THE UNIVERSITY OF BENIN, Benin city, Nigeria
33/34th Convocation and Founders’ Day Lecture
Professor Mike Elliott, FIBiol, CBiol, PhD, BSc is the Chair of Estuarine and Coastal
Sciences in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Hull, UK, and
the Director of the University’s Institute of Estuarine and Coastal Studies (IECS). In
the Department he is an educator at undergraduate and postgraduate level and
coordinates a Taught MSc degree in Aquatic Resources Management as well as
teaching on an MSc degree in Global Biodiversity: conservation and management.
The Institute carries out pure and applied research and offers advice and consultancy
to government agencies, industries and other bodies within the fields of estuarine,
coastal and marine sciences and management throughout Europe.
Professor Elliott is the current President of the international Estuarine & Coastal
Sciences Association (ECSA), a learned society with a worldwide membership. He is
the author/editor of 8 books and edited proceedings and more than 130 scientific
papers and in his research has collaborated with individuals worldwide. He has
advised governmental bodies, industry and research programmes in many countries
worldwide and taught and led workshops to students and practitioners around the
world, for example in China, Iran, Russia, South Africa and Europe. He is a Fellow of
the Institute of Biology and has been a member of research and teaching review
panels for assessing universities in many European countries.
Professor Elliott has supervised many research students for their PhD, MPhil and
MSc degrees and has examined students in countries worldwide. Prior to becoming
an academic, he was the Senior Marine Biologist for the forerunner of the Scottish
Environmental Protection Agency in Edinburgh; consequently he has 35 years of
experience in tackling marine and estuarine environmental issues. His research fields
encompass the understanding of the biology of estuarine and marine organisms,
their interaction with the physico-chemical environment, the effects of human
activities and the mechanisms of managing adverse effects, and policy and
governance for management.
Throughout his activities he is supported by his wife of 34 years, Jan, and he is
tolerated by his 3 sons. For his sins, he is a long-standing (and perhaps longsuffering) supporter of the football team Sheffield Wednesday, and a lover of jazz
and rock music.
Education for Sustainable Development - aiming for wins for society, economy
and ecology.
My thanks to the Vice -Chancellor, Professor Nwanze, and the University of Benin for
inviting me to give the 33/34th Convocation and Founders’ Day Lecture of the
university. I can see that I am following an illustrious group of previous speakers and
so I am greatly honoured to accept the invitation. The invitation arose through a visit
by the Vice-Chancellor to my university, the University of Hull in the United Kingdom
in September 2008. I am delighted to be making my first visit to Nigeria although I
know of the country from postgraduate students and fellow Nigerians living and
working in the UK. Hull has a large number of Nigerian undergraduate, MSc, MBA
and PhD students as well as Nigerians on the staff - indeed, one of my close
colleagues Dr Alex Ibhadon is a graduate of the University of Benin. Of course, as a
football fan, I know of the Nigerian national team and its players playing in the African
Nations Cup and in Europe!
I bring greetings from the Vice Chancellor of Hull, Professor David Drewry - we note
that our universities have many things in common especially in that we aim for
excellence in teaching and research and that both our universities and our graduates
aim to play a large role in society. I can see that both of our universities take the view
that universities should not just be ivory towers in which excellent research is carried
out for its own sake but that our raison d’être should be to inform society and produce
well-qualified and active members of that society. We both aim to ensure that our
graduates are prepared for a valuable role in society and that they can enhance the
quality of life, assist with the creation of wealth and further knowledge.
In this lecture, I aim to discuss the environmental problems faced by all countries,
and especially developing countries, the lessons that can be learned between
countries and the role of education in achieving a sustainable future for our countries.
In particular I want to emphasise the role of educators and universities in helping to
achieve that sustainable development through their teaching, research and reach-out
into the wider society. I want to emphasise that sustainable development is
embedded into education so that the present generation does not leave a legacy of a
degraded environment for future generations. I see that previous lectures have
included aspects of economic development and education - in this lecture I want to
link these together with a need for environmental management.
Since the industrial revolution in most developed countries, environmental
degradation has been the cost for economic prosperity. From the 1700s to the mid
1900s, the first world countries made the mistake of not thinking about or looking
after the environment while aiming for economic growth. Hence waste materials were
released into the waters, the air and on to the land usually with consequences for the
natural fauna and flora and often with consequences for human health. The polluted
lands, air and waters became accepted as the price to be paid for economic
development and prosperity. Because of this, I want to caution that the mistakes
made by the developed countries throughout the past 3 centuries should not now be
made by developing countries as they strive for economic and social prosperity.
My role is not to lecture Nigeria in what it should do but rather to indicate what it can
do to ensure a sustainable and successful management of its environment. I can see
that your vast country, as with others, faces many environmental challenges - from
the management of waste especially domestic waste, air pollution especially in the
major cities due to vehicle emissions, the use and disposal of consumer goods, and
the degradation by pollution of your natural areas such as the vast and internationally
renowned Niger Delta.
I wish to take as a starting point the Ecosystem Approach as provided by the
Convention for Biological Diversity - of which Nigeria is a signatory, and I want to
focus on how we turn the goals and aspirations for our environment into actions for
the benefit of society, the economy and the natural and human environment. I hope
to show that we need to build on the Rio 1992 and Jo’burg 2002 UN Conventions for
Environment and Development, and realise that we cannot do any better than
summarise our approach as the 1992 summit’s Agenda 21 which exhorted us to
‘think global, act local’. In particular, I wish to emphasise that this thinking has to be
embedded throughout our educational systems and especially in our graduates as a
vehicle for getting it embedded into and accepted by society.
I will emphasise that we need to take a holistic view in managing and understanding
our natural and human environment and that we need to adopt The Ecosystem
Approach which aims to achieve the protection and enhancement of ecological
goods and services while at the same time delivering socio-economic goods and
services for the benefit of the population. I will further emphasise that we need to fulfil
a set of tenets, i.e. fundamental rules, in order to get a successful and sustainable
environment (both natural and human). In these, we need our actions to be
environmentally and ecologically sustainable, economically viable, technologically
feasible, socially desirable or at least tolerable, legally permissible, administratively
achievable and politically expedient - I’ll return to these later and indicate why and
how we can embed these in our teaching and research. Hence we need to produce
graduates through our courses which incorporate good natural environmental
science, such as biology and chemistry, environmental engineering, environmental
economics and governance.
‘The Ecosystem Approach’
The definition and use of the principles of the Ecosystem Approach were endorsed
under the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD) as the primary framework for
promoting the management, conservation and sustainable use of natural resources.
It is of note that most countries, including Nigeria, are now embedding these aspects
in its environmental thinking.
At its most comprehensive, the concept of the Ecosystem Approach has been further
defined and expanded by the CBD Diversity as:
‘a strategy for the integrated management of land, water and living resources that
promotes conservation and sustainable use in an equitable way. The application of
the Ecosystem Approach will help to reach a balance of the three objectives of the
Convention: conservation, sustainable use and the fair and equitable sharing of the
benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources’.
As such, the Ecosystem Approach requires an understanding of the way in which
society manages the adverse effects of its activities, including mitigation and/or
compensation and especially the adverse effects of human activities on natural
resources in general, genetic or otherwise. In order to achieve that sustainable
management, the CBD indicates that the implementation of the Ecosystem Approach
should be based upon 12 guiding principles (see Box 1). It is of especial note that
those principles emphasise that of course we should protect the natural system but
also that Man is an integral component of the system. Indeed, I take the view that
Man brings the problems to the environment but also is the root of the solutions!
(Note that I am using the term Man to denote all of humanity - I am not suggesting
that only men are the cause of environmental problems - although perhaps this
should be the topic of a further lecture!)
Box 1: Twelve principles of the Ecosystem Approach (CBD, 2000)
1. The objectives of management of land, water and living resources are a
matter of societal choices.
2. Management should be decentralised to the lowest appropriate level.
3. Ecosystem managers should consider the effects (actual or potential) of their
activities on adjacent and other ecosystems.
4. Recognising potential gains from management, there is usually a need to
understand and manage the ecosystem in an economic context. Any such
ecosystem-management programme should: a) Reduce those market
distortions that adversely affect biological diversity; b) Align incentives to
promote biodiversity conservation and sustainable use; c) Internalise costs
and benefits in the given ecosystem to the extent feasible.
5. Conservation of ecosystem structure and functioning, in order to maintain
ecosystem services, should be a priority target of the ecosystem approach.
6. Ecosystem must be managed within the limits of their functioning.
7. The ecosystem approach should be undertaken at the appropriate spatial and
temporal scales.
8. Recognising the varying temporal scales and lag-effects that characterize
ecosystem processes, objectives for ecosystem management should be set
for the long term.
9. Management must recognise that change is inevitable.
10. The ecosystem approach should seek the appropriate balance between, and
integration of, conservation and use of biological diversity.
11. The ecosystem approach should consider all forms of relevant information,
including scientific and indigenous and local knowledge, innovations and
12. The ecosystem approach should involve all relevant sectors of society and
scientific disciplines.
There are several policy drivers which focus attention on the need to target protection
measures on the ecosystem processes that support biodiversity and, as a result, the
Ecosystem Approach requires that ‘conservation of ecosystem structure and
functioning, in order to maintain ecosystem services, should be a priority target’. For
example, we recommend to governments that environmental protection should not
just be site-specific and based on special species and habitats, but be taken forward
to encompass a more holistic, functionally-based approach. It is of note that in many
countries, both developed and developing, biodiversity protection is a key
government priority although biodiversity research may often be under-developed.
We need to ensure that government and environmental protection agencies
emphasise the need to take the ecosystem approach and thus a wide and holistic
view of the environment, its features and threats all of which should be underpinned
by good and adequate science. In this, we also have to acknowledge the importance
of working with all statutory bodies and stakeholders.
The environmental problems in Nigeria, as in many countries, are many and varied. I
aim to show that the problems faced by Nigeria in achieving a sustainable
environment are no different from all countries - the problems may originate from
inside or outside the country but they are to be faced collectively. The internallygenerated problems concern the production of waste and its disposal, the burgeoning
population with its increased demands for goods, energy and a higher standard of
living, the resulting use of natural resources. The externally-generated problems
include, for example, the effects of global change, increased desertification, sea level
rise and climate change, the movement of plants and animals, some of which may
affect the local balance of nature.
Hence we need educate our students and graduates into a mind-frame where they
are equipped to help tackle these problems and, in particular, we need to ensure that
they have the ability to look at problems widely. In the jargon, we need to get them to
think ‘out of the box’ - of course we need them to be good scientists, in being
thorough in studying and managing environmental problems. We need to ensure that
they have a rigorous approach as scientists and are trained in hypothesis generation
and testing. At the same time we need them to embrace all aspects of environmental
thinking and to take ideas from wherever is suitable. As an example of this, and
again forgive the jargon, we can make use of the DPSIR approach as a philosophy to
study, understand, predict and control the excesses of human actions. The DPSIR
approach has been used as a framework in order to assess the causes,
consequences and responses to change. This identifies ‘Drivers’ of change leading
to individual ‘Pressures’ causing ‘State change' in the system. In turn, these lead to
‘Impacts’ on the human system which then require a ‘Response’ under which the
problems or potential problems are addressed.
For example, a driver is that society wants energy and so each type of energy
production, including fossil fuel extraction and use, causes a suite of problems, what
we may regard as pressures on the system. In turn, these will result in state changes
to the natural environment, as witnessed by oil pollution in the Niger Delta, in which
the fauna and flora have been degraded, habitats greatly affected, foods polluted and
contaminated, and the other uses and users of the area affected. Thus these state
changes, if not unchecked, will result in impacts to the human system. For example,
the degraded and oil polluted landscape of the Niger Delta will no longer produce fish
and shellfish fit for human consumption, there may not even be sufficient food
produced and the land and waters may be unfit to use, either in production or
recreation. Each of these impacts then requires a response by society, through its
law, administrative bodies such as the Federal Environmental protection Agency and
economic instruments to control the worst excesses of industry.
Box 2: The DPSIR approach
Driving forces:
(human activities and economic sectors responsible for the pressures) e.g. urban
(particular stressors on the environment in the form of direct pressures such as
emissions) e.g. sewage discharges, increased organic inputs;
State change:
(changes in environmental variables (geo/physical/chemical/biological) which
describe the characteristics and conditions of the coastal zone); these changes
occur in both structural components and functioning processes, e.g. reduced
oxygen levels, increased water turbidity, degraded communities;
(changes in the ecosystem resources affecting human uses and health) e.g. loss
of amenity areas, fisheries populations, eutrophication, reduced biodiversity;
(measurement of different policy options as a response to the environmental
problems) e.g. economic and legislative instruments, the actions following the use
of indicators.
The Millennium Assessment ( recently
summarised the way in which human activities disrupt natural processes and thus
emphasised the need for legislation and policy drivers to control those adverse
effects. That legislation and policy forms the dominant part of the Response in the
DPSIR framework which in turn should control the Drivers and Pressures which
cause environmental change (the State Change and Impact of the approach). As a
result of considerable international and national policies aimed at delivering improved
protection for the environment, there are currently several policy drivers which
require the application of the Ecosystem Approach to the management of the
Within these examples, I aim to show that if we can get our management of our
environment right then there will be ‘triple wins’ for a sustainable future - for the
society, economy and ecology. The greatest challenge, however, is to get the
stakeholders in society to embrace the problem and thus be a part of the solution. Of
course, it may be difficult for scientists bring about the required change but they have
a fundamental role in advising and informing society in order to effect solutions. We
can put over the message but realise that often in order bring ‘hearts and minds’ on
board then we need not just to talk to scientists but, if we want to have an impact,
then academics and scientists have to engage with the policy makers and
implementers. As such we may have to concentrate on the aspect that politicians see
as most important - the economy - especially in these financially troubled times. As
President Clinton replied, when asked what he thought was the most important topic,
‘it’s the economy, stupid’! Perhaps another way of expressing this is that if we grab
people by their wallets and purses then their hearts and minds follow!
Ecosystem Goods and Services
Perhaps 15 years ago, if I was trying to get industrialists and politicians to bring about
environmental improvements then I would firstly emphasise the ecology whereas
now I will start with the economy. If we can get environmental management good for
the economy while at the same time protecting and enhancing the ecology then that
management will deliver wider benefits and will be sustainable.
Can I emphasise that it is paramount that we think in terms of Ecosystem goods
and services in order for society to realise the value of our environment. In this, I am
not just thinking of the ‘tree-huggers’, those well-meaning individuals who want to
protect nature because of its intrinsic value - the ‘cute and cuddly’ approach to
looking after the great apes, the charismatic megafauna such as sea mammals and
birds. I want to emphasise that of course it is noble to protect the wildlife for its own
value but we should not underestimate the value of protecting biodiversity for its
wider benefits to society. Indeed, this may even help to bring on board society and
Although my work, and indeed a lot of our research and teaching effort at the
University of Hull is on the aquatic environment and especially the estuarine and
coastal environment, all of my messages follow equally well for all environments land, air and water. The terrestrial, freshwater, marine and estuarine ecosystems and
their biological diversity deliver a set of goods and services which remain essential to
Man’s economic prosperity and other aspects of our welfare. Importantly, the
concept of ecosystem goods and services is of value to environmental managers and
policy makers as it allows the linkages between human and ecological systems to be
understood by non-scientists, stakeholders and other interested parties.
Ecosystem services can be defined as ‘the conditions and processes through which
natural ecosystems, and the species that make them up, sustain and fulfil human
life’. For example, in the aquatic environment ecosystem, services include
maintaining hydrological cycles, regulating climate, contaminant purification, and
storing and cycling essential nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus. In contrast,
ecosystem goods ‘represent the materials produced that are obtained from natural
systems for human use’. Examples in the marine environment include biological and
non-biological materials such as food (such as fish, shellfish, seaweeds), building
materials (such as sand and gravels), and medicinal products from marine plants,
microbes and animals. The definition can be expanded to include recent uses and
resources from the marine environment such as marine renewable energy, e.g. from
tidal power and offshore wind and wave power. These examples demonstrate that
ecosystem services occur at different scales, for example climate regulation and
carbon sequestration occur at a global level, whereas waste treatment occurs at a
local or regional scale.
Ecosystem goods and services are particularly abundant in coastal systems as a
country such as Nigeria, with its abundance of natural resources and unique habitats,
is acutely aware. For example, the Niger Delta is one of the pre-eminent mangrove
areas in the world and requires protection if its goods and services are to continue to
be delivered. These goods and services, and the natural capital stocks that produce
them, are critical to the functioning of the earth’s life-support systems. Recently,
there have been many studies on the valuation of goods and services provided by
coastal systems although references to valuing goods and services within the
literature date from the mid-1960s and early 1970s. Ecosystem goods and services
contribute to human welfare, both directly and indirectly, and therefore represent part
of the total global economic value.
Human-Induced Problems and Changes in Ecosystems
I can only give a few examples of human-induced problems and so I’ll concentrate on
waste disposal and pollution and energy and climate change.
For many years, pollution was a major problem in the developed countries and it may
be argued that their industrialisation was built on degrading the environment.
Unfortunately, these problems now occur in the developing countries. For example,
in Europe we had rivers and estuaries that were so polluted that fish were killed and
even the Thames estuary in London which runs past the Houses of Parliament
smelled so bad that tea on the terrace was not possible - this, above all, caused the
politicians to act!
Such pollution is no longer a problem in western countries and has been tackled by
improved legislation, governance and technology. We have the suite of laws and
agreements, we can design industry and purification plants, and we have society’s
acceptance to pay for these improvements such that the pollution has been solved.
However, pollution is now a major problem in the developing countries, as witnessed
along the urban waterways in Nigeria, the Niger Delta and coastal areas. Hence the
challenge for these countries is to achieve economic development without it being at
the expense of the environment. Indeed, if industrial development only comes at the
price of a long-term degradation of the land, sea and air such that recreation,
fisheries, food production and human health is affected then this may be a price too
high to pay.
In addition to pollution from urban areas, industries and the land, in most of our
countries, many of the problems result directly or indirectly from our energy needs.
This applies all the way from environmental problems due to exploring for and
exploiting oil and gas reserves, to waste such as greenhouse gases and radioactive
waste and heated water produced by thermal power plants. Of course, countries aim
to be sustainable in energy - not just exploiting natural reserves, of which Nigeria has
an abundance, but for those countries to take a role in helping others to diversify there needs to be the movement to renewable and green energy while also
protecting security of supply, jobs and standards of living. We need to aim to create a
sustainable energy future by planning for the future for when the oil in all our
countries runs out, which of course it will, but also to cope with the adverse
environmental effects of producing energy now. It is necessary to consider those
adverse effects - from the deliberate and accidental releases of oil, through the
impacts of fossil fuel power stations, to the effects of renewal sources. We have the
techniques and technologies to minimise those adverse impacts - the only question is
whether we are willing to act to control the environmental effects.
It is widely accepted that the end point of human energy use is climate change.
Global change may be regarded, and forgive the jargon, as an ‘exogenic unmanaged
pressure’, that is it originates from outside the region on which it is having an impact.
As such it can only be controlled by global action and to a much lesser extent
countries acting on their own but not at all by a region acting alone. It is a pressure
which will lead to change but one where a country or region has to respond to the
consequences perhaps more than the causes.
While of course only countries acting together can tackle this, each area may regard
climate change as an external force against which we have to respond to the
consequences. These consequences may be changed climate patterns, global
warming, sea-level rise, increased deforestation, loss of wetlands such as the
mangroves in the Niger Delta. These changes are requiring us to regard habitats as
both an intrinsic value but also a practical value. In the northern hemisphere we have
shown that by recreating wetlands which were lost 250 years ago, we can create
areas for water storage in the event of flooding, areas for better ecology and areas to
increase the safety for human settlements. At the time of the tsunami in SE Asia, we
all saw the consequences of removing mangroves which in turn removed protection
against tidal surges and resulted in much greater damage.
Our prevailing philosophy, and one which can be learned from the west, is that we
should be working with nature not against it - there are many example of Man trying
to stop nature - we now know that one an area has been managed then you have to
keep managing it otherwise it reverts to normal. There is a saying that if you ‘push
mother nature out of the door with a broomstick, she will come back in through the
window with a pitchfork’ - hence there is the need to look for imaginative solutions.
Similarly, even energy rich countries such as Nigeria are required to have an energy
policy that guarantees sustainable energy. Perhaps whilst a country has an
abundance of fossil fuel this could remove the internal impetus to look for and
develop renewable energies. However, if a country thinks globally then it should
come to the conclusion that renewable energy is needed to remove greenhouse
gases. Nigeria fully sees the effects of climate change through the increased
desertification of its northern areas and the resulting social problems. It is
encouraging to see the northern African countries now looking at imaginative
solutions to tackle climate change such as the solar potential of Saharan and SubSaharan Africa. With political courage and imagination this could become a power
house for other areas with imaginative solutions such as massive solar energy farms
to transport energy to Europe. Of course, this requires the need to overcome political
divides but, as has been emphasised many times, global problems need global
As introduced above, the DPSIR framework gives a philosophy for describing and
determining the causes of ecosystem state change and the resultant impacts on the
human uses of the system. Human-induced change in marine ecosystems derives
ultimately from a set of main Drivers, such as the need for navigation, land for
infrastructure or agriculture or for food from fisheries and shellfisheries. Each of
these Drivers then leads to a set of Pressures such as, respectively from the above
examples, dredging and dredged material disposal, land-claim and the loss of
wetlands, and fishing effects and organic enrichment from fish farms. At its most
basic, and again as an indication of the need to simplify the problems, the causes of
human-induced change can be reduced to two categories:
 biological or non-biological substances/materials/objects placed in the
environment as the result of human activities, such as hazardous chemicals,
organic matter /sewage, diffuse pollution, infrastructure (e.g. bridges, barriers),
and non-indigenous species;
 biological or non-biological substances/materials/objects removed by Man
from the system such as aggregates, oil and gas, habitat (as loss and land
claim), renewable energy, fisheries.
These inputs and extracts from the system may be small or large entities and can be
categorised as biological, physical and chemical materials. Hence the nature of
human impacts in the environment will be related to the fate and effects of these
inputs and the effects of removing living and non-living materials from the system.
Furthermore it is necessary to make a distinction between materials which may be
introduced without causing a deterioration to the ecosystem health and those which
cause a deterioration. For example, a material introduced without harm is termed a
contaminant whereas that which causes biological damage is termed a pollutant.
Similarly, a species moved by human activities but which does not displace others or
cause a harmful response, at any level of biological organisation is termed an alien or
introduced species whereas one causing actual or potential damage is termed an
invasive species.
The overall adverse influence of any particular activity on the natural system can be
termed its ecological footprint. In general terms, this relates to the area per capita
required to produce food, to be occupied by infrastructure and to provide energy or at
least to absorb the results of providing energy (e.g. carbon dioxide sequestration). It
is also the area defined during an Environmental Impact Assessment for any single
activity such as trawling or building a port. While the ecological footprints of some
activities may be relatively small, e.g. building localised infrastructure, others may be
large, e.g. the global production and transport of food. The quantification of the
ecological footprint is most widely developed for terrestrial systems, the land required
for food production, the energy requirements by Man and the area required to
sequester CO2. The concept, however, is poorly developed for marine systems and
especially dynamic systems whereby an impact may be at a distance from the site of
the stressor. For example, shrimp trawling has an ecological footprint away from its
area because of the bycatch of juvenile fishes ultimately affecting the adult stocks.
I am not arguing that we should not use the land and waters and their resources but
that we should aim for a wise and sustainable use of resources. It is better to put
methods for the control of human-problems into action now rather than correct the
mistakes later which is always more expensive in the long run. For example, we
should stop pollution at source, by minimising waste and treating that which cannot
be stopped. We used to take the view that the ‘solution to pollution is dilution’, i.e. as
long as we push our waste into streams and rivers to be carried away or we dispose
of it through high chimneys or long pipelines, then we will not see the effects. Of
course, we now know that all we are doing in making our problems become someone
else’s. Furthermore, as suggested by the architect and philosopher, Buckminster
Fuller, pollution is merely ‘the wrong thing in the wrong place at the wrong time’ - it is
indeed true that one person’s pollution is another’s raw materials!
In tackling pollution, I want to argue for the responsibility of all companies, both small
and multinational, in exploring and exploiting natural resources - that they need to
cultivate an environmental awareness and create environmental management
systems. There are many examples where such companies may be more
environmentally aware in countries with strong environmental protection than in other
countries - hence leading to fears that pollution may be exported from developed to
developing countries. Hence they need to ensure that they are as good in the
developing world and in the developed world - the former can learn from the
environmental governance adopted by other countries. We need to ensure sufficient
resources (both funding and suitably qualified staff) for enforcement and not allow
countries to export pollution by getting away with poor environmental practices in
some countries that would not be allowed in others.
Accordingly, all of this requires a well-trained, expert staff who know the problems
and how to deal with them, who can think widely and bring imagination to dealing
with environmental problems.
Ecosystem Condition (Health)
It is valuable to think of the health of our environment in the same way as we think
about human health. The terms ‘health’ and ‘damage’ relate to the well-being of a
system and its ability to carry out a set of functions and, in the present context, relate
to biological well-being, whether that biology relates to the natural system or to Man.
Can I emphasise to the scientists that it is of utmost importance to be able to
communicate your ideas to a wide audience but to use terms known by that
audience. As such, we can think about a damaged environment in the same way as
a damaged body - the terms will be the same. This also indicates to students that
they should not stay within boundaries in using ideas, again ‘thinking out of the box’ this may be needed to get across your message and thus make a valuable
contribution to the debate. For example, if an idea can be taken for the human health
sciences to use in the environmental health assessment then it should be used.
At its most basic, we should think of a system, whether a body, an ecosystem or a
planet, in terms of its fitness-for-survival hence incorporating both acute and chronic
degradation but also relating to a fitness-for-purpose (once the purpose of the system
has been defined). This therefore illustrates the importance of defining and where
possible quantifying ecosystem goods and services which by definition are impaired
in an unhealthy or degraded ecosystem. As human activities are responsible for that
degradation then society chooses de facto to impair the ecosystem and thus has
control over its recovery. For example, society can decide whether sewage should
be discharged into the sea and whether the cost of treatment and remediation should
be spent.
A healthy ecosystem will be a system that encompasses all necessary functions and
has the components consistent with the prevailing physico-chemical regime. It has
the capability to resist, or recover from, disturbance and is thus regarded as being
resilient. It will have all the expected components of the ecosystem and the expected
linkages between such components. Similarly, an unhealthy or degraded ecosystem
is lacking in one or more of these features. In determining the health and well-being
of the environment, in addressing the causes of any deterioration in ecosystem
health and in re-creating healthy systems, parallels can be drawn with the
terminology used by the medical fields (Box 3). An assessment of change from a
perceived normal situation can be followed by a prediction of the direction in which
ecosystem change progresses if human influences are not removed, thus allowing
causes of change to be mediated, mitigated or compensated. Of course, actions to
prevent adverse change are the most important aspect of environmental
Box 3: Comparison of the health of medical and environmental systems (*2
using an extension of symptoms for the diagnosis of ecosystem pathology)
Determination of unhealthy systems
Assessment (*2)
Remediation / Creation
Recovery / Restoration
There are a few well-defined categories of changes to ecosystems as the result of
human activities which, again following the medical analogy, in general can be
reduced to a set of symptoms of ecosystem pathology, i.e. adverse changes to
the system. These may include the loss of biodiversity, increased disease in
organisms, and overstimulation of the natural system to produce excess organic
matter. A deviation in any of those symptoms, from an optimum that would be
regarded as necessary for the healthy functioning of an ecosystem, indicates a
reduction in health of a system. As a management and monitoring tool, any of these
symptoms can be regarded as an indicator of adverse change. Some of these
features relate to the ecosystem functioning whereas others modify biodiversity.
Mechanisms of Governance and International Agreements
All countries, if they are to achieve a sustainable environment, require a well-founded
system of governance - this is the suite of laws and agreements and a system of
administrative bodies with the powers and staff to enforce these. Nigeria has started
on the road to an environmental awareness and realises that the protection of its
environment has economic and social as well as ecological benefits. It has started to
embrace international conventions such as:
1971 Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar Convention)
 This intergovernmental provides the framework for national action and
international co-operation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and
their resources.
 It establishes specific guidelines on wetland restoration which were approved
by all member governments in 1999.
 It also provides for ‘compensation’ measures, which may include elements of
restoration, to be taken if any designated Ramsar site is adversely affected by
activities considered to be in the ‘urgent national interest’.
1992 Convention on Biological Diversity (Biodiversity Convention)
 Requires contracting parties to develop National Biodiversity Strategies and
Action Plans, including restoration targets for habitats and species.
Establishes three main goals: the conservation of biological diversity, the
sustainable use of its components, and the fair and equitable sharing of the
benefits from the use of genetic resources.
Article 8(f) states that each member state shall ‘rehabilitate and restore
degraded ecosystems and promote the recovery of threatened species, inter
alia, through the development and implementation of plans or other
management strategies’.
Article 9(c) states that each member state shall ‘adopt measures for the
recovery and rehabilitation of threatened species and for their reintroduction
into their natural habitats under appropriate conditions’.
Nigeria now needs to further develop its environmental protection abilities, again
using a well-trained and broadly educated workforce, to rehabilitate degraded areas,
prevent further degradation and respond to emerging threats such as climate change
and its attendant problems. Before long it will catch up with the developed countries,
as long as it can learn from the successes and failures of those countries, and
improve habitats, reverse adverse changes, improve compensation and mitigation
measures, and ensure action to prevent environmental damage while at the same
time allowing economic development. I emphasise that your country should not
spend time and effort ‘reinventing the wheel’ but merely embrace the best practices
from elsewhere while trying to avoid making the mistakes.
In protecting and enhancing biodiversity while at the same time allowing economic
development, we can think in terms of ‘Carrying capacity’, and again forgive the
scientific jargon. While previously this had an ecological meaning, such as how many
fish could an area support, it can also be used to indicate societal aspects such as
the ability of an area to support (and thus absorb) a given human activity. For
example, a well-mixed, high energy area may have a high carrying capacity to
absorb organic wastes without adverse effects being produced. As such, the latter
can also be described as the system's assimilative capacity, a term often used to
indicate the ability of an area to receive (as in disperse, degrade and assimilate)
polluting discharges. But we can take these concepts further and consider the term
carrying capacity to have a range of definitions in addition to ecological: physical,
social and economic carrying capacity. Physical carrying capacity refers to space
limitations, i.e. the number of activities an area can withstand before there is some
change to quality, for example number of quays in a port. Social carrying capacity
refers to the human population densities an area can sustain before numbers start to
decline because of actual or perceptions of amenity decline, a feature related to
tourism on the coast. Economic carrying capacity refers to the extent to which an
area can become changed before the economic goods and services are adversely
affected, for example coastal development for tourism becoming so intensive that the
attractiveness of the area declines.
We need to educate our students to think in terms of defining goals for the
environment and planning actions - there is the need for the well-accepted sequence
from objectives, to indicators, to monitoring, to management. I can see that Nigeria
has started on the path followed by other countries towards a hierarchical structure
giving a logical framework leading from guiding principles for sustainable
development and a vision for the environment, to quantitative indicators and their
limit/target reference points. There is a saying that ‘if you don’t know where you are
going then any road will take you there’ and so all levels of environmental
management need to set the ultimate goal, for example in the UK it is ‘to have safe,
productive and biologically diverse seas’. We then need scientists to create indicators
by which this goal can be measured and then to carry out monitoring to determine
when we have met that goal and to advise what we should do if the goal has not
been met. Hence there is a need for a set of high level environmental objectives and
also for the development of social and economic objectives for the environment.
Such high level objectives need to be more quantitative before they can be used in
an operational manner, i.e. unless they are quantitative and fully defined then it is not
possible to determine whether they have been met, nor what monitoring is required
prior to management if they are not met. Business managers will tell you that in
order to manage the system then its features have to be measured hence the need
for monitoring, under both spatial and temporal scales thus respectively giving the
extent and duration of the perceived change. Using this analogy for the environment,
objectives set against which monitoring is carried out should be SMART (specific,
measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bounded).
Such quantitative objectives can therefore be regarded as indicators of change and
due to their fundamental use in determining and managing change there has recently
been a large amount of research on the development of environmental indicators.
Indicators have variously been termed action levels, triggers for action, thresholds
and reference levels but the important point is that monitoring is subsequently
required to determine if and when the indicators of change have been exceeded and
thus when management measures will be required. As such, and again forgive the
jargon, this philosophy and approach is similar to the adoption by environmental
protection bodies of Environmental Quality Objectives (EQO) and Environmental
Quality Standards (EQS). EQO are statements which describe the demands of an
area, for example the ability for fish to migrate through the Niger delta at all states of
the tide. The accompanying EQS are numerical thresholds which should be achieved
to ensure that the EQO is met, e.g. that the water column dissolved oxygen should
not fall below 5 mg l-1 otherwise a water quality barrier is created. This approach
relies on a good scientific underpinning of the links between the EQO and EQS, i.e.
fish will not migrate under sufficiently low oxygen levels. Accordingly our
environmental scientists require to be taught about all of these aspects.
Such ecosystem objectives have now been produced for many areas and
ecosystems; for example those produced by UNEP for ocean management areas
(see Box 4) and these are now being put into actions by many countries.
Box 4: Examples of Ecosystem Objectives for Ocean Management Areas
Maintenance of ecosystem diversity
Maintenance of species diversity
Maintenance of genetic variability within species
Maintenance of directly impacted species
Maintenance of ecologically dependent species
Maintenance of ecosystem structure and function
Management Frameworks Linking Environmental, Policy and Socio-Economic
Socio-economic considerations are becoming increasingly important in effecting
environmental management in getting acceptance by society and a higher
prioritisation by politicians, policy makers and environmental managers. There are
techniques for determining the economic costs and benefits of environmental
degradation and thus improvements although these are more well-established for
estuarine and coastal areas. The Contingent Valuation methodology and
willingness-to-pay techniques allow a value to be placed on the actual and perceived
damage to the environment. This then allows the cost of damage prevention and
ecosystem restoration to be justified.
The political links to ecology in achieving sustainable management which is accepted
by society has recently been defined as 'political ecology'. This discipline aims to
combine the fields of ecology and political economy, which together represent a
constantly changing interaction between natural and anthropogenic change, and
which is influenced by many stakeholders and from local to international scales.
Hence, there is the need to integrate the scales at which ecosystems operate with
the scales at which society operates and thus which can be used to manage
systems. For example, where the Niger Delta has an importance for fish and
shellfish then their management has to accord with the scale of their biology, i.e. it
has to encompass catchment, estuary, coastal and open sea domains.
Finally, we should mention the public, societal role in environmental restoration and
management. I note that as in many countries, Nigeria has a difficulty in getting the
general public to be engaged in environmental protection and recovery. Based on
many years experience elsewhere, ‘citizen-orientated restoration’, such as pollution
control programmes, has had a major impact on the recovery of wetland systems.
This also reinforces the point that some wetlands habitats, such as the Niger Delta,
are amenable to restoration whereas open systems are not. Hence, the effort is
required in preventing or controlling damaging activities and allowing natural recovery
processes to occur.
Despite this, there are administrative and legislative changes required to produce an
improved framework allowing restoration and greater environmental management to
occur. In this, developing countries such as Nigeria can learn from the successes
and failures of other countries. It can learn the lessons to give:
 better administrative links allowing stakeholders (government and statutory
bodies, landowners for the coastal hinterland and the community) to work
together to achieve ecological restoration by sharing responsibility;
the development of policy, guidelines, objectives and ecological standards,
land and seabed use codes of practice, and indicators of the ecological limits
of habitat use;
 mechanisms to allow sustainable ecological restoration to be achieved
through a combination of statutory mechanisms and agreements, incentives
for restoration and compensation, and the implementation of good scientific
 control of unsustainable land/seabed use practices and better enforcement of
existing controls;
 the integration of conservation and management objectives of natural
 the better definition of biodiversity and ecological objectives and the better
protection of their features;
 a better geographic perspective to ecological restoration including
development of national, regional, and local biogeographic plans, including
zonation schemes and spatial planning.
Hence Nigeria and its Federal Environmental protection Agency are well-placed to
build on a well-defined sequence for environmental monitoring and management.
The sequence can be summarised:
(1) The definition of objectives for sustainable uses and users;
(2) The use of a spatial planning framework which sets the objectives into a
spatial and temporal context;
(3) The derivation of quantitative indicators which, if met, act as surrogates for the
wider health of the environment, as shown by the objectives;
(4) The determination of monitoring strategies to determine compliance with
those indicators;
(5) The definition, prior to this sequence, of actions which will be taken in the
case of non-compliance;
(6) Ensuring that there is the legislative and administrative support for the
(7) Ensuring the societal and economic justification and acceptance of
As indicated throughout this lecture, the successful management of ecosystems
requires an holistic approach which has to take account of all aspects covering the
natural environmental and human cultural aspects - the environmental, socioeconomic, administrative and legal as well as having the techniques and
technologies to effect that management. These features can be regarded as a set of
seven tenets, each of which requires to be fulfilled by the sum of management
actions for sustainable management to be achieved (Box 5). The actions to ensure
the protection of all levels of biological organisation (from the cell to the ecosystem)
are embedded in the first tenet, environmentally sustainable, but management of the
environment cannot operate away from the human cultural aspects.
Again, using philosophies taken from the business community (and again to
encourage graduates in their thinking to steal ideas from whatever fields are
appropriate!), the use of the 7-tenet approach has features of the PEST analysis in
which the environment of an organisation or business has to be analysed against a
background of its Political, Economical, Social and Technological constraints. We
can easily modify this to show that the organisation (and control) of the business of
the environment also has to include these aspects. These features are important in
not only preventing the deterioration in ecosystem health described above, but also
in restoring and allowing a degraded ecosystem to recover.
Box 5: The seven tenets of environmental management
That the measures will ensure that the ecosystem
features are safeguarded
That the methods and equipment for ecosystem
protection are available
That a cost-benefit assessment of the environmental
management indicates sustainability
That the environmental management measures are as
required or at least are understood by society as being
Legally permissible That there are regional, national, European or
international agreements and/or statutes which will
enable the management measures to be performed
That the statutory bodies such as governmental
departments, environmental protection and conservation
bodies are in place and functional to enable the
successful and sustainable management
That the management approaches and philosophies are
consistent with the prevailing political climate
The ecological and societal links listed above have to be embedded within the
prevailing governance which operates at regional, national and international scales.
Accordingly they have to be embedded in our teaching and education. Governments
are required to develop a range of policies and non-statutory measures for the
conservation of environments and biodiversity. Some of these are a response to
global obligations, such as the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) as well as
regional and national agendas. Statutory designations to protect some or all of the
identified features may require specific actions to be taken ranging from restrictions
on damaging activities, control through the planning system, and active conservation
management. In addition, there will be over-riding economic repercussions to the
use of the environment.
I’ll now try to bring together many of the ideas briefly mentioned here - as indicated
earlier the Ecosystem Approach to the sustainable use of the marine environment is
based on the adoption of the 12 principles laid down by the CBD. These principles
also cover the environmental and human cultural aspects and, as such, the concepts
presented here can be summarised and then combined under the unifying framework
of the Ecosystem Approach and its guiding principles to ensure sustainable
ecological management (Figure 1). Firstly, the causes and consequences of change
due to human activities in the environment can be summarised as the DPSIR
approach, with an understanding of the fate and cause and effect relationships of
human impacts. Secondly, the study and quantification of the causes and impacts of
change require a robust scientific method in order for their assessment to be
defendable. Hence, there is the need to derive the aims and objectives for the
differing habitats and then set the hypotheses of change which can be tested using
field survey and field experimentation if suitable. Thirdly, management requires the
measurement of causes and consequences of change and an indication of when
change is so large that action has to be taken. This quantification requires the
development of quantitative, numerical indicators and those indicators require to be
SMART in order to know if and when they have been met. Finally, for sustainable
responses and sustainable, successful, and defendable environmental management
to occur, the 12 principles of the CBD Ecosystem Approach have to be integrated
with the 7 tenets (described above) and a PEST analysis.
12 Principles
Symptoms of
7 Tenets
Figure 1: A conceptual model illustrating the basis of the Ecosystem Approach in
which, (i) the human uses of the ecosystems, their effects and societal responses are
given by the DPSIR philosophy, (ii) the determination of causes of change and
responses by the natural and human system requires quantitative indicators linked to
monitoring and management, (iii) that the process requires good science based on
the stating of objectives for the marine system and testing of hypotheses, and (iv) the
overall responses to achieve a sustainable marine system requires the integration of
environmental, technological and societal (administrative, political, economical and
legislative) aspects as shown by the principles of the Ecosystem Approach and the
PEST and 7-Tenet philosophies.
Concluding Messages
This analysis has shown that in order to achieve a wise and sustainable use of our
environment we need graduates with skills taken from all natural and social sciences.
They should be equipped with the philosophies and ability to think widely and they
should be taught to be not scared of thinking across disciplines. We need natural
science graduates who feel comfortable in discussing environmental management
with social scientists, policy makers and indeed politicians. We also need social
scientists who can embrace the natural sciences. We need scientifically literate
politicians and those with an ability to take informed decisions.
Our teaching, our modules and our degrees have to be geared towards this and we
continually have to reassess these to make sure that they are delivering the needs of
society. We realise that if we are to have education for sustainable development then
it should occur not just at school and university, but also throughout life and
employment with continued professional development. In our research, in order to
achieve a sustainable and valuable environment, we of course need to ensure that
our studies do create further knowledge but also we need to emphasise that the
research is for wealth creation and to increase the quality of life.
I have seen that the University of Benin has all of this as its ethos and that it knows
that education is the answer to most if not all of the problems faced not only by
Nigeria but by all countries. I am sure that the graduates of the University don’t need
to be told that their education is not now finishing but is merely starting.
I thank you for your attention.

Education for Sustainable Development