Andreas Späth

Over and out – my last column

2016-09-27 10:32

Andreas Wilson-Späth


This is my last column here. I had fun while it lasted, but it’s high time for new voices to get the opportunity to make themselves heard.


I started writing this column on a regular basis in January of 2011. The idea was to explore a variety of environmental – broadly speaking "green" – issues that I felt were of importance to us as South Africans as well as humanity more generally.


I’ve been trying to not only put my own thoughts and opinions on these topics into words in a hopefully reasonably accessible way, but also to showcase some of the scientific research that informs the various debates, frequently in the form of peer-reviewed articles in scientific journals.


The content of my columns has, obviously, been very much a reflection of my own biases and interests, and has frequently involved a discussion of the issues which I think are the most pressing at this point in history.


Out of curiosity, I scoured the deep recesses of my computer’s hard drive to do a bit of an analysis of my efforts over the last six years. Turns out I churned out just under 300 columns. I really hope they weren’t just self-indulgent rants and so much waffling garbage!


As far as subject matter goes, I covered a fair variety of topics from global warming, environmental justice, geoengineering and eco activism to coffee, organic food and bees. A rough and ready survey of some of the most common themes shows that climate change (25 columns), renewable energy (21), GMOs (11), pollution (5), fossil fuels (16), the Arctic and Antarctic (6), wildlife (22), biodiversity and conservation (22), nuclear power (11) and fracking (14) were particularly strongly represented.


It’s not been easy to write about these things in a way that attracts readers (measured online as "clicks", of course), especially those readers who may not normally consider themselves to be particularly concerned about environmental matters.


For one, green topics are frequently pretty disheartening, although there have been plenty of good-news stories to tell as well. Do we really want to constantly be reminded about how we are screwing up the planet?


But mostly it’s really quite difficult to stand out over today’s all-pervasive digital media noise. Competing with the flood of click-bait celebrity "news" and marketing "advertorial" content that has come to permanently inundate the interwebs is hard.


But then that was part of the point of this exercise from the beginning – to speak out about environmental topics that I think deserve our attention and to encourage more widespread conversations about them. Because surely the long-predicted and multifaceted ecological crisis that we are hurtling towards has got to be more important than the long-predicted demise of Brangelina.


So here's to hoping that new writers with new perspectives will get the chance to use this online soapbox to rant on and on about "green" stuff.


So long, and thanks for all the fish!

- Andreas is a freelance writer with a PhD in geochemistry. Follow him on Twitter: @Andreas_Spath

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.


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