A climate for success

2008-10-01 08:53
Michelle Garforth

As a conservation journalist, wild spaces and the creatures that inhabit them is the backdrop for my daily bush office, where I'm invited to observe the intimate governance and function of their eco-systems.

On the surface, it all seems to function rather well, as we take an annual vacation to the bush or a coastal resort, spending a week viewing large mammals, birds a twitter in their wetland habitats and watching dolphins surf the KwaZulu-Natal coastal warm waves.

Game rangers, veterinarians and dedicated volunteers appear to have it all under good conservation control, managing species population numbers through culling, cleaning penguins after oil spills; re-locating Ox-Pecker birds to KZN after numbers were depleted due to chemical intakes of cattle dip and surgically removing plastic from turtle's stomachs to prevent their death.

What must be noted is that the majority of these animal catastrophes are taking place due to human interference, be it through development and loss of wild habitat, never-ending pollution, litter and acid rain generated through carbon emissions.

We are responsible for most of the global warming effects observed over the past 50 years.

A carbon footprint is the environmental impact each human has - and it is measured in hectares. In the West our carbon footprint is now 22 hectares per person. The Earth's capacity is just 16 hectares per person! Makes you think.

A direct result, are disappearing animal population numbers and species becoming extinct on our watch. South Africa has had five species of frogs go extinct in the past eight years and considering frogs are indicator species as to the health of an eco-system, I am concerned.

Our amphibian friends are literally croaking to tell us something. Frogs breathe through their skins and the mucous mucosa of their mouths, making them susceptible to pollution in the waterways and wetlands.

Green problem solving

There are only 480 breeding pairs of Wattled Crane left in our wild wetlands - a cousin to South Africa's national bird, the Blue Crane, we should be sitting up and asking how we can limit our unsustainable flow of waste into their habitats. The list of effected species is endless.

Often the man in the street does not hear about the intense, micro-management, conservationists are striving to achieve, in an attempt to retain some semblance of a natural balance.

Of late, the mainstream press in South Africa has sporadically been reporting on various "green" stories. In my opinion, we are not nearly where we should be, but it is reassuring to know that we are certainly moving in that direction.

The fact that the climate on our Planet is changing is not a new concept.

So why should South Africans really be concerned about living a lifestyle that is a deeper shade of green?

For starters the developed countries got it wrong. Developing countries are afforded the opportunity to get it right. The continued snowballing use of natural resources, land and energy, how we travel, how we work, where we live, what we eat are all up for grabs.

May this blueprint of sustainable living be the proud stamp South Africa makes on the Planet. South Africans are the leaders on the African continent, often producing concepts and innovations that other African nations take their lead from.

South Africa should become a leader on green problem solving. There are many small business opportunities available to South Africans, concerning green living initiatives and small businesses are indeed the backbone of our nation.

Tourism

South Africa's wetlands and wild spaces are vital to preserve as tourism is a major economic contributor - with internationals travelling here to view our unique biospheres and fauna. The Tourism industry sustains many small rural communities alongside Reserves.

Sustainable living in the 21 Century is the successful marriage of Technology's Benefits and the healthy Respect for Mother Nature. If we continue to hurt Mother Nature, we destroy our future life-support system. This is one riddle mankind must solve, finding a harmonious way of living with our Planet.

Climate Change is a planetary issue - and solving the problem connects all humans across racial and cultural barriers.

It is simple to be greener. In fact many rural South Africans are already living a "lighter shade of green".

Each of us just needs to consume less. If we do, we cut back on man-made chemicals that sustain modern life, but pollute the only things that we need: Air; Water; Soil; Food; Healthy bodies.

We should urgently take responsibility and embrace the simple tips that will show Mother Nature a bit of Respect.

  • Michelle Garforth is a highly respected international TV anchor, producer and journalist.

    Send your comments to Michelle.

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