How we can do our bit for the Earth

2008-11-02 00:00

Too much of a good thing can be bad, especially if it pertains to the doom-and-gloom scenarios postulated on mankind’s resolute march to extinction.

Seemingly overawed by galactic odds, the archetypal human being responds by doing nothing. This paralysis is a well-documented trait in the human psyche, so much so that a lack of action is sometimes justified as a defence mechanism!

Dr Jim Taylor and his colleagues at the Wildlife & Environment Society of South Africa (Wessa) don’t have time for the head-in-the-sand syndrome, and chose to tackle the generally lukewarm public response to climate change and global warming through an expo of sorts that demonstrated a selection of alternative technologies.

The equipment ranged from high-tech machinery to simple devices and presented, as the tools of this emerging trade, an alternative to man’s fossil-fuelled dependency.

Popular exhibits were a solar-powered printer, made by Riso, that consumes little energy and prints with soya ink, a parabolic solar cooker that cooks food and boils water, and a beguilingly simple hot-box that slow-cooks food for free.

The world’s leading hybrid electric and fuel car with low-carbon dioxide emissions, the Toyota Prius, was also on show, as was the Mazda 2, which has a claimed fuel efficieny of 5,2 litres per 100km.

The power of the pedal was demonstrated by a bicycle that conveyed author Bridgett Ringdahl on her two-wheel travels through Asia and Latin America, while wind-up radios and cell-phone chargers sparked great interest among visitors.

The key objective of the Wessa function was to show people that these technologies are readily available, can easily be implemented, and will save money and help improve our lives.

“All it takes to make a difference is for individuals to change the way they do things,” Taylor said.

Put differently, it’s about re-thinking the way we are living and to explore viable alternatives and lifestyle choices.

Society’s throwaway habits are especially evident in its treatment of the unspoken frontier, human sewage. This explains why urine-diversion toilets that save water and reduce waste and bio-digestors that extract methane gas from waste for cooking and heating are gaining currency.

Some changes are about making folksy choices, such as reverting to hot-water bottles and ditching the electric blanket, or using vacuum flasks rather than boiling the kettle repeatedly.

Others include starting a wormery of red wriggler worms that convert paper and kitchen scraps into premium compost, or rediscovering indigenous and nutritious foods such as natural grains, amasi and amahewu.

“All we’re saying is that there are viable alternatives to the norm, and that perhaps individual households should experiment with a solar cooker, or businesses investigate more sustainable office equipment,” said Taylor. “It’s time to waste less”.

Banking on service

EVER wondered why the FNB branch at Liberty Midlands Mall provides arguably the best service in town? The answer is branch manager Colin Ashworth, who is not afraid to dive into the banking hall to assist customers and help speed up queues. Talk about walking the talk.

Spare an office

THE Starfish Greathearts Foundation, which aims to help Aids orphans, is extending its work in KZN and is looking for an office in Pietermaritzburg.

If you have any spare office space, the organisation is looking for a pro bono arrangement or to pay a nominal contribution towards running costs.

Contact Belinda te Riele at 082 743 8239,, or visit .

Blindingly brilliant

WE didn’t know it, but there’s a term that was coined to describe the kind of insolent and ignorant bureaucrat we know so well.

The Dunning-Kruger effect apparently holds that the most incompetent people are the ones who are the most convinced of their competence.

They tend to hold overly favourable views of their abilities in many social and intellectual domains, apparently because these incompetents lack what is known as “meta-cognition”, the ability to know how well one is performing.

We can think of several local, district and provincial officials fitting the bill.

Well said, mate!

GOOD things do occasionally come from Oz, including a wonderful initiative, called CREATE (Creating Rural Enterprising Attitudes Through Education) Programme of the Bank of Ideas.

We especially like its copyleft, as opposed to copyright, policy.

“Resources of the Bank of Ideas, either in full or in part, can be copied, quoted, reprinted, given away or circulated. Parts may be torn out, extracted and enhanced. In short, all resources are public property. Please use in any way to build the skills and knowledge of citizens in building healthier communities and more vibrant local economies.”

Final word

WE wish all troglodytes who sought spiritual enlightenment in the past week by firing off crackers a karmic experience to match the torture they visited on innocent creatures. May your sores fester and suppurate from dragging your knuckles on the ground.

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