In the latest edition of the Big TAT Interview, our Editor Sainey MK Marenah speaks with Omar Malmo Sambou, the Acting Head of the Environmental Science Department and Lecturer at the University of The Gambia. The award-winning environmentalist and accredited Multidisciplinary Researcher with over ten years of experience in environmantal and climate change activism in The Gambia answers 5 key questions on environmental protection and the future of the eco-movement seeking viable action to end climate change and save our planet.
Leaping Cop26, what are the opportunities for environmental protection to beat climate change, and what would be the consequence of continued inaction?
I consider Cop26 a failure. All that we need is to put the Paris Agreement into action. Over 26 years of negotiations but the globe is getting warmer, countries more vulnerable, societies crisis and the evidence are more visible today than ever.
The only opportunity is to put into action our common but differentiated responsibilities. To reduce the emissions and to ensure transparency in the fight against climate change. The west in their continued monopolies only seeks to reduce the most vulnerable countries to beggars but is unwilling to reduce emissions to the level 1.5.
The continued inaction is and will continue to affect poor and vulnerable countries through climate-related disasters such as floods, droughts, sea-level rise, saltwater intrusion, poor agricultural productivity, biodiversity loss, hunger, loss of lives, and livelihoods and a lot more. Climate Change is a security threat.
The pandemic saw a sharp reduction in global pollution and a fresh rebirth of nature amid extensive lockdowns. What is the biggest lesson of the past two years under Covid-19 in our quest for ecological preservation?
The biggest lesson is that the earth has enough to serve our needs but not our greed. Aircrafts grounded, ships anchored, cars in the garage, factories either shut down or reduced operations yet life did not stop.
The COVID played a great role in ecological protection. Many ecologies are said to have flourished well within these two years. Every disaster offers both obstacles and opportunities. Covid is an opportunity for a better planet.
Young people like you are leading a major global effort to inspire action and that’s one shift raising optimism for a sustainable future but are the calls of this movement being heard?
The fight against Climate change has taken a different shape. Its politicized nations and others for continued monopolies and financial gains. However, in the Gambia, Climate Change is significant of a crisis. It is very obvious and visible in our societies. Nationally, we are being heard. The government has the necessary policies to champion our fight against Climate change. However, implementation is a huge challenge. Activism should now focus on committing governments to implement national, regional, and global instruments. There is more to be done and world readers are the biggest climate skeptics who pretend to be its champions. They commit but don’t act.
Environmental Scientists in your specialty have been finding new ways to help people adapt to nature and the wild. Why is our relationship with the natural environment important in our fight to beat climate change?
The environment is the single most important thing in life. It determines the quality of life and where life can exist. It is the universal set on which all human activities are done. What do we do out of the environment? Everything is done within. If it’s good, all other sectors and drivers of our economy will progress.
Man has an interdependent relationship with nature. The interconnectedness of life is enough to tell that if a man claims dominion on earth, care for all life forms becomes a divine responsibility. The fight against Climate change is a fight against human extinction. Climate change poses a threat to our existence.
What does the future like for countries like the Gambia where more people are joining the ecological preservation crusade?
It is pleasing to know that 10 years ago, there was less talk about environmental management in the Gambia. Today, communities are rising against environmental injustices, taking actions to restore degraded ecologies, championing climate action, and building community resilience. This is commendable. There are more environmental Advocacy groups, more political participation in environmental issues. In the recent past, all political parties have the environment as a priority area in their party manifestos.
The narratives are changing, however, gender inclusiveness in the ecological preservation crusade needs to increase.
The Gambia in years if not already will be a champion in environmental protection and will have more climate-resilient communities. I’m hopeful.
Who is Omar Malmo Sambou?
Omar Malmo Sambou is the Acting Head of the Environmental Science Department and Lecturer at the University of The Gambia. An award-winning environmentalist and an accredited Multidisciplinary Researcher. He has over ten years of experience in voluntarism and activism on the environment and climate change in The Gambia. Among other functions, he is the Training and Development Coordinator and a former Monitoring and Evaluation Officer at Mbolo Association under an EU Green Economy Project on Solar Multifunctional Platforms and a Board Chairperson at Beakanyang Organization.
Omar is a consultant on contemporary environmental issues with a focus on Natural Resources Management, Climate Change, Coastal Zone Management, Waste management, and Impact Assessments, Ecotourism, and Forestry.
For the past five years, he has served as a Climate Change Negotiator for The Gambia at the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change (UNFCCC), project reviewer, and validation invitee for most environment projects in The Gambia.
Sambou is currently a Ph.D. student in Environmental Science at the University of Brawijaya, Malang, Indonesia with a focus on Natural Resources Management and Development. He obtained a Masters’s (Distinction) in Environmental Science and a BSc. Environmental Science from the University of Brawijaya and the University of The Gambia respectively. He is a former course instructor at The Gambia College and a radio presenter on contemporary environmental issues.
Omar Malmo is a former student leader who served as the 13th President of the University of The Gambia Students Union (UTGSU) and the National Union of Gambian Students (NUGS). He is the Green Award winner of the TFN National Heros’ Awards, 2019, the Student Leadership Awardee of the UTG graduation Class of 2015, and the Outstanding Graduating Student in Environmental Science Awardee of the graduation class of 2015. Omar was one of three Valedictorians of the Graduation Class of Period III, 2019 at the University of Brawijaya with a cumulative grade point of 4.0/4.0 where he obtained an MSc in Environmental Science.