What is the real cost of our lifestyle?

Earth Day

By: LIB editor

World environment day was celebrated on Saturday 5th June. I was at a WWF presentation on Thursday to bring to the press’s attention WWF’s celebration of the event as a way to recognise the positive changes brands are undertaking toward food security in this country.

They also launched an important study into agricultural practises in this country. What unites every person on this planet is the basic need to eat.The rich eat what they like whenever they like to. The poor have fewer options. Agriculture is responsible for 80% of the water use and loss of vital biodiversity in this land. Staggering statistics and great pause for thought as it becomes an imperative we all need to become involved in. It is vital to ask : How is our food produced and what the environmental cost of it? Are pesticides used and what is their effect on the farm workers and wildlife on the farms?

location_farming2025There is a chain that brings the produce we buy from supermarkets we trust. No-one asks the questions about the production of the food and considers impacts as a result of those chains. The battery egg campaign that was waged against Woolworths is a case in point of how successful activism for the greater good can be achieved.

A consumer lobby group can make a radical impact on perception and practise if approached with the view to progression and review of current practises in farming for the food of South Africa. Considering the notion of environmental cost, the world’s eyes are on BP and the USA government because of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Our reliance on fossil fuels makes us all complicit in the spill in some way, yet that responsibility is wavered when it is the consumer who places a level of trust in the chain from which we receive oil.

We are reassured in glossy ad campaigns that everything is under control but oil is big business and profit is king so the need for more and cheaper oil is still the driving force. Better time and resources have to be spent on renewable resources and fast tracking developments of other ways to power our cars and energy grids. I have been reading many varying news reports on the latest status of the oil leak – although leak sounds so pitiful, this is an artery that has been severed and the sutures being applied are not closing the wound in the earth.

On the PR side there are reassurances that everything is ‘sort of – about to be’ under control. And on the other lesser known press sites, the news is quite the opposite. The length of time required to stop this oil gash is not known. If you are going to give financial support please do to the Wildlife rescue groups who are trying to save the creatures they can from devastation.

There are other ways of doing things and producing the same results. We can function off sustainable and renewable energy – we can all eat well and be nourished through correct farming practises. The question is how much we are prepared to do in order to achieve that and will we consider the ‘cost’ or the overall benefit? If you would like to download the Agricultural Facts and Trends publication launched at the event or the presentations, please visit : http://www.wwf.org.za/media_room/publications The Living Farms Reference can also be downloaded by clicking http://www.wwf.org.za/what_we_do/outstanding_places/drivers_of_change/food_production/

Green Solutions: Latest Blog

Earth Day

By: LIB editor

It seems ironic that it takes a volcano erupting in the land of ice to focus the world’s attention on what the consequences are of a massive natural event that defies any scientists or economists predictions or control. The 22nd April is Earth day worldwide and what better time to reflect on the awesome power the earth does wield when her fragile eco-system is thrown out of kilter.

Rainforest-ecosystemIt never ceases to amaze me how politicians and economists focus on the ‘bottom line’ with little regard for the end of the line. The end of the line is what happens when resources reach their end and when our reliance on them is completely compromised. No-one at this stage even knows what the ultimate impact is going to be on the European economy and on all the economies linked to its productivity. The focus is on money and how it can be generated – mostly in an unsustainable ways. Now that we have to focus on how we will recover from this ‘disaster’ I can only hope that it will shift the perspective to give more consideration to a sustainable economy, which considers the resources to hand and the best way of managing them and giving back to them.

As South Africa’s energy question reaches critical heights and we have been forced down the filthy coal road the only option for the general populace is to look at what they can do to be self-sustainable. Water is a critical issue and I would urge everyone who can, to install their own water tanks as well as invest in a gas cooker and hot box to save on cooking costs in the interim.

I remain hopeful that ‘green’ energy will become more of a priority than it is now and that our government will consider the future that lies ahead for all of the children of South Africa should there not be sustainable practises firmly in place.

Greenpeace has encapsulated greed versus need in this powerful short clip.Give earth a hand

What happened at COP17?


This was the first climate change conference I have attended and I had mixed expectations about being there. Would this turn out to be a fiasco of international proportion or would there be some real collaborative action in taking steps towards cleaning up the planet, reducing deforestation and actively seeking renewable energy resources as a solution for powering a world population that is now over 7 billion people?

cop17The environmental activists renamed COP 17 as the “Conference of the Polluters” and created a charmingly funny sticker that turned the logo of COP 17 – into a juggler’s hat. The Occupy movement set up camp on a grassy mound surrounded by traffic and dug a little peace garden while painting banners. One slogan that struck a chord was “ Nuclear power is inter-generational tyranny”.
The 3rd December marked the global day of protest and over 8000 protestors gathered to voice the concerns of civil society. Why is it that energy innovators and gardeners have the solution to powering the world economy but governments and big corporate are doing everything they can to hold on to what is left of their power base? But it is easy to criticise and as difficult as it was for the negotiators to reach consensus even the protestors could not reach agreement and there were some very heated disagreements as to who should lead the march. While this was going on business delegates and government officials were stuck in air-conditioned rooms trying to work out a solution for managing climate change.

The politics of the battle is incredibly complex and while there is celebration that there has been another commitment to the Kyoto Protocol – there are no binding action points that have to be taken until 2020. Essentially this means it is business as usual – although there is nothing usual about the current economic forces at play, nor the environmental degradation that comes as a result of our reliance on fossil fuels.

The buzz words were all about carbon – carbon capture, carbon storage, carbon sequestration and for the lay person the science of carbon and how to manage it can be boggling and open to much debate – depending on who is paying for the research.
What is not difficult to understand is that we all have a role to play in cleaning up our place in the world and this is where conscious living and being a conscious customer can impact change.

The whole economic chain is about supply and demand and if, as customers, we can demand products that observe best practise – in farming, in its water footprint and its waste recycling as well as what energy is used to fuel its creation we can positively impact change for the better. We cannot rely on a top down approach. Where in history has a government made a decision that has impassioned its people to change – usually it is the people who overthrow outdated systems that enable change then to take place from the bottom up.
Am I any wiser about the ‘fight for climate justice’? All I know is that this conversation has been going on for 17 years and will continue. It also seems to me that this is a conversation about world political stability and a fight between those that have and those that don’t. This is nothing new either. We are aware that the minute resources dwindle or are cut off you will have a population on the brink of unrest. The total lack of moral integrity of the big polluters as they continue to plunder what resources are left is staggering to behold and the power they wield is quite unnerving. Why do we enable this to continue by buying their products?
Only individuals can change and collective action of like-minded people can make a difference. I do believe the tide is turning against corporations and governments who are plunderers rather than good administrators and decent corporate citizens of this planet. It is just a matter of time although there is debate as to how much of that we do have – to make a change for good.