Solving the climate crisis is the greatest challenge that Homo sapiens face. Further reckless exploration of fossil fuels will destroy what little life we have left on Earth
Dear Barbara Creecy, I am so pleased that someone with your qualifications and experience in government was, in May, appointed to the position of minister of environment, forestry and fisheries, which is, in my view, one of the most crucial positions in our overburdened country.
This is, indeed, an extremely taxing responsibility where so many issues require your urgent attention in our beautiful country, not least of these being the global climate crisis.
One of the most amazingly reckless initiatives is the continued granting of “fracking” rights to various oil and gas companies to explore for and extract shale gas, which could result in irreparable environmental devastation in the KwaZulu-Natal midlands, the aeons-old Karoo and other areas.
This unjustifiable irresponsibility flies in the face the 2015 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, which called for greenhouse gas emissions to be dealt with by reducing carbon output to ensure the worldwide rise in temperatures stays below 2°C.
Signed by 180 countries, including South Africa and the US, this agreement obligates the participating countries to immediately move away from their reliance on fossil fuels and research the alternatives of renewable energy.
Unfortunately, there is little evidence that South Africa is implementing the Paris Climate Accord – a clear reneging on our commitment.
Fracking is opposed by numerous civil rights and environmental groups because of its ruthless degradation of the environment, despite the glib assurances of clean fuel from those few who stand to benefit financially.
Fracking leads to the toxic release of xylene, arsenic, toluene and methane, causing innumerable physical ailments, not to mention the squandering of thousands of litres of water – that scarce, priceless resource.
There will be contamination of the air and groundwater, farmland will be poisoned, as will wild animals and plants.
All this is arrogantly dismissed by the perpetrators of this self-destructive, suicidal scenario as they continue to plunder some of the most pristine areas of our planet.
The time to explore for new sources of fossil fuel is long over. Our moral duty is to protect the Earth from further and preventable desecration.
Your department must be congratulated on its proclamation in October last year of 20 marine protected areas in the Indian and Atlantic oceans to protect our fragile coastal and deep-water ecosystems from overfishing and the ravages of the climate crisis.
These will require diligent policing.
It should also involve the banning of the sale of single-use plastic shopping packets – a simple move that will force all shoppers to make use of reusable bags – and there should be incentives to recycle plastic bottles.
This must be promulgated urgently to save ocean inhabitants from the increasingly toxic effects of plastic.
Wildlife trafficking is another abusive environmental problem.
Wildlife poaching and trading of animal parts, such as rhino horns, elephant tusks and pangolin scales, must be rigorously legislated against, with no loopholes allowed.
The exploitation of, and violence against, animals is inextricably linked to human trafficking syndicates that, motivated by obscene economic greed, reduce all living creatures (including women and children) to merchandise that will be sold for the highest price.
Hunting, including the breeding and hunting of “canned” lions to encourage “tourism” by opulent Americans whose pathological, warped beliefs still regard blood “sports” as fun hobbies that prove their masculinity, is another unjustifiable anachronism.
Please do all in your power to hasten the demise of this “blatant extension of colonial times ... of the long march of the Great White Hunters”, as quoted in Compassion – Journal of Beauty Without Cruelty, which was published in April.
The craving for animal skins in fashion, especially those of endangered leopard and cheetah, among some groups in this country is also a concern to be dealt with.
To date, almost no South African political leaders have expressed support for animal rights, and there is inadequate protection in our law for animal wellbeing.
But the April 2018 Animals Protection Amendment Bill, introduced by African Christian Democratic Party member Cheryllyn Dudley, is a brave move towards recognising the intrinsic value of all animals.
The bill is supported by Inkatha Freedom Party leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi.
In his motivation for the bill to be passed, he said that, as human beings, we carry “the responsibility to strive for harmony with our natural environment. It’s not just about protecting our biodiversity, it’s about respecting animals as individuals. They are more than a natural resource; they are sentient beings. I therefore support the drive to amend the Animal Protection Act and other legislation to include sentience in the definition of an animal.”
This crucial bill is about to be reintroduced to Parliament.
Recognising animals, wild and domestic, as sentient beings is essential so they can be granted status as ethical subjects of justice that deserve protection from cruel and inhumane practices, such as being used in laboratories for cosmetic testing, being caged in zoos and callously exploited in circuses.
Chickens should not be raised in cages in battery farms for their flesh and eggs, and the factory farming of cattle for meat and dairy products should be outlawed.
I fully appreciate the argument that claims that far more urgent political and social ills are crying out for attention in this country, therefore we cannot afford to put such vast sums of money into the environment.
However, the reality is that the Earth’s resources are finite. The land, with its riches of flora and fauna, bears abundant potential for life and sustenance.
When global temperatures increase further, there will be ever more devastating floods and droughts; rising sea levels will consume communities; and there will be a shortage of water and food.
This is already happening, but when its significance is properly recognised, other issues will fade into insignificance.
We cannot afford not to do all in our power to preserve our planet.
An inspiring Swedish teenager, Greta Thunberg, who is generating a groundswell of activism to combat the climate crisis, said: “Our political leaders have wasted decades through denial and inaction. We are facing a disaster of unspoken sufferings for enormous numbers of people. And now is not the time for speaking politely or focusing on what we can or cannot say. Now is the time to speak clearly. Solving the climate crisis is the greatest and most complex challenge that Homo sapiens has ever faced. The main solution, however, is so simple that even a small child can understand it. We have to stop our emissions of greenhouse gases.”
- Diesel has a doctorate in religious studies from the University of Natal and is an animal rights activist