Saturday was absolutely amazing. I got to catch up with my good friend and phenomenal environmental journalist Sophie Mbugua. It was so great catching up after years. We talked about tonnes of things.
Sophie is extremely passionate about Sustainable cities, it seems like a very abstract; UN conference discussion which bears no wait on Africa and more so in Nairobi on the surface. But Sophie schooled me and made me realise we are in a dangerous place as a country. We really need to get our act together.
For starters, I would suggest you get up to speed on the general concept of Climate Change / Global Warming, whichever term tickles your fancy, watching these two documentaries.
I love Al Gore’s; An Inconvenient Truth
Also, watch Leonardo DiCaprio’s; Before the Flood
Sustainable cities, as I understand it, entails city development and its adaptations to the adverse climatic conditions of climate change. Europe is boiling up; summers are getting hotter to temperatures of up to almost 40˚C. Those are temperatures Africa is used to.
In June, I recall the meteorological department projected temperatures in Nairobi dropping to as low as 10˚C. Those are European temperatures. Now when it comes to sustainable cities, housing is a huge factor. Most houses and infrastructure across the world are developed to accommodate specific climates. Europe has central heating, heated floors, etc. in homes; this allows people to survive in winters.
For Africa, in extremely hot places we have air conditioners in coastal and desert climates to manage the heat. Our houses are mostly made of stone to allow the houses to remain cool even in the heat. So as the weather patterns literally shift across the globe. It means as Africa gets colder our buildings need to adapt to this. As Europe gets hotter, they also need to build houses that adapt to it.
What this means in the short term, is the oldest and the youngest of us are most likely to be the fastest to die, because of general challenges in adaptation. Regular housing is a problem in this country. Now imagine that in less than 20 years, the dire effects of climate change will literally hit home. What will you do?
Do you recall these images in 2018 in Nyandarua? It also happened in 2017 and 2008.
It’s not the first time it has snowed in Kenya, and according to the meteorological department, this was just an intense hail storm. Either way, whatever the terminology for this level precipitation, there is a need for concern.
How will you prepare when in shags people, living in Mabati houses, handle such biting temperatures. How will people survive at home, in boarding schools, hospitals, offices? More people falling sick from respiratory diseases and a whole list of other things. As you can see Climate Change isn’t an abstract thing. It’s just we aren’t really made to understand it from an everyday perspective.
What can you do about it? Now it’s time to lobby our county and national governments on this. This is a policy issue, and more so, we also need to ensure that those in the construction, real estate development space in both public and private sectors consider this issue.
Sophie and I ate, drank and talked some more till we were forced to go home because it was 11.30 pm. We kept talking all the way to our respective bus stops till we got home.
On the way home, I saw something I haven’t seen in a long time because I am normally home before sunset on most days. There was traffic on Thika road. It was already midnight and it made no sense. Someone cursed out loud in the matatu and the tout retorted, “alchoblow”. The gentleman next to me giggled.
Because we all knew all the drivers were screwed tonight! I counted 10 cops on the road; there were barricades and 5 cops on either side of the main highway and the service lane randomly stopping cars. After about a 300 metre stretch we saw a police Land Rover, parallel parked on the furthest lane ahead of the barricade. And in front of it was a lorry steadily filling with sad looking people. We could only gauge it was the drivers from the limited visibility we had in the matatu. There was an awful blue fluorescent light permeating its lurid colours blocking nighttime visibility on a dark highway. So there was only so much we could see.
Then as we inched past the truck we saw several cars parallel parked on the highway I counted about 9 cars, what a killing for the cops I thought to myself. Then I quickly thought to myself, and then started a conversation with the guy next to me. “Why not just have spot fines.” I thought out loud.
Since our real “Huduma Numbers” (rolls-eyes) are our national ID numbers, which are linked to our driver’s licenses, why not have an MPESA number we use to pay our fines directly. So you link ID number, driver’s license and vehicle plates together. But configure it in a way the bill automatically goes to the driver’s MPESA. So even if their MPESA account is deficient in the amount, every time they top up the money is deducted automatically, like a loan.
Based on this kind of a system if the driver fails to pay, the driver’s license and car registration can be tracked and license suspended. That way, we save the government and its citizens’ money on court cases for petty traffic offenses and the government can then ensure the money goes directly to its coffers.
I look at this as a simple solution to minor traffic offenses. And this applies nationwide, no matter where you are even if you are pulled over in Mariakani it’s on the spot; get your ticket, the cop gets your driver’s license keys it into a system then debits your MPESA. You feel the pain of losing money and hopefully learn your lesson. No bribe, less stress, money and time saved and the government gets revenue. Why is that so hard to do?
Corruption! The dreaded ‘C’ word, because we have chosen to put our greed and myopia before everything else. We aren’t being smart. How sustainable would it be as the population grows and more vehicles are on the road. How do you manage road safety and citizen responsibility on the road?
Unless people feel the pinch in their pockets repeatedly for offenses, you are less likely to condition the population to do the right thing. Bribes only give people a reason to repeat the mistake – it’s an easy way out and they don’t feel the consequences. If they are constantly fined for drunk driving, license suspended and completely revoked. We are more likely to have fewer reckless drivers on the road. And people will then be conditioned to understand the financial implications and inconvenience of not being able to drive despite owning a car.
This also means drivers without licenses who insist on trying to get back behind the wheel after a license is revoked they are compelled to do jail time. Because it’s all about understanding insolence has dire consequences.
There needs to be a policy shift which the judiciary is aware of. NTSA has gone to review the Traffic Act with regards to this very issue. I need to find out how far they have gone with this.
We can do it, and it’s all about choosing to do the right progressive thing. If we really want Kenya to be as great as we believe it is. It’s small steps like this that go a long way. And like the climate change – sustainable housing dilemma – we really need to get serious in opening the eyes of our legislators on the real issues. They are clueless and greedy employees. Now it’s time as employers to give them their key performance indicators (KPIs) so they can actually focus on working for us and not stealing from us.