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Pre-Course Assignment and Intro

What’s up y’all,

I’m Matthew (but you can call me Matt), a 17 year-old from Alabama. Perhaps the most memorable thing about me is that I love to be venturing in the forest whenever I get the chance. Whether that be mountain biking, hiking, climbing, or any other outdoorsy activity, the forest if where I’m most happy. Much of this is due to the fact that I’ve grown up on a cattle farm my entire life in a small town in Alabama. Oddly enough, I’ve only eaten red meat twice in the last nine months, and I don’t much care for beef for environmental reasons, but that’s a story for another time. During the school year, I now live at a boarding school in Tennessee. I return home during breaks and summer vacation, where you will most likely find me in a hammock, book in one hand and coffee in the other. Since I’m not that much a fan of chocolate, I think the real question in our assignment should have been dark coffee or coffee with milk, to which I would respond, “Obviously, dark is better.”

Traveling to Senegal will be my first trip with Dragons, to whom I was originally introduced by a dean at my school. I’ve never traveled to Africa before, so I’m very excited to explore a new continent and to dive into the environmental issues that are prevalent in Senegal today. Admittedly, I’m quite nervous about traveling to such a new place. I’ve traveled to Cambodia and Argentina in the past, but I don’t think I’ve ever found myself so far out of my comfort zone as I will in Senegal. I’m looking forward to the challenge, though, and very excited to be traveling with all of you.

Climate Concerns in Senegal:

While the arid regions in Senegal are feeling the full effect of desertification (Thanks, Jenna!), many coastal areas in Senegal have become prone to flooding in recent decades due to rising sea levels. For Aby, a 53 year-old living in Dakar with his two children and wife, the fear of their home being flooded is always in the back of his mind. He, like the other 3.5 million people living in Dakar, has seen flooding worsen dramatically in recent years. During the rainy season especially, many living there cannot even exit their homes. Furthermore, during periods of flooding, running water and electricity are often suspended. To resolve these issues, locals have begun using plastic bottles and other forms of garbage to soak up the excess water. Though a temporary solution, the suburbs of Dakar can now be found littered with substantial amounts of trash when the water recedes, leaving a bleak future for the landscape of Senegal and for Aby’s children to clean up.

The even bigger problem lies in the effects rising sea levels, in combination with unsustainable fishing practices, are having on the fishing industry of Senegal. Aby and his family currently rely solely on the income of his son, who waits daily at the docks of Dakar to be hired as a fisherman. As more and more move to the city, the competition to find work has become fierce. Worse yet, rising sea levels have caused fishing off the coast of West Africa, which is one of the most productive fishing zones in the world, to experience a sharp decline in recent years. While Aby finds himself bailing out water in his home, his son finds himself without work another day. For both, rising sea levels is the culprit.

A great deal of the blame for rising sea levels can be attributed to developed countries’ unsustainable practices as indicated by the contrasting carbon emissions of individuals living in the United States (16.5 metric tons per capita per year) to that of individuals in Senegal (.6 metric tons per capita per year) (2014, data collected in Oak Ridge, Tennessee). Whether that be our (and by our, I mean individuals living in the U.S.) commute to work each day or steak each week, the people of developed countries, who are the leading contributors of greenhouse gas emissions, have caused an incomprehensible amount of pain for individuals in the coastal regions of poorer countries like Aby and his family. There, many do not have the financial means to afford our luxuries nor the means to move away from the rising seas. Thus, the story of Aby’s family paints a bigger picture. Climate change has already begun to take full effect in Senegal and other third world countries, emphasizing the importance of sustainable initiatives in our daily lives.

To living better and to loving Senegal, cheers


P.S. Check out this link to read further and to view pictures of Aby’s family.