and NASA to pull God to their side. Each side thinks they’ll use God to punish their enemies, retain power, or go to Canaan respectively. I think God is not a contract killer or contract ally. No party is so special so that God will side with one half of Kenya and ignore the other half. I don’t think so.
Then I also believe the creator of the universe gave us both power and authority to discern between what is good and what is bad and act accordingly. That’s why I don’t believe in our MISLEADERS making careless utterances, mismanaging public resources, politically inciting tribes against each other, and then when tensions heat up, they run to churches to pray, tell us to sing the national anthem and run to seek the intervention of the international community.
It is a funny game our MISLEADERS are playing. That’s why I don’t like it when people want us to pray for peace when there are actions that can be taken to ensure we have enduring peace and harmony, but nobody wants to act right. We just all just want to play dirty then go hide under God’s petticoat.

Of a State Run by Puppies, Thieves, Witches, Drug Lords and Militia

In Plato’s Republic, Socrates describes those supposed to be charged with running the affairs of the state as philosopher kings. These were people with vast knowledge across academic fields, and massive experience managing public affairs. This made them to be equivalents of prophets or rabbis based on their abilities to discern the flow of things, take calculated moves and risks not for their good but for the good of those they rule, and even make weighted statements. Philosopher kings had the power to predict sequences of events based on their mastery of theories and practices that guide governance. In effect, most of their decisions, actions and statements were celebrated and trusted by their subjects from across political divides. Leaders were supposed to be revered and looked upon as the actual representatives of God on earth. God spoke and acted through them to the sustenance of human societies and mother nature as a whole. True leaders, as envisaged by philosophical and religious texts, were to be the most learned but also the most humble of all. Not the egoistic and discriminating type that divide the publics into part that is their own and another that is their burden.

Fast forward to Kenya, then you ask yourself where things went wrong. These are not my words, but it is true that Kenya is a country held hostage by puppies, witches drug lords and thieves in the name of leaders; they even refer to each other as such. Not that I like it when they do that. This kind of characterization of fellow leaders breeds division and conflicts among followers of each. It also breeds a culture of disrespect for leaders and for each other among the citizens. Their ills that earn them these tittles, however, if true, should be identified, investigated and punished by state. Further to this, that the president of the state and his deputy can look at the members of public through a dichotomy and refer to some of certain ethnic groups as witches and militia is unfortunately very sad. This means that in their eyes, some tax payers are saints and others are an evil, purely because they don’t support their rulership.

If our leaders really went to school and mastered whatever they were taught, they should have known that society, just like the human body, is made of interconnected parts that must work in harmony with each other to deliver sustainability. That is not the case in Kenya were politics and daylight robbery of public resources is the norm. If you think that is not the case, then ask yourself, why does our government think that every item costs a billion Kenya Shillings while in reality, less than five percent of the country’s citizens have at any given time held a hundred thousand shillings in their hands? Do you think our governors both at national and county levels consider it seriously that the well-being of the state lies in giving opportunities to as many people to earn a living as possible as from there comes the state’s income? They confuse being good managers to be equivalent with being loud mouths and hurling the sharpest insults at their perceived opponents. They are indeed our only curse that the creator so abundantly wrathed us with. What a disgrace!
Kenya has soils that need protecting through practicing sound agriculture and land reclamation, the state has wetlands that have been neglected for so long, and these have been grabbed and developed by private individuals as state officials sleep and also loot, our economy is tilted so that the rich are making more money as the poor get poorer, our education and health systems are in tatters, unemployment in Kenya is among the worst globally, our lakes and rivers are drying up; and many other ills that we can cite which needs working on. But does the government and elected leaders notice these? Instead, the so called custodians of the state are the number one to rape it lead by the president and the opposition leader.

When everybody is busy positioning themselves to run away with the biggest piece of the pie as they call it, then who is for Kenya now? When citizens are divided into political camps and nobody is listening to the other, who is protecting the state and public interests that have been neglected for so long? Do the so called leaders who roll in V8 vehicles and private planes know how hard life is for the ordinary mwananchi on the ground? Do they know how painful our ulcers are? Ulcers caused by eating mboga and strungi daily as they roll their tummies around and throw abuses at us? Do they know how we, the actual people of Kenya, have ulcers gotten from swallowing the bitter words that they spew on us through TV and radio stations every passing hour? Can’t these so referred to as puppies, witches drug lord and thieves of leaders just leave us to enjoy our sorrow in peace as they swim in the joy their abundant loots? After taking everything that belongs to us citizens can’t they just leave us alone and stop the ‘political’ bickering? I think it is a high time these so called leaders knew that punda amechoka.

We know that as Kenyans, our undoing lies in our inability to elect philosopher kings of leaders, we actually prefer to vote in ‘wajinga kama sisi’ who will be at our level, as many would say (unfortunate), but it is also not too much to ask that they speak less and act more on the ills that are sickening this society. At least that way, their ignorance will not be too visible and we will be less sick of them. So, the next time we see the puppies, witches, drug lords and thieves, can we boldly tell them that the ulcers they are causing us are too much and that they should tone down their theatrics and do a bit more of what matters, even as ‘uneducated’ as they happen to be? Further to that, it may also be important that the Kenyan people learn to hold back all the abuses they hurl at each other an d focus on restoring national unity, trust and nation building, of which’s doing requires revisiting concerns I raised in my previous article.
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The State of the Nation; Can Kenya Give me Something to Believe in and Stop Raping my Nationalist Convictions?

I am going to write this as a young person who is still trying to find his footing and establish his beliefs so as to set sail as a member of this society. This is in line with my conviction that very many a young and upcoming leaders in this republic (Kenya) are struggling with the same problem as I am. Which is, what to believe in.

As the youth, including the now school going children, can someone in this great republic give us something to believe in? Because genuinely speaking, I feel like we are bringing up a generation of young people who have been taught all the good things that a sustainable society should consist of, but who see the adults, and more so, the leaders of this country practicing the opposite.

In April 2016, I wrote an article in which I urged the UHURUTO government to compensate the victims of the 3007/2008 post election violence equally. But as we all by now should be knowing, the government played tokenism with this matter. IDPs were compensated based on their tribes and affiliation to the government. To prove the point, only recently, during the campaigns for the 2017 presidential elections, president Kenyatta, in his good wisdom, took a token compensation to IDPs in Kisii. This was years after IDPs in Central Kenya were compensated. And those of us who have been following this story know that IDPs from other parts of this country have never been compensated because they don’t dance to the tunes of the current regime. Which means they don’t get to benefit from it’s money. Mark this, the last time I checked, the government was funded by tax payers from across the country.

So,when leaders tell us to believe in national unity, then one would want to know, just what do they mean? Can somebody direct me on this? Because some of those who were affected y PEV in 2007/8 were neighbors though from different communities. But they have over time seen their friends receive money while they remain uncared for. Do you expect them to tell their children to believe in the idea of nationalism, or to grow up and avenge for the evils they have endured through decades?

We happen to be in this state where you are expected to act good, but in return, the evil you see around you thrives.But I still believe evil can only breed evil in return.

Following the just concluded elections, a majority of the Kenyan leaders; whether MPs, Governors,Senators or MCAs who were voted in are individuals who have been grossly mentioned in corruption scandals, drug trafficking,nepotism,tribalism, clanism,mismanagement of public resources, just to name but a few. But surprisingly,these are the key allies and advisers of the presidency and the opposition parties. They are the financiers of Kenya’s political systems, and now, the key managers of state affairs.It will be against normal to expect better from them. They are setting precedence and the onlooking youth are already taking notes on what to do to climb up in society. This can only breed an anarchical state in future as us the current experience with Nigeria, the Caribbean region and many South American Nations.

So, for those of you Kenyans who happen to have been born 10 or 20 ahead of me. Can you guide us on how we should behave without contradicting your words with opposite deeds? Can you do that without blocking yours faces with your arms because you know you are preaching some water that even you cannot consume, for whine is your delicacy?
One thing about this beautiful country is, that when children go to school, we fill their minds with all the possibilities, what they should become and what they should have. Then they work hard in school,like we have, to achieve these big dreams. But even as they do this, they see their president, state ministers and their own parents achieving these milestones through corrupt ways. The school colleagues who broke the law and cut corners become the landlords and land ladies of the genuinely hard working. In this sense, the teacher and the preacher of good deeds stop making sense. The constitution and the beautiful national ideals that we are all meant to embrace become meaningless and just sheet words written on paper. How do you obey a constitution that even the president himself disregards? How do you vote in a system where public participation is a PR undertaking and where the voices of Adhiambo, Wanjiku,Mwikali and Wafula have no meaning? How do you not steal in a society where thieves thrive? In an oligarchical, an anarchical and a despondent system where democracy and peace are just mentioned to make the poor masses toe the line and become easily governable and manipulable? Are you getting my agony? Those born in 1975 and bellow, and who are alive here today, can you guide our torn souls?
Then the current presidential elections drama comes and makes things worse than the above trends have done. Am not trying to spell doom. But really? Can’t our leaders do better? Is the presidency a do or die thing? When we teach Kenyans, young and old, about sharing, embracing each other and working together as a nation, and then our leaders are so arrogant and proud to even sit down and talk. When national leaders scheme to commit evil, steal votes, kill opponent’s supporters, arrange to torch property owned by opponents, call foe a boycott of products and arm gangs, then which picture are they painting of the nation? And when we the ordinary Kenyans so steadfastly hang onto our tribal chieftains and make their word law. Which leads to us maiming and killing innocent people with disregard to justice and adherence to the rule of law, then do we make things any better? These things are sickening. For real. So?

Kenya is not in a bad and irredeemable state as we all would want to paint it. But Kenya can get there very soon if we continue on this path.

I have said it before and I will also say it here. Our fish happens to have a rotten head. The Kenyan problem is a leadership one. We have sold our thinking, our freedom and our decision making to the wrong people. Wrong in the sense that they are so used to doing evil it has become their new normal.
We have this class of leaders who do not obey the rule of law but expects us to obey,who do not respect the will of the people or even the people themselves, and who believe in Kenyans serving them instead of them serving Kenyans. The Kenyan political class are used to using the people, private wealth and national resources as a political card. In the same way that they have no respect for themselves, the Kenyan political class have lost respect for the nation and its people. Everything and everyone to them is some pawn to be used on the chess table. And we follow them blindly, Kikuyu or Luo.

For some meaningful change to be realized,and I still hope that the current political impasse will be sorted out amicably without some Kenyans winning and others feeling defeated, we must have some deep national dialogue. I still insist that historical injustices of this country must be dealt with. Be it the Wagala Massacre, the political assassinations, or the unbalanced distribution of national resources and opportunities. This does not have to be done in the glare of the media all the time. But for unity’s sake, let’s not be blind. Lets do this thing. Heal those whose hearts are burdened with vengeance.
Our leaders should acknowledge that leadership entails taking responsibilities,even for some evils that were committed before we were born. Saying sorry to PEV victims should not hurt. Paying the victims equally should not be a matter of favor and feel, but rather, a principles based state endeavor. State resources belong to all Kenyans and should serve all, not just those dancing around the President’s desk.

We must start taking issues of governance seriously. State institutions charged with vetting to-be public servants should do their work without fear or favor. And, avoiding evil and the fruits that come from it must be an individual goal and responsibility too. And those who violate national doctrines (read laws) should be penalized irrespective of their position within the food chain. And national leaders should be surrounded by people of reputation, them that can be emulated for their good deeds, not theft and economic banditry. And as a people (read nation) ware failing terribly in this.
We should see some meaningful action being taken to punish crimes being committed, past and future, especially by the elites, but also by everyone else. That is how people can believe in the rule of law. Lets stop playing politics with punishing crimes. The presidency, the judiciary and the legislature should seriously serve their purpose or we will have no country to talk about.

Then, I think it is a high time the president and the ministers in this country discovered their roles. We are completely of the mark on this. Of all the things, the Presidents, of both the executive, the judiciary and the legislature should style up and live up to the ideals dictated by our constitution. We cannot have a thief, a tribalist, and a non performer for a president, in any of the three arms mentioned above, and expect different results. As in, you applied for those positions and we have trusted you with them. Why can’t you just do your jobs and make lives better for the poor Kenyans, eleven for heaven’s sake only. Isn’t that also what you learnt in school and what current generations are learning? Why must we as a nation be so contradicted in words and action? We are behaving like a cheating spouse who expects trust in return. Only that we are cheating our own selves.

Finally, having laid down my burdens here for you to read. Allow me to repeat again and say that I am not a happy young Kenyan. I am disgusted to say the least. Disgusted because the leadership of this dear country is ‘leading’contrary to all the ideals that should run a society. Whereas states should be run by philosopher kings, it would seem that Kenya is currently under the rulership of kings who do not know the philosophical foundations that guide the running of a republic, but who have also got no iota of morals that should make a good member of society even at individual levels; leave alone a leader. You may not know it, presidents, ministers and the like, but you are not just managing Kenya for today, you are also there to determine the shape and nature of this republic 100 years from now. Can you just try and behave? Your conduct hurts.
As a people, we are tired of vote stealing, and all those bad things you do. We are emotionally burdened beyond what any units can measure.

I believe this here, is the burden of many young Kenyans. And many of use lack ways to ask questions, or make a contribution. After all, we are supposed to obey our elders. Right?
Thank you!Jodongo-29-10-2017

Balancing Between Justice and ‘Peace’: Questions on Kenya’s PEV

A few Kenyans have had cases in the International Criminal Court due to their suspected involvement in crimes against humanity during the country’s post election violence between December 2007 and January 2008.Due to what seems to be lack of adequate evidence, the court has found it fit to terminate all the cases as per the final verdict of the court given on fifth day of April 2016. This would point it being that innocent guys (actually the wrong people) were taken to the courts on false allegations. How I hope that this be right.
Commenting on the ICC cases is a challenge. Whereas we would like to have them terminated so that Kenya’s influence within the international system is regained, it is true that some of the actors who have so far been let loose may not be fully innocent; and they cannot apologize because that will be self incriminating.Complaints over intimidation and bribery of witnesses have been raised by the court itself. This would point to us having a very weak court that cannot guarantee the security and confidentiality of a handful witnesses.
How do those incriminated feel or even react every time they are asked; and they are all spiritual people by the way, are you sure you are completely innocent with regard to the 2007/8 deaths in Kenya sir? Does it then become that  the same way we have become fearless and hard-faced in looting  public coffers is the same way in which we will participate in the destruction in every sense possible of those we see not to be like us?
Some factions are complaining that the two cases should have gone on if they were to get justice. The question then becomes, how will those who fell victims in Naivasha, Nakuru and Nairobi get justice? And here, I am referring to the victims who were not necessarily from the GEMA communities. Do some people within the republic deserve justice more than others?
How do we deal with issues of ethnic based conflicts from now on?
Whereas I may be happy for the country in terms of the diplomatic milestones the cases have helped us achieve, I am not happy with the way the post conflict phase has been handled by us all. The government has failed and the people share the blame.
Nobody has the blame or the responsibility for what happened not because all parties dialogued and agreed to forgive and forget. Not that reconciliation worked so well we all look at and smile with each other. No. Not with the hate speeches I see on social media and which I hoe will go down with time.
The rapists, those who broke into homes, those who speared others, those who torched houses, those who evicted others from “their” territories. All of them are still free and other than their feeling of self guilt if they have any, will never be told by a justice system that what they did was wrong. Won’t they be tempted to perfect the game?
Tell me, what do we have to tell those who spent several nights sleeping in the forests because their homes were not safe? What do we tell those who witnessed the killing of their kin? What do we tell those whose property were taken over by “indigens”?
Is working on the root causes of conflicts for the sake of future peace better than delivering justice to those who suffered the outcome of past conflicts? Is the country going to be more united because no one was brought to book? because we all silently decided to forgive and forget?
How do we secure the peaceful future of the nation that Kenya so desperately needs?

Global Warming; Causes, Effects, Current Trends and Search for Solution

By Janes Ouma Odongo

“Climate change is an issue that presents great scientific and economic complexities, some very deep uncertainties, profound ethical issues, and even lack of agreement on what the problem is.” Mike Toman

Mother Nature operates on equilibrium with room for slight disturbances. Any unwelcome alteration to this state (massive disequilibrium) comes with devastating catastrophes both human and natural- a principle in Earth Science

 

  1. Introduction
    • Definition of Weather and Climate

Whereas weather is the state of the atmosphere at a specific time in a specific place and is measured using elements such as temperature, cloudiness, humidity, precipitation, and winds, climate is defined as long-term weather patterns that describe a region. The same elements that measure weather are used to measure climate with their measurements taken over a long duration spanning 30years and above.

Climate variability refers to variations in the prevailing state of the climate on all temporal and spatial scales beyond that of individual weather events. Variability can be caused by natural internal processes within the climate system, or to variations in natural or anthropogenic (human-driven) external forcing.

Global climate change refers to a change in either the mean state of the climate or in its variability, persisting for several decades or longer. This includes changes in average weather conditions on Earth, such as a change in average global temperature, as well as changes in how frequently regions experience heat waves, droughts, floods, storms, and other extreme weather. Changes in individual weather events will potentially contribute to a great effect, to changes in climate variability (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA); 2005).

The weather system. Source: Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), 1996. http://www.dar.csiro.au/publications/info98_4.htm

The global climate system is driven by the sun’s energy. It is also regulated by natural processes and cycles in the Earth system which include the carbon cycle and greenhouse effect, orbital cycles (for the earth and the moon), ocean currents that distribute warmer and colder water around the globe, and atmosphere-ocean interactions that moderate temperature. In addition to this, some scholars humans are principally affecting the climate system through alterations to the carbon cycle, which regulates the flow of carbon among living and non-living parts of the Earth system.

Carbon Cycle. Source: United States Geological Survey (USGS). USGS Fact Sheet137-97 1997. http://geochange.er.usgs.gov/pub/carbon/fs97137/co2bdgt90.jpg

  • Greenhouse Gases

These gases are a natural component of the climate system with the role of maintains the Earth as a habitable planet. Greenhouse gases are transparent to incoming solar radiation, allowing the sun’s energy to pass through the atmosphere to the surface of the Earth. The sun’s energy is then absorbed by the Earth’s surface, used in processes like photosynthesis, or emitted back to space as infrared radiation.

Some of the emitted radiation passes through the atmosphere and travels back to space, but some is absorbed by greenhouse gas molecules and then re-emitted in all directions. This helps warm the Earth’s surface and the lower atmosphere.

Water vapor (H2O) and carbon dioxide (CO2) are the two largest contributors to the greenhouse effect. Others will include Methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and other greenhouse gases which are present only in trace amounts. These can still have a powerful warming effect due to their heat-trapping abilities and their long residence time in the atmosphere.

Without the greenhouse effect, Earth’s average temperature would be -0.4°F (-18°C), rather than the present 59°F (15°C), (NOAA; 2005).

The greenhouse effect. Source: United States Global Change Research Program, 1996. http://www.gcrio.org/ocp96/p30box.html

However some scholars are not in agreement with the addition of water vapor into the list of gasses that make up greenhouse gasses. Their thesis is that this list should only be composed of those gasses “with negative effects”.

  • Definition of global warming

Global warming refers to a gradual increase in the overall temperatures of the earth’s atmosphere. Generally attributed to the greenhouse effect, global warming is caused by increased levels of carbon dioxide, Chloro Fluoro carbons and other pollutants in the atmosphere.

 

 

  • Causes of Global warming

The major agents responsible for global warming include: Mercury, CO2, methane, nitrous oxide from industries, Sulfate aerosols and use of phosphates. The concentrations of greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide has increased over the past two hundred and fifty years. This is attributable to the combustion of fossil fuels for energy production. Since the Industrial Revolution in the eighteenth century , some scholars report that the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has risen from about 270 parts per million (ppm) to about 370 ppm. Concentrations of methane have also risen due to cattle production, the cultivation of rice, and release from landfills. Nearly one-third of human-induced nitrous oxide emissions are a result of industrial processes and automobile emissions. Further to this, ecosystems have been altered with vegetation either burned or removed by or for human activities. The carbon stored in these forests is usually released to the atmosphere as carbon dioxide. This deforestation is blamed on agriculture, urban growth, harvesting timber for fuel, construction, and paper, among other reasons.

Current reports indicate that, up to a quarter of the carbon dioxide emissions to the atmosphere can be attributed to land-use change (IPCC; 2001).

In addition to carbon dioxide, Sulfate aerosols and black carbon are two important additional examples of anthropogenic outputs. Sulfate aerosols, which enter the atmosphere naturally during volcanic eruptions, are tiny airborne particles that reflect sunlight back to space. Industrial activity has recently increased their concentration in the atmosphere primarily through the burning of fossil fuels containing sulfur. Anthropogenic emissions of sulfate aerosols have been associated with a net cooling effect. Black carbon (soot) is generated from industrial pollution, traffic, outdoor fires, and the burning of coal and biomass fuels. Black carbon is formed by incomplete combustion especially of coal, diesel fuels, biofuels and outdoor biomass burning. Soot particles absorb sunlight, both heating the air and reducing the amount of sunlight reaching the ground (Rosenzweig).
Greenhouse gases are released into the air from many sources. This pie chart shows where they were coming from in 2004. IPCC Fourth Assessment Report, Working Group 3

Generally, fossil energy currently accounts for 80 percent of world energy use. Energy use is responsible for 60 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Transportation contributes more than 13% of green house gas emission but if we are to continue with our business as usual attitude, then emissions from transport related activities will double by 2050 Industry currently accounts for about 12 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions and uses about half of the electricity generated. Most important in terms of greenhouse gas emissions in industrial sector are the chemicals, cement, and steel industries.

Another sector that is worth mentioning is agriculture which according to some scientists, is responsible for 25% of the emissions whether directly or indirectly.(Bellona Foundation; 2008).

Since 1900 the global surface temperature of the Earth has risen by about 0.8 oC and since the 70s by about 0.5 oC. The temperatures therefore increased largely between 1970 and today. This temperature increase occurred during a significant atmospheric concentration increase of some greenhouse gases (especially CO2 and CH4) which is known to be mainly due to human emissions. The Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) stated in its Third Assessment Report in 2002 that: there is new and stronger evidence that most of the warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities. It predicts that global average temperatures are likely to rise between 1.4 to 5.8 degrees Celsius over this century, depending on the amount of fossil fuels we burn and the sensitivity of the climate system.

  • The Kyoto protocol

Representatives from 192 countries signed a treaty in 1992 called the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. This was later followed by the signing of the Kyoto Protocol. Also known as the Kyoto Accord, this is an international treaty among developed nations signed in Kyoto, Japan in 1997 with the aim of limiting states’ emission of green house gasses into the atmosphere. Participating parties aimed to create policies and measures that would reduce and offset domestic emissions and increase absorption of greenhouse gases. The members were required to abide by the principles of accountability, compliance and reporting. The accord expired at the end of 2012 but parties agreed upon an extension of the protocol, effective from 2013 to 2020.

The Kyoto Protocol is overseen by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). By late 2013, all UN member states except for Andorra, Canada, South Sudan and the United States had signed and ratified the treaty.

 

  1. A glance at the ongoing furious international debate on global warming

According to the Anthropogenic Global Warming Theory (AGWT) humans have caused more than 90% of global warming since 1900 and virtually 100% of the global warming since 1970.

This theory is advocated by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which is the leading body for the assessment of climate change established by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). The establishment of this institution was guided by the belief by many scientists that further emissions of greenhouse gases could endanger humanity.

There however exists dissenting voices opposed to this theory from scientists who, other than following the theoretical perspective, rely on meteorological observation data to make predictions. There is also a phenomenological model which says the global increases in temperatures between 1970 and 1990s was caused by phenomena happening naturally within the solar system without human influence. To this model therefore, global warming is not continuous and induced by human undertakings as claimed by the IPCC (Scafetta; 2010).

On the other hand, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has stuck to its estimate that, on average, the rate of global warming should be 0.2 degree Celsius (°C) per decade. According to the vast majority of climate scientists that are in support of the IPCC approach, climate change is already underway. The past decade has seen the warmest 6 years since records began. They say that a third of global habitats are at risk, and extreme events such as floods, storms and drought are becoming more frequent. Due to this, the financial consequences of climate change are also becoming apparent – with insurance claims due to weather-related damage increasing dramatically over the past few decades. Critics of this however question both observations; that natural disasters are on the increase due to global warming and not other factors, and that losses from disasters are increasingly more from this (Huang; 2004).

A twist to this heated debate is presented by Dr James Hansen of the Goddard Institute of Space Studies, New York, in a report tabled before the US Senate in 1988. According to this:

  • From 1860 to 1910 there was a slight fall in global temperatures of about 0.15°C
  • From 1910 to 1940 there was a rise in global temperatures of about 0.5°C
  • From 1940 to 1975 there was a fall of about 0.15°C
  • From 1975 to 2000 there was a rise of about 0.5°C

He gave an obvious explanation for these sequences, related to the increase in human population, the growth in the number and size of buildings, and the increased use of energy over the period for the temperature rise.

According to his report, from 1860 to 1910 the system was becoming established in the large industrial cities and spreading over the globe. Equipment was being moved from the sides and roofs of buildings to protected enclosures, leading to a slight fall in the average.

From 1910 to 1940 the cities expanded, together with their energy use. Thermometers still suffered from an upwards bias because of the shrinkage of the thermometer glass. The First World War closed many stations which were rebuilt with better facilities, still mainly in large cities.

From 1940 to 1975 many stations were moved to airports and others were set up in rural areas, so causing an average fall in temperature.

From 1975 to 2000 airports expanded to become “heat islands” and better heating took place everywhere.

His report also said that there are minor differences between the two Hemispheres. Since 1975 the Northern Hemisphere has warmed more than the Southern Hemisphere. But this is not true based on available global temperature data gathered since then.

The fluctuating behavior of the record is incompatible with any explanation involving a steady climate change and it is not possible to establish any particular trend (Gray; 2001).

In the 1980s and the first half of the 1990s, 0.2°C per decade was the observed trend, but in the late 1990s and all subsequent years the trend has been zero. Global climate observations are becoming incompatible with the consensus theory of climate change. Some scientists suggests that global temperature change may not even be a reality at all, but rather a false conclusion based on temperature readings that have been skewed by human activity (Knutti; 2008].

The other fact that we may not want to turn a blind eye on is that the stations that monitor the temperature in cities have moved closer to humans as cities have expanded, and many rural stations have been closed down. That explains why there has been no recorded increase in the measure of atmospheric temperatures, only a spike in the data on surface temperatures.

This paper will give balanced analogy of the debate on global warming and then finally give a concluding opinion on the same. To note however is that I am not in agreement with any discussion that seeks to allow continued careless human emission of greenhouse gases, or any other wastes for this matter into the environment. The negative consequences of careless human interaction with the environment are almost obvious and readily visibly wherever we go on earth including in our homes and at our door steps. Any assertions that our activities are not impacting Mother Nature negatively are hence in my view, either careless or aimed at scoring other goals and are not necessarily pointed at furthering the debate on global environmental conservation.

 

 

A graph showing global climate variations over time. Source: NASA, http://climate.nasa.gov/scientific-consensus/

N/B an organization called Skeptical Science has published 176 reasons to prove that Global Warming is not taking place. These can be accessed on: https://www.skepticalscience.com/argument.php

  1. Effects of Global Warming

The IPCC identifies the following effects of an increase in global average temperature:

  1. Steady rise of the sea level– Rise of the sea level occurs mainly due to glacier retreat. Eighty percent (80%) of the earth’s water is in solid form mostly stored in glaciers. The glacier on top of mountains, ice sheets covering West Antarctica, Greenland, and Arctic sea ice is melting at a very fast rate. When the water melts due to increased heating, it flows through streams and underground channels into the seas and lakes increasing their levels (National Geographic: 2015). Global sea levels are expected by between 7 and 23 inches (18 and 59 centimeters) by the end of the century. In addition, the continued melting at the poles could add between 4 and 8 inches (10 to 20 centimeters).
  1. Flooding of coastal areas- As a consequence of the happenings in effect one above, increasing sea levels come with flooding along the sea coasts. This has effects both on the environment and human populations inhabiting the coast. The financial effects can be devastating considering that more people tend to invest heavily along the coast in high end homes and hotels.
  2. Frequent extreme weather conditions– Global warming results in climate change which happens through changes in the timing of seasonal events such as peak rainy, dry, hot, and cold seasons. It also alters the seasonal patterns of weather through increase or decrease in temperatures. The extreme and increasingly unpredictable weather conditions tend to create hazardous conditions which, if not well prepared for in advance, can bring about meteorological disasters.
  3. Frequent poor harvests- Happens mainly due to too high or too low precipitation as well as due to extremely high or low temperatures beyond what is normal for crops and livestock.
  1. Water shortage– Especially due to droughts. This results in water bodies drying up. The water levels in lakes, springs and wells may recede as well. In other places, the water gets polluted or salty. When this happens, there occurs shortage or complete absence of water for domestic, agricultural and industrial use.

 

  1. Loss of biodiversity- Biological organisms are forced to adapt to new weather/climatic conditions. Those that are not able to cope with these environmental changes die and become extinct. For example researcher Bill Fraser has tracked the decline of the Adélie penguins on Antarctica, where their numbers have fallen from 32,000 breeding pairs to 11,000 in 30 years. (National Geographic: 2015). Most plants will bloom earlier than their pollinating insects become active which lowers fertilization.
  1. Ecosystems change– It is predicted that some animal species will move farther north to become more successful; those that won’t be able to move and could become extinct. Wildlife research scientist Martyn Obbard has found that since the mid-1980s, with less ice on which to live and fish for food, polar bears have gotten considerably skinnier.  Polar bear biologist Ian Stirling has found a similar pattern in Hudson Bay.  He fears is that if sea ice disappears, the polar bears will as well (IPCC, 2007).

 

  1. Increase of infections– This is mainly due to poor sanitation brought about by inadequacy of quality water supply. Lack of water for food production can bring with itself famines together with which comes several other diseases (IPCC, 2007).

 

  1. Challenges in combating global warming
  2. Lack of adequate scientific backing of the theory– As seen earlier, earth scientists are not all in agreement that the earth is heating up. Some statistics have come up which prove that the global temperatures have not risen since 1990s.
  3. Lack of political goodwill- There exists a level of reluctance among political leaders of the developed states to fully adopt the agreed upon way forward as held in the Kyoto Protocol and subsequent discussions.
  • The global capitalist attitude- Everybody wants to continue exploiting the environment to achieve their economic ends. Some of the lead contributor agent to global warming actually sustains a great chunk of the global economy. E.g. crude oil.
  1. Feared effect of alternative technologies- The alternatives are not clean as claimed. Examples will include nuclear energy and solar energy. It is evident that wastes from these alternatives also have dangerous ecological effects. They are also very hard to dispose once expired.
  2. High cost of alternatives– The alternatives are more costly to produce and install. Their energy output per unit is low- the input/output ratio is too high. Using them increases production costs which in effect also increases commodity prices.
  3. Slow pace of global cultural change- There exists a fear of moving from the known to the unknown ways of combating in energy use and waste management systems.

 

  1. Suggested solutions to Global warming

There exists a consensus that increased energy efficiency is an important measure to reduce industrial greenhouse gas emissions. Large emission reductions can also be achieved by improving manufacturing processes, engaging in environmentally sound agricultural practices and increasing recycling.

In many people’s view, nuclear power production, though does not lead to any direct greenhouse gas emissions, and substituting fossil fuelled power plants with nuclear power has been suggested as a solution to global warming, will not help since nuclear energy use poses serious problems. These range from nuclear waste handling, the risk of nuclear accidents, and proliferation of nuclear weapons. Until these significant problems are solved, using nuclear power as a solution to combat global warming would be to fight one problem by creating another.

Other solutions that have been suggested include:

  1. Lifestyle change- Bringing about a change in consumer behavior by means of emission-based pricing, increased awareness, and public and market based initiatives.
  2. Use energy economical technologies in buildings- The major greenhouse gas emission from residential and commercial buildings comes from energy related CO2. This can be lowered by reducing primary energy demand through improved energy efficiency and to replace fossil heating with renewable heating. The use of efficient technologies can help us cut greenhouse gas emissions from buildings by about half.
  • Increase efficiency in the transformation of energy and materials into products and services especially in industry, buildings, transport and power generation.
  1. Replace fossil energy in power generation, transport, industry and buildings with renewable energy such as solar, bio- and wind energy. Global energy demand is predicted to rise as countries industrialize and population continues to grow. Overreliance on fossil fuels is likely to do the globe more harm in the future. In the transport industry in particular, these are the other measures that are recommended:
  • The need for use of light-duty vehicles to achieve improved fuel economy.
  • Transition to using plug-in vehicles that operate partly or solely on electricity.
  • Require the sale of energy-efficient replacement tires.
  • Ensuring that the majority of new residential and commercial developments in metropolitan areas take place in compact, walkable distances with access to a range of transportation options.
  • There is need for transitioning to pay-as-you-drive automobile insurance, which reduces vehicle travel and accident risk.
  • Expand as well as encourage public transportation service through better transit service. This reduces per-mile global warming pollution from vehicles through reduced number of vehicles and traffic jam on the roads.
  • Encouraging bicycle travel through improved safety and convenience of bicycling.
  • Building high-speed rail lines in 11 high-priority corridors by 2030.
  • Adopt strong fuel economy standards for heavy-duty trucks.
  • Encourage energy efficiency improvements in airplanes and trains.
  1. Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) – It is recommended that we capture CO2 from power plants and industrial plants and store it permanently in geological formations- Underground tanks. Here, fossil CO2 is captured from power plants and transported through pipelines to safe geological storage sites. CCS can also be implemented at large industrial plants.
  2. Production of carbon negative power- In a carbon negative process, CO2 is first absorbed from the atmosphere through the production of modern biomass, such as algae. The production is only limited to non-agricultural land so as to not compete with food and feed production. The resulting biomass is then used to generate power in modern power plants fitted with carbon capture and storage, hence achieving a net negative emission.
  • Putting focus on non-CO2 greenhouse gas reduction- It entails reduce emissions of other greenhouse gases such as methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) from waste, industry and agriculture. E.g. methane from livestock and manure, and nitrous oxide from agricultural soils.
  • Use of climate friendly agricultural practices- Agriculture currently accounts for 13.5 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, of which methane from livestock and manure and nitrous oxide from agricultural soils make up the lion’s share. While there are no technical ‘quick fixes’ to reduce agricultural emissions, improved agricultural practices, such as restoring cultivated organic soils and improving cropland management, can enable a 30 percent emission reduction.
  1. Encouraging land use change- It entails managing forests better to enhance their role as natural sinks of CO2. Intelligent land management, reforestation, and measures to stop the deforestation of rainforests can make land use change a net absorber of CO2.
  2. Coming up with carefully planned waste disposal systems- Waste water and landfills produce about 3 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, in the form of methane and nitrous dioxide. Through a global adoption of readily available technologies, such as land-fill and sewage gas recovery, emissions can be reduced by more than 90%.
  3. Implementing the agreements reached under the Kyoto Protocol- Here, legally binding greenhouse gas targets as well as ranges of flexible mechanisms were agreed. Joint Implementation (JI), the Clean Development Mechanisms (CDM) and Emissions Trading (ET) which were agreed upon approaches allow countries and companies to buy and sell emissions with other countries who may either need to buy or have excess emissions to sell to others.
  • Using alternative sources of electricity other than burning diesel– The alternatives will range from wind power, to hydro, geothermal, biomass, cells, tidal sources and wave power.
  • Transport fuels can be obtained from liquid ethanol and biodiesel produced from plants, and other chemicals
  1. Conclusion

Scientists believe that biofuels can provide a wide range of products currently based on oil and gas. Most of the key technologies aimed at reducing carbon emission are already working well in most parts of the world though in small scale. Kenya for example almost wholly relies on hydro, wind and geothermal power production for electricity supply.

There exists a radical increase in public funding for developing and demonstrating new climate-friendly technologies. These technologies are however very costly both to develop and acquire. Large scale use of these technologies remains a nightmare for many. With concerted global effort in research and funding however, scientists and manufacturers will break even and bring these new technologies affordably at our door steps. As we wait however, there is need that we fight the conscious destruction of the environment that we are currently engaging in. For instance, a change of market conditions to make it financially attractive to protect the climate is necessary and the sooner this is done the better for the protection of the environment together with the sustenance of life on planet earth.

We may not have agreed on whether global warming is real or not especially due to political interests and lack of adequate data considering that making this conclusion requires data collected over centuries but one thing that is sure is that environmental pollution has very many negative consequences most of which we all have firsthand experience with.

If the green house effect, which has been explained in this paper is a fact, then it means that any excess heating up or cooling of the atmosphere will interfere with the system temperature equilibrium which is necessary for supporting life on earth.

 

 

  1. References

Angell, J.K. 1999 Comparisons of surface and tropospheric temperature trends. Geophys Res Letters:26 (17) 2761-2764

Cynthia Rosenzweig, Goddard Institute for Space Studies (http://www.giss.nasa.gov/)

Gray Vincent, (2001), The Cause of Global Warming, Frontier Centre for Public Policy.

Hansen, J. et al. (2007), Climate simulations for 1880-2003 with GISS modelE, Clim. Dyn. 29, 661-696.

Huang S. (2004), Merging information from different resources for new insights into climate change in the past and future, Geophys. Res. Lett. 31, L13205.

Idso C. and S. F. Singer, (2009), Climate Change Reconsidered: 2009 Report of Boeker E. and R. van Grondelle, Environmental Science, Wiley, 2001.

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), 2001. “Working Group I Third Assessment Report.” Cambridge University Press. Cambridge, UK. 881 pp.

Kirkby J. (2007), Cosmic Rays and Climate, Surveys in Geophysics. 28, 333-375.

National Academy of Sciences (NAS). 2001. “Climate Change Science: An Analysis of Some Key Questions. “ National Academies Press. 42 pp.

Knutti R., G. C. Hegerl (2008), The equilibrium sensitivity of the Earth’s temperature to radiation changes, Nature Geoscience

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in: http://ccir.ciesin.columbia.edu/nyc

Nongovernmental Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC), Chicago, IL: The Heartland Institute. http://www.climatechangereconsidered.org/

Scafetta N., (2009), Empirical analysis of the solar contribution to global mean air surface temperature change, J. of Atm. And Sol.-Terr. Phys. 71, 1916-1923.

Svensmark H, Bondo T and Svensmark J. (2009), Cosmic ray decreases a_ect atmospheric aerosols and clouds, Geophys. Res. Lett. 36, L15101.

Scafetta N., (2009), Climate Change and Its causes: A Discussion about Some Key Issues, at the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency, DC USA.

Scafetta N., (2010), Climate Change and Its causes: A Discussion about Some Key Issues, La Chimica e l’Industria 1, p. 70-75

Rockstr¨om J., et al. (2009), A safe operating space for humanity, Nature 461, 472-475.

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  1. Other relevant links that informed the findings in this paper

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2007-08-10/scientists-predict-surge-in-global-warming-after/635996

http://www.newstatesman.com/scitech/2007/12/global-warming-temperature

http://www.sciencemag.org/content/317/5839/796.abstract

http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/research/modelling-systems/unified-model/climate-models/depresys

http://environment.nationalgeographic.com/environment/global-warming/gw-effects/?rptregcta=reg_free_np&rptregcampaign=2015012_invitation_ro_all#