Posted by admin on May 21, 2013 in Blog | 0 comments
Okay, so as discussed last week, tomorrow is International Biodiversity Day. I have a confession… I wasn't sure why it had earned itself a UN-recognised day.
I did a bit of googling to find out and the simplest explanation is this: all of us need to breathe, drink and eat.
To expand on that a little: the way all the pieces of the biodiverse puzzle fit together is vital to our continued existence. The air we breathe is a direct result of photosynthesis of green plants. The soil we grow our food in is enriched by insects, worms, bacteria and a host of other tiny organisms. 90% of the kilojoules we take in worldwide is produced by 80 different plant species.
I found this interesting example of the unintended consequences of messing with the natural flow of a diverse ecosystem:
In 2008, National Geographic flighted a programme called Life Among Whales. It noted how fisherman blamed whales for the decimation of the fish supply, and thus their livelihood. The resultant large-scale slaughter of whales led to a massive reduction in the whale population. This meant that the killer whales that would normally prey on young whales, now preyed on seals. The seal numbers declined, and so the killer whales turned their attention to otters. Once the otter numbers were decimated, the targets of otters such as urchins, flourished. As a result of this overpopulation, the kelp forests where many fish larvae would normally grow in relative protection were destroyed. Now, with no kelp forests to protect them, they were easy pickings for other forms of sea lives.
The fish population did not increase as expected; and the jobs that were meant to be saved by the slaughter of whales were lost.
These are the perils of ignoring the importance of a biodiverse ecosystem.
That is pretty huge. If you are still not convinced that biodiversity is important, then take a look at the European biodiversity logo:
Posted by admin on May 20, 2013 in Blog | 0 comments
Do you ever listen to gardening shows on the radio? There are some very predictable phone calls that happen on most shows. The most common query is lemon trees. The other one that happens quite often is “I want to plant vegetables but my soil is very sandy.”
Sandy soil and clay have the same two things in common. If prepared properly, just about anything will grow in these two mediums. And that preparation is the second thing these two have in common: they both lack humus.
One thing we should do is to add lots of compost and organic materials. Do not worry about over doing it because you won’t.
If you don’t believe me that many things will thrive in sand, consider the nation of Israel. Israel is mainly desert and in case you didn’t know it, Israel, grows about 18% of the world’s flowers. Brian Stodel, who is one of South Africa’s premier horticulturists reckons that Israel is a horticultural force to be reckoned with. All this in an area about one-fifth of the Free State province.
So, ask yourself, is planting a garden in a sandy area really such a problem after all? The Israelis don’t think so. Neither do I and neither should you.
Of course, one of the things that the Israelis did have to contend with was a lack of water. Fortunately here in South Africa, storing up your water reserves is quite simple.
Posted by admin on May 16, 2013 in Blog | 3 comments
Hey! I just got an email telling me that International Biodiversity Day is being celebrated next Wednesday, 22 May, at Kirstenbosch. The programme is called 100 Years of Biodiversity Science which coincides with 100 years of Kirstenbosch.
Can you believe it? It is 100 years since the government of the Cape Colony set aside the area of Kirstenbosch, bequeathed to them by Cecil John Rhodes, for a botanical garden. The director of the gardens was one Henry H Pearson, who was the Chair of Botany at the South African College (now the University of Cape Town). The government set aside the princely sum of £1000 per annum for the gardens. There was no money set aside for a salaried director, but Pearson nevertheless accepted the position unpaid. Almost impossible to imagine anyone would do that in these days of over-inflated and bloated directorships.
Kirstenbosch is a place I love to visit. The air is fresh, the trees are mostly labeled and the sound of the city disappears. I regularly lose myself there and it just never gets tired. And I love the famous summer concerts.
Kirstenbosch is like one giant, green and 100% natural dose of Prozac. And next week we celebrate 100 years of it. (Okay, I know, the official birthday is only on the first of July!)
If you are in Cape Town next Wednesday, and you have the time, then why don’t you check out this website and get yourself down to Paradise.
Posted by admin on May 15, 2013 in Blog | 0 comments
Oh wow this is one funny environmentalist. And I don't mean "funny-peculiar" either.
, Jenny Price is one of the founders of the LA Urban Rangers. Their biggest pet project is taking care of the LA River. I followed some links and I came across this very funny blog post where she invites a hitman to be more environmentally conscious in his job.
Jenny has also got a book called “Stop saving the world.” She finds that too often when we adopt saving-the-planet rhetoric, we tend to develop a preachy consumerism that does not encourage real change. Also she finds that, historically, we equate "nature" with picturesque wilderness areas – so we tend to overlook the reality that is the muddy and dirty real nature that we actually live in.
You can hear an interview with her here.
She has a wonderful message. Of course we should care about, for instance, how sustainable our consumption is, and our carbon footprint, and food miles – but the real challenge is to inhabit our world instead of putting all our energies into trying to save it. In Cape Town, the Liesbeek River Project is a brilliant example of this. What can you start, or join, in your own neighourhood, that honours Nature as she presents herself to us daily?
And in the meantime, today, at least once, stop and watch the leaves moving on the trees, or listen to birdsong, or take your shoes off and feel the warmth of the sun on the grass.
Posted by admin on May 9, 2013 in Blog | 2 comments
We need bees! And not just because of the honey dripped generously over our steaming porridge on these increasingly cold mornings.
We need bees because 90% of the world's wild plants and about 30% of our food crops – one in every three bites of food we eat – relies on pollination. Of all pollination done by insects; 80% is done by bees.
Apples, oranges and lemons, broccoli and onions, blueberries, cherries and cranberries, cucumbers, avocado and almonds are just some of the foods that require cross pollination in order to grow.
So it's a disaster that North American and European bees are suffering from something called colony collapse disorder. Basically, the bees are dying.
The reasons for the dwindling numbers are varied but one of the major reasons is agriculture's dependance on chemicals.
But here's where there is in fact a little bit of good news. The European Union has voted to ban three of the substances that are bee killers. From this December, for two years, the substances known as imidacloprid, clothianidin and thiamethoxam will be banned.
Two years isn’t really long enough but let’s hope the bee population takes a massive upward swing and the European Commission is left with no choice but to extend the ban. And although South African bee stocks aren't in the same dire place as their Northern cousins, they've also been taking strain – so let's hope our own government gets ahead of the game.
Posted by admin on May 8, 2013 in Blog | 1 comment
Africans are an innovative bunch. They have to be: in a developed world, you’ve got everything you need. In a developing economy – well, you have to make some stuff up as you go along. And that’s a rich opportunity.
So last night’s Innovation Prize for Africa award ceremony, jointly sponsored by the UN and the African Innovation Foundation, was packed with some of the most exciting minds you could hope to find in one room.
And you read it here first: a firm from Stellenbosch, AgriProtein, is officially the most innovative bunch of brains on the continent.
We’ve blogged about them before. They’re the fly people: the people who’ve set up a facility that’s the fly equivalent of a sexiest environment possible. To do so, they’ve loaded up on abattoir waste, amongst other things.
Anyway, the net result is that the flies breed like, well, totally sexed-up flies, and their babies – maggots – are used for animal feed instead of, say, fishmeal, or soya meal. It’s so cheap it’s almost free, it deals with some of the world’s most disgusting waste, and it leaves the ocean’s fishes alone long enough for humans – who know the difference between fish, soya and maggots – to eat properly.
Congratulations, AgriProtein team!
They were up some fantastically exciting competition for this prize. My two other favourites were:
- The Malaria pf/PAN Test Kit from Ashley Uys (SA), a point-of-care kit that can detect what malarial parasite you have, and what treatment will be effective. Given that there are more than half a million malaria deaths across Africa every year, this is an awesome invention.
Congratulations to all the finalists; and congratulations to us for our brilliant, innovative, solutions-driven, warm-hearted continent.