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Life Reflections

The wonder weed we wish withered away

By June 12, 2022June 6th, 2023No Comments

   June 10, 2022

You’ve maybe slipped over them and almost fell, whereupon you cursed the day Mother Nature decided to ‘evolve’ them the way She did, you. The damned eyesores, you spat, what on this good earth are they doing, snaking around everywhere?

Well, lay reader, welcome to the world of algae!

And the world of algae is a wonder world, take my word for it. In case, like yours unscientifically, you haven’t stepped into a Biology class, algae are members of a group of mostly aquatic photosynthetic organisms that live on any slimy surface of this earth, it’s said. And if they are marvels of beings, it’s because of that qualifying adjective: “photosynthetic”.

“Photosynthesis”, from which is derived the adjective, is explained as the process by which plants use sunlight, water and carbon dioxide to create oxygen and energy in the form of sugar. And therein, the miracle: remember, algae are not exactly plants but simple organisms, no roots, stems nor leaves. Yet they create oxygen that you so greedily inhale without the least show of gratitude.

To get oxygen and energy, think of the havoc of theft and destruction you’ve had to wreak! After which, you thanklessly exhale carbon dioxide to join other dischargers in destroying our climate. Getting oxygen requires sucking in all the air that organisms like algae and plants will have so graciously distilled from all the air-polluting carbon dioxide you breathed out.

As for getting energy, it’s a scandal. You’ll have killed all animals in your vicinity and munched out all plants, algae, et al, around you, without forgetting to import others from foreign countries.

That junk food out of your factories, well, you’ll live to regret the day it started to roll off the production lines. It will be your sorry business, only their by-products will be ruining the environment that Mother Nature so civilly gifted us. That’ll be if the poisonous-fumes spewing industrial countries of the global North will not have completely destroyed our climate.  

But all the aforesaid does not half explain what these marvellous little darlings, algae, are precisely. We know them as slimy green microscopic beings that we slip on when we pass in damp places that are kind of hard, like damp stones or bricks. We also see them on old tree trunks but they are usually seen in larger amounts as green sheens on streams, ponds, lakes and oceans.

Herculean sweeties that they are, microscopic algae thrive also in deserts, imbedded in miniscule soil crusts characteristic of such arid areas. Hardly any plant can survive in such extreme habitats.    

In algae, we know the green microscopic type. But in more ideal parts of the earth, they grow in lengths that can stretch up to sixty metres and they come in other colours like red and brown.

Whatever the case, their crowning accomplishment will blow you out of the water!

Given the chance to grow in large magnitudes, algae will beat the rain forests of Amazon, Ituri and all rain forests of West Africa hands down when it comes to supplying us with bigger quantities of oxygen. Their photosynthetic pigments are more varied than those of plants and their cells have features that are not found among plants.

That is, if, by his/her greed and selfishness, man/woman will not have completely eaten them off!

After having his/her fill, with the remaining crumbs he/she’ll make industrial products, including petroleum and pharmaceutical products. In this greed, mind you, man/woman will not be alone because all aquatic living things will be scrambling for their share at the meal table.

Algae can be eaten, can produce material for shoe-making, for steel alternatives, say it, on top of giving us oxygen. Beloveds, what won’t they do to feed our avarice, we ingrates of this world?

Good people of this green land, let algae flourish. Starting with Kigali City, all the wetlands herein should have ponds where they can freely grow and spread. If you’ve been to Nyandungu Eco-Tourism Park, you’ve been buoyed by the sight of their sheen on one part of Pond Kivu. And hated the feeling of squashing them underfoot on the walkways in the dewy bamboo park sector.

And still on Kigali, how many stone retainer walls on the embankments behind the sidewalks of the streets have you seen? Why, in Mother Nature’s name, shine the stones clean? Worse still, why paint them black and white, as if the thus-painted roadside kerbs don’t suffice? Please, let algae blossom.

Upcountry, we cannot fault our national game parks in their enthusiasm to promote algae, especially Nyungwe National Park, but more is needed to supplement their effort. Our water bodies can be encouraged to host more of them. It’s enough to drop one alga in the stagnant part of a river or lake and the rest will be to fight the war of controlling their hardly-controllable swift spread!

So, if you take algae for weed and wish them withered, you are dead wrong. Work with the government in its search for carbon footprint solutions. More algae, more tree planting, more recycling, more renewable energy, on and on, by you are your two cents for a greener Rwanda. 

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