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 13, 2013 in Blog, Uncategorized | 0 comments
As the nights get colder and longer, DVD evenings are more attractive. This weekend, my guy talked me into watching the 2007 movie Evan Almighty.
The reason we were watching it – I was told – was because its director, Tom Shadyac, is that rare thing in the film industry: a guy who put his money where his mouth was with regard to the green subtext of the movie. My guy was himself a crewmember on a small film when he was younger, and can testify that at least 30 cubic metres of waste was created in the six weeks of production. This waste was just discarded, and no doubt found its way into landfill. Much of it could in fact have been recycled but in those days nobody thought to go that route.
Evan Almighty reflects on the themes of how we are stewards of God’s creation; and in keeping with that message, Shadyac was determined to do whatever he could to keep things green. In the process, among other things, this became the first-ever NBC Universal film to offset a production’s carbon emissions: the Conservation Fund helped work out what their footprint would be, and Shadyac required his crew to plant the requisite 2 050 trees.
He also got with the non-motorised transport agenda, and personally bought 400 bicycles for the cast and crew, encouraging then to ride to and around the set.
Post-production, the set was dismantled and as far as possible donated to Habitat for Humanity.
It makes me just love the movie, and inspires me: if each of us, in our own little businesses, set out to lighten our footprint, what a difference that would make to the way we care for the world.
Greening take more than just making sure all the lights are switched off when we lock up for the day. Let’s all encourage the owners and managers of our businesses to give something back: for instance, let’s either plant trees ourselves or donate to organisations that will plant on our behalf.
Conservation goes way beyond just carbon offsets, though. What other ideas do you have?
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.
Posted by admin on May 5, 2013 in Blog | 1 comment
This past weekend, I was lucky enough to visit Prince Albert, that brilliant little Karoo dorpie that’s like an oasis of loveliness, artiness, and heritage vegetables for sale at the local market.
One of the things that really struck me is the lei water system. If you’ve never come across it, it’s a brilliant (historical) method of providing water to a town: Water that flows down from the mountain is channelled into a network of shallow canals that runs like veins through the footprint of the town, and everyone who has access to these canals has a set time when they can “open up” the water flow, and fill their own “lei water dam”. From there, the water can be used as needed.
Naturally kids love it; dogs love it, and the sound of running water is just so soothing to the soul. A night of heavy rain meant the mountain was sending a lot of crystal clear, sweet, pure water into town.
Only thing is: these lei water rights are historic, and it turns out that in all of Prince Albert, only 86 properties have lei water rights. For everyone else, accessing the water – even if it flows through your own property – is illegal, so everyone else is reliant on municipal water, supplemented, I was pleased to see, with lots of rainwater harvesting tanks.
But I can’t help wondering if a system of “rights” set up hundreds of years ago, over something as critical as water, are still appropriate today…