The first steps towards a Namibian Circular Bio Based Economy. Part 1

Without the availability of affordable food, water and electricity no economy will prosper.

The world’s energy needs keep on growing, agriculture land and practises are becoming environmental and political issues, water scarcity is a real problem, job creation is not keeping up with demand and resources to power industry and the transport sectors are damaging the environment and people’s health.

Basically everything that was done before to feed, power, move and create wealth had an negative impact on earth and the future of mankind.

Why did this happen? Humans are the only species that have the ability to alter their environment through science and technology in order to survive and we have used whatever technology available at that time to drive this process. There was and still is amongst us humans with little regard and knowledge about how our actions impact earth.

Terms like green, sustainable, renewable, global warming, CO2 emissions, greenhouse effect and climate change are commonplace in our daily lives. Not without reason.

Then there is the economy, micro and macro. Can’t have the one without the other! A car manufacturer has to manufacture cars and sell them to make money to make more and so on. Banks have to borrow and lend money to make money. Governments have to use their labour force to create wealth, generate tax to make money to pay debt and secure loans for economy & infrastructure development.

You have to work to earn money to buy the things you need and thus fit into this system of making money.

Where does the environment fit into this seemingly endless circle? Until recently, the earth did not feature at all, resources were used to produce and nothing was put back with recycling or even prevention. Pollutants were discarded without care, into the atmosphere, sea, groundwater, landfills and soil.

The truth is that looking after the environment costs a lot of money as we have to adopt different ways of doing things in a structure that was not set up for this purpose! The main reason is that our economic system developed separately over the years from environmental management due to our lack of knowledge. We are therefore dependant on fossil fuels, monoculture agriculture, money and higher power to rule our lives.

So the question is how do we get out of this mess we created for ourselves over hundreds of years? The answer is simple; with great difficulty!

Imagine being addicted to a substance or way of living and trying to give it up? Coffee, sugar, your car, electricity, fast food and all your money? It’s not going to happen unless you are forced.

Mother Earth has given us a few warnings now, we are actually now being forced to change, whether you know it or not.

Chances are most humans will lose everything and end up somewhere without anything to eat or drink in the next few years if you and the rest of the world don’t change your consumption and behaviour! Rising sea levels will alone account for most of this damage.

Imagine not being able to afford food or have no access to water? The most basic needs. There are already millions of people there. You are just on a little longer curve, given the issues at hand.

These are the realities and no matter how many times we clean beaches, plant trees, recycle and sit at night by our LED light bulbs, we humans can not undo what has been done. We can merely stem the tide, because what is going to happen will, as we have passed the tipping point.

Some will say, that what’s the use then? Purely survival of the human species is the answer. You read daily of how many species are going extinct, humans fall under that category as well, just another species that inhabit earth with all the inherent shortcomings of life.

The point being made is straightforward, we need to change in order to survive.

What is being done?

The United Nations has set out guidelines for Government’s across the globe on what parameters they should adhere to and or change to in order to keep our climate from warming up to quickly. These guidelines and access to funding is monitored by a scoring system that determines how successful a country is by playing its part. The USA famously opted out of the Paris Climate agreement, a decision that will come back and haunt them, very soon.

The Renewable Electricity generating energy market is growing, doubling its output every year, to make us less dependant on fossil and nuclear fuels. It is important to note that we need another 20 to 30 years to draw level with the existing energy generators through renewables. We are locked into industry and no 100% renewable solution can be implemented immediately and that is why the speed with which we respond is of utmost importance.

The Electric transport sector is growing and the electric passenger vehicle market is currently about 1% of the total market but set to grow. Some EV friendly countries are beginning to show 3% market share every month. This sector will take many years to draw level without the outright banning of internal combustion engines (ICE). This is starting to happen with 2030-2040 seen as the decade of the electric vehicle, with most countries banning ICE vehicles outright from 2040, and most cities are starting this ban between now and 2025. This sector cover automobiles, trains, trucks, busses and soon planes!

Food and Water production can not keep up with demand with Agriculture using the majority of water and land available. Agriculture is also the number one polluter of underground water, rivers and soil and the cause of more CO2 emissions that all the transport sectors of all the countries in the world. Clearly something needs to be done here! The truth is that we need to produce 50% more food by 2050 with less resources, just to put the problem into perspective.

The financial systems that is powering our industry, growth and well being is no longer sustainable, growth is no longer available in the traditional sense. Funds availability to those who need it is just not possible and prices and actual income differences have not kept pace over the years. It is purely a result of how the system was set up and work, nothing can change its inherent mechanisms, except a move away from the structure completely. Patching economies with stimulus plans have proved ineffective, further boosting the argument for a rethink of capitalism and the economic tools available for the future.

The future is not a case of business as usual, it’s frighteningly unsure, however this situation can bring the best out of us humans, to find solutions, stand together and bring harmony back into our relationship with our planet.

As mentioned earlier, the world is going through economic and social turmoil and its is spilling over everything that is negative into the Namibian market. Gone are the days of extended periods of time regarding price stability in retail and wholesale markets, which are of particular importance to the Namibian economy. 

Exchange rate and commodity price risks are further adding to a dire future outlook for the Namibian economy and its inhabitants. Banks are not assisting with outdated lending policies and the legal systems is equally failing the entrepreneurs in Namibia with to much importance on their exuberant fees than the actual truth or service that should be offered. 

There is way too much short term views out there with hardly anyone thinking about twenty to a hundred years into the future. Our Thinking it seems are at most capable of thinking four years into the future. The rest it seems is just too difficult to imagine.

Namibia’s problems are the results of Namibians not thinking clearly and acting in their own interests in stead of that of Namibia. Selling all your raw materials without any local processing is a case in point.

This paper will address a set of solutions based on Horticulture, Water, Energy and Transport technologies with related value added services that are not currently available locally. The social and financial implications of this model will have positive affects on every single facet of the Namibian economy, however the true benefits are there for the generations to come. 

We, Namibia as a nation will only be independent when we can feed and power ourselves and that is why the author loves the Growth at Home strategy!

by Willem Baartman

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