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Friday, June 19, 2009

How to save a species on the brink...

I've just finished having a rather in-depth discussion with my supervisor about the film '11th Hour'. I've not seen it as the idea of sitting through another 'Inconvenient Truth' (Al Gore couldn't even put the ocean currents around Africa flowing in the right direction!!!), this time headed by a pretty-boy multi-millionaire from Hollywood, put me off it somewhat. However, from what my supervisor just told me, I may even go get it to watch this very night!

But this is not the point of this story. What really came out of our discussion, and something that has been plaguing me for some time is the global lack of change, in spite of all the warning signs that we are at the end of our tether. National Geographic published an article on the global food crisis this month in which they outlined the dilemma: most of the planet has been living off food reserves accumulated over the last odd 50 years or so and now the vast majority are either near or completely depleted.

Even much closer to home, the effects of climate change are apparent. Johannesburg had snow last year for the first time in about 45 years. This year, our winter has been milder and also considerably wetter than ever before. While I realise that this is purely anecdotal, it still makes me wonder about how close we are to breaking point.

The problem, as I see it, is a global fixation on capital gain. Saving the species from obliteration hasn't happened because there's no money in it. This is taken to the extreme when one considers that many 'green' techniques that can be employed by people to curb the oncoming behemoth are drastically simple and actually save money.

A prime example is garbage. In many EU countries at the moment, refuse is expected to be separated by households into plastics, metals, paper, biodegradable and other. They have dedicated bins and collection days. Why then do we not have such a system in South Africa? Well, you will say, because we don't have the infra-structure in this country for it. Or alternatively, that'd require employing more people and the government won't pay for that.

While I certainly agree with the latter point, the first point is a bunch of nonsense. The infra-structure exists already but is not adequately utilized! For example, many people in the greater Johannesburg area already go sifting through peoples rubbish to collect the various recyclable components. They then take these off to companies who pay them to do it. Now, what could be easier than separating out the rubbish ahead of time for these people. Not only do you allow them to potentially collect more from other people by freeing up that time they would have spent sifting through your trash, but you are also providing them with a source of income! Eco-friendly meets social up-liftment!

The other problem facing greener life changes is people's lack of willingness to change. Strategies such as the above require effort that people are just not prepared to expend. If you are one of these, then here's an alternative for you. Why not separate at least you biodegradable material from you other rubbish and start a compost heap?

What could possibly require less effort than throwing all your bio-rubbish into a large pile and ignoring it?!

As for the point about the government not forking out the money for green programs...We have some of the most progressive environmental laws in the world in South Africa. Our water act was one of the first to stipulate that environmental functioning requires a certain amount of water and that any excess over and above that was free for human use. So why is the government not helping out more? Because we, the people that live on their land, don't hold them to it! If more pressure was put on government to fund green initiatives and if more people made use of green programs such as recycling programs or car-pooling to reduce emissions and the like, there would be more scope for government to engage with green initiatives.

In short, we, as individuals need to change now as we can't wait for the government fat-cats to decide to do things. There are many different ways in which we could change our lifestyles to prevent the upcoming monster. I, myself, recycle, have a compost heap and am a vegetarian. My house has solar-heated water and up until recently due to work-related changes in my timetable, used to ride public transport which reduces carbon emissions per head. What are you doing? It's up to you and I to save humanity!


  1. Wise words. Small steps make the difference. Have a fab weekend xoxo

  2. japan is insanely green in some ways - the rubbish collection is nuts

    and in some ways wasteful beyond belief

    i think we all need to do our little bit

    like play with the monkeys

    miss you lucas xxxx

  3. People (most people) are lazy Lazy LAZY!!!

    The only way it will take off is if a law is made (and enforced), fining people for mixing rubbish or driving a 4x4 alone to get from Sandton to Cresta to watch a movie or something...

    We need mass action here. say 1% of all people (and that's being very generous) become aware of environmental issues and actively do something about reducing their C footprint every year, It would still take over 50 years to reach something of a neutral balance.
    Okay i'm making up these stats... but i think these are reasonably conservative figures.

    I'm not sure we can pull it off by purely relying on people to wise up and become enviro'smart.

    I think it will make more of a diff if countries were forced to be as self reliant as possible.For instance why should SA have to import brazilian maize and new zealander mutton? Regulation of pointless imports and exports would save a huge amount in costs and C emmisions at the end of the day.

    Let me stop before this becomes too preachy