By Mariam Doyinsola Oyedele
In today's digital age, the influence of digital media has been instrumental in educating Nigerians about the environment in which they live. However, the extent to which the influence of digital media has translated into tangible actions and widespread adoption of environmentally friendly practices remains a subject of exploration.
Today, there are 122.5 million internet users in Nigeria, and there is no doubt that it has created an avenue for Nigerians to learn about their environment and the climate crisis. Social media platforms alone have created a space for individuals to acquire information about the effects of climate change, lack of recycling, oil spillages, and flooding that's plaguing the nation. Through digital media, web-based systems have made it possible for Nigerians to gain knowledge about their environment. According to Google searches, Nigerians have shown an increased interest in issues concerning their surroundings. On Earth Day, the multinational technology company released data showing Nigeria’s highest sustainability trends, with “What is global warming?” being the most searched question on Google. Other trends noted as part of Nigeria’s top sustainability trends included carbon neutrality, which shows that some Nigerians are more aware of climate change and are in search of means to reduce their carbon footprint.
Nigerians have embraced the role of citizen journalists, leveraging electronic technology to share their personal experiences with the environment. By creating videos and capturing images, they effectively draw others’ attention to the unfolding environmental situations in society. In 2022, Nigeria witnessed a significant surge in flooding, affecting 33 out of 36 states and displacing more than two million Nigerians, as reported by the National Emergency Management Agency. In response to these devastating occurrences, concerned citizens turned to Twitter as a platform to share first-hand accounts. For instance, a Twitter user shared videos of the flooding in Anambra:
Flooding around Idemili & Ogbaru LGAs of Anambra State. This is a ripple effect of the opening of dam on the River Benue by Cameroonian authorities. Majority of Lokoja Kogi State, is submerged in water as I tweet. Shows the very poor foreign policy engagement of the Buhari admin. pic.twitter.com/6ALNnNz1mD
— Olaudah Equiano® (@RealOlaudah) October 7, 2022
These visuals play a crucial role in illustrating the scale and urgency of the environmental challenges facing the nation.
Nigerians have also demonstrated their commitment to environmental sustainability through social media. They frequently create hashtags during campaigns, such as #GreenNigeria and #pickthattrash, to mobilize and unite individuals for a common cause:
Did you know that climate change is wreaking havoc on Nigeria's food supply, leading to shortages and soaring prices?
Let's make our voices heard and demand action on climate change! #Vote4ClimateNG#GreenNigeria #election2023 #ClimateAction pic.twitter.com/W1dtby9lX4
— Vote4ClimateNG (@Vote4ClimateNG) March 16, 2023
— Ibrahim (@ibmoha80) May 3, 2018
Moreover, digital media has emerged as an essential tool for environmental activists to disseminate information about their work and Nigeria's ecological challenges. In 2021, a podcast by Arukah Network and Tearfund's Footsteps magazine, entitled “How to Build a Community” aired an episode focusing on how young Nigerians found innovative ways to create businesses by addressing Nigeria's waste problem. These enterprising individuals were converting electronic waste into solar energy, offering both economic opportunities and positive environmental impact. On the podcast, Oscar Danladi, an environmental activist who runs the Jos Green Centre in central Nigeria, shared insights into the efforts of eco-entrepreneurs and their mission to inspire young Nigerians to care for the environment while seeking employment and establishing their businesses.
Amidst these positive developments, challenges to achieving widespread environmental consciousness persist in Nigeria. According to the National Technical Study Group's report in 2022, only three states in Nigeria are environmentally clean — compared to seven in 2021. This underscores the need to foster a deeper sense of responsibility and awareness about sustainable practices among citizens.
Despite digital media's strong influence on shaping public opinion, its impact may not be sufficient to address the urgent need for environmental sustainability. A significant percentage of Nigerians with access to digital media remain uninformed about climate change, as revealed by an Afrobarometer survey conducted in 2020. Even in urban areas where digital media usage is more prevalent, the level of awareness about climate change remains modest. According to the survey of 1,599 adult Nigerians, a staggering 65.4 percent had not heard about climate change. Moreover, even among those in urban areas with better access to digital media, the rate of awareness about climate change was only 29.5 percent. Furthermore, approximately 4.7 percent of survey participants were unsure about their awareness of climate change, while 0.4 percent stated that they refused to learn about it.
On social media platforms, it can be challenging to come across posts related to environmental sustainability on the average Nigerian's daily feed without actively searching for them. When such posts do appear, they are often not shared by individuals residing in Nigeria. It is also evident that posts about the environment tend to receive fewer interactions, such as likes and comments, compared to other content. Environmental organizations usually have lower follower counts, and there is a lack of widely recognized environmental sustainability influencers in Nigeria.
These observations highlight that while digital media plays a role in disseminating information about the environment, it may not generate enough engagement or awareness among the majority of Nigerians. To make a more significant impact, the reach and influence of environmental sustainability messages on digital platforms need to be amplified effectively. One way to achieve this is by sharing not only emotional content about environmental challenges but also showcasing success stories of sustainable initiatives and partnering with influencers to promote eco-friendly practices. By leveraging digital media in this way, positive behavioral changes can be inspired, encouraging a more environmentally conscious society. Moreover, the awareness promoted by digital media should translate into tangible changes in policies that prioritize and support environmental sustainability. It is essential to encourage Nigerians to make conscious choices in their individual, everyday lives that contribute to a greener and more sustainable future for the country. By combining digital media's potential to raise awareness and the collective action of individuals, Nigeria can progress towards a more sustainable and environmentally responsible nation.
The effective use of digital media can create a ripple effect which can drive behavioural change and inspire collective action towards a more environmentally sustainable country. As Nigerians continue to utilize digital media to share their experiences and advocate for change, fostering a sustainable environment necessitates a collaborative effort. Policymakers, businesses, civil society organizations, and individuals must come together to develop robust strategies and initiatives that promote environmentally responsible practices and address ecological challenges. Only through such collective action can Nigeria embark on a path towards a greener and more sustainable future.