No to decay in South Africa! Yes to growth!

2015-11-13 14:59

Growth is evident all around us. In nature there is growth all the time. Plants, animals and humans continuously reproduce and grow. Growth starts with a tiny seed which grows into something much bigger such as tree, animal or human being. In nature however growth depends on certain preconditions. For a seed to sprung, you need fertile soil and good rains. Animals reproduce in conditions that are conducive for their off spring to survive.

Conditions such as a severe drought, changing climatic conditions and destruction of the natural environment inhibit growth of plants and animals and may even lead to the extinction of a species. Growth is therefore vital for the survival and existence of all forms of life on earth. This is what makes planet earth so unique as it is the only known planet where life as we know it exist.

Humans therefore have a very special responsibility to take care of planet earth to ensure sustainable growth and to ensure that the preconditions for growth are not destabilised or damaged in such a way that it leads to decay and ultimately a dying earth. We owe it not only to our children and their children. Moreover it is a God-given command and it should therefore be every human being life’s mission to protect and preserve the earth for growth to take place.

Sadly though deterioration and destruction of the environment is visible all over the earth. The noble and evolutionary concept of growth as it has happened on earth for over a billion years and the God-given instruction to human beings to take care of planet earth has unfortunately been replaced by the notion of over exploitation of earthly resources and the destruction of our natural environment. Today we face major challenges such as climatic changes, water shortages and the pollution of the atmosphere, our precious water resources and soil.

In our quest to create a better life for all, we run the risk of destroying the most critical driver of our existence which is sustainable and healthy growth. In the absence of growth there is only decay and extinction of every life-form on earth.

The WEF Global Risks Report for 2015 has identified a number of geopolitical, environmental, societal, economic and technological risks for human societies. Two of these risks that has a direct bearing on growth and the survival of species on earth are possible water and food crises, failure of climate-change adaptation, major biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse on land or ocean, and man-made environmental catastrophes (e.g. oil spill, radioactive contamination, etc.).

The time has come for all of us to seriously consider our role on earth especially in terms of ensuring sustainable growth and leaving a growing and blooming earth behind for all next generations or destroying the only living planet in the universe and thus destroying ourselves in the process as well.

In considering our role in terms of growth every human being, whatever our position in society, has an obligation in terms of his or her immediate context to fulfil. Our first responsibility is to plant the proverbial 'seeds' and to ensure conducive conditions for it to 'germinate and to grow'.

However in addition to planting 'seeds' for environmental growth, in other words taking care of the environment, humans also have a very special responsibility which is bring about societal growth. In other words growing people and ensuring a better life for all. Societal growth is brought about through educational, cultural, spiritual, social and economic development.

In a multi-cultural society such as South Africa the outcomes for societal growth is captured in our National Constitution. That is to

  • heal the divisions of the past and establish a society based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights;
  • lay the foundations for a democratic and open society in which government is based on the will of the people and every citizen is equally protected by law;
  • improve the quality of life of all citizens and free the potential of each person; and
  • build a united and democratic South Africa able to take its rightful place as a sovereign state in the family of nations.

Hence we need to do ask ourselves as South Africans whether the ‘seeds’ we have planted in terms of these outcomes for societal growth have 'germinated' and whether we are growing as a society in terms of social cohesion, social justice, social inclusion and most importantly growing the quality of life of all of our people.

That our assessments will differ from person to person will be a given. We can also keep ourselves busy for hours by complaining about South Africa’s economic decline, crime, corruption, racism, lack of access, poor service delivery and so many other issues. The biggest challenge though is what we as a society can do to turn the tide.

Starting with a shared vision in terms of growth within all spheres of society and a united response to fight decay would be a good starting point. Keeping everyone accountable for the part he or she should play in terms of bringing about growth whether in the public or private sector sphere is the next step in ensuring that our vision will become a reality.

Lastly placing innovation and creativity at the heart of environmental and people growth in South Africa instead of the usual banality will not only ensure that the concept of growth is weaved like a golden thread through our rich and diverse environmental and societal tapestry, but that we as a nation unite against any form of decay. The earth and all future generations that will live on it depend on us. Let’s not fail them!

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