…as Dawn Project holds 2023 prize-giving

The need to engage in environmental sustainability practices as a way of addressing climate challenges in Nigeria came to the fore at the 2023 award and prize-giving ceremony of The Dawn Project, an environmental conservation organization, in Lagos.
Speakers at the event harped on the benefits of educating the younger generation on the negative effects of climate change and thereby creating awareness and encouraging sustainable practices to achieve a more climate-friendly society.

The Vice Chancellor of University of Lagos, Prof Folasade Ogunsola, who was a guest at the event, stressed the need to reverse the trend of damage being done to the environment through human activities.
“We have to reverse the trend and improve environmental sustainability. This is the defining moment for our generation. Everyone knows and says it affects us. We can’t sit here and watch. The earth temperature is rising, the ice caps are swelling, the sea levels are rising and there are floods everywhere. All these affect our food security,” Ogunsola said.
“We need to get into what I call the mantra: Rescue, Repair, Reuse and Recycle. Let it be a fashion. Let us also think about the trash we throw out. Many times we throw trash out, it clogs our waterways and pollute our environment,” she said.
Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Prof Akin Abayomi, in his keynote address commended the initiators of The Dawn Project for creating a platform that deals with environmental issues in the society, noting the importance of teaching the children the principles of protecting the environment either by conserving or replenishing places that have been destroyed.
Abayomi encouraged the private sector and civil societies to key into the mission and vision of the government for a healthier lifestyle for the citizens, saying the government encourages environmental protection and recycling in the communities “to promote a healthier environment and, ultimately, a healthier Lagos”.

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Every year, The Dawn Project invites creative minds, especially pupils/students in primary and secondary schools, to showcase their creativity and innovation on ways to restore the earth through artistic expression. This year’s competition centred on the theme ‘Nature’s Resilience: The Beauty of Our World’.
One of the collaborators on The Dawn Project, Dr. Pamela Ajayi, noted that the adverse effects of climate change are fast catching up with mankind, hence the need for a sensitisation among young people who represent the larger portion of the country’s population to engage in practices that are more sustainable to human well-being.

Ajayi said the human society needs to look towards entrenching practices like tree planting and embracing alternative sources of power generation which would reduce the burden of air pollution in the environment.
“We know about the existential crisis that the earth is facing and we are very happy that Nigerians are waking up. People need to know that this thing is real. There is desertification in the North and it’s coming down. Flooding, erosion, landslides in so many places killing people in our villages,” said Dr. Ajayi, who is also Director at Bridge Clinic.
“Sometimes, there is scorching heat. Everybody sits under the tree in the village. Where are the trees? Where can you sit now when there are no trees? How can we get people to stop buying petrol generators? Use renewable energy. Solar power now is a lot cheaper. That is why we are creating awareness as we can see from children up to adults,” she said.
On his part, the founder of Lufasi Nature Park and collaborator on The Dawn Project, Desmond Majekodunmi, stressed the imminent need to tackle the challenges of climate change head on as the survival of human species and societies depends on it.
“Whether we accept it or not, we are in a very precarious position and we are not doing nearly enough to ensure that our earth is protected to continue to be able to support our life system. Everything that we need for our survival comes from the earth. And like the Commissioner for Health said, if you do not have a healthy earth, you cannot have healthy people. If the earth is critically ill, then the people would be ill as well. This is exactly what is happening as a result of all the negative things we are doing to the earth,” he said.
The event also saw 21 young Nigerians aged seven to 18 who won in the various categories of the climate sustainability competition organised by The Dawn Project receive their prizes. Other notable dignitaries present included Stanley Evans MBE, collaborator, Dawn Project; Ireti Doyle, prominent Nollywood actress, among others.

The winners include Chiamaka Okeke, who won the first prize in the junior writing category; Christiana Ojeade, who took the first prize in the 14 to 17 years category; Harriet Ariyo, who won the seven to 13 years category, among others.
Ariyo, a student of Vivian Fowler Memorial College, Lagos, noted that the competition made her learn sustainable environmental practices as well as improved her writing skill.
“I think it’s very important that we preserve the environment because as many of our guest speakers said today, we cannot be healthy in an unhealthy environment. We cannot do our day-to-day activities in an environment that is not conducive. We must make sure that we preserve the earth for future generations to come,” Ariyo said.