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Eco-Logic Awards – 2018 Entries

It’s that time of year when entries are called for, for the Eco-Logic Awards 2018. You are invited to nominate an eco-champion that you believe is making a positive contribution towards creating an eco-logical society and environment – or nominate your own organisation, product or project under one (or more) of the 13 categories, to name a few,  The Biodiversity Award, The Climate Change Award, The Water Conservation Award and The Municipalities Award.

The Eco-Logic Awards identify individuals, organisations and communities that positively contribute towards a sustainable world – and we encourage consumers to support them by purchasing  their products and services.

The Enviropaedia established the Annual Eco-Logic Awards in 2011 and it has since grown into South Africa’s most glamorously green eco-calendar event, receiving extensive TV, radio, print media and online coverage.

See what past winners have said about how winning this award has furthered their cause to establishing a more sustainable world.

 

For information about the award categories, judging criteria and how to enter go to:
http://www.eco-logicawards.com/enter/

Hunted to Extinction

By Jean Dunn

Contributing Editors: Ashwell Glasson, Melissa Baird

Hunted to Extinction:

A Flawed Legal System Wreaks Havoc on the Leopard and other Endangered Species

During the massive public outcry that occurred in the aftermath of Cecil the Lion’s death, it became clear just how many of you are out there who care about animals and hate to see them suffer such cruelty. But the hunting of animals that should be protected is nothing new; it happens every day, all over the world, and especially in South Africa where the Big Five roam. Most of these animals do not have names. They might not be as majestic as Cecil, or remind you of a live-action Lion King either. Instead, their suffering is going unnoticed. They are out there this very moment being stalked by the world’s most dangerous predator—man.

People often say that this hunting is economically beneficial, or that it contributes to and promotes conservation practices “when it is done right.” But in regards to several endangered species, we are now finding out just how easy it is for it to go wrong. Take the leopard, for example, another big cat. This fascinating species is getting closer and closer to extinction, and yet it is still legally permitted for the cat to be hunted down and its spotted trophies exported in horrifying and unsustainable numbers.

While I personally cannot condone taking the life of a leopard or any other animal for the “thrill” of the hunt or for a magnificent trophy, I understand this is a topic of heated debate and I do not intend for this article to serve as a platform for that. Instead, I would like us to set aside our differences in opinion for a moment and take a look at the real issue at hand: the fact that we are not hunting for conservation; that we may be wiping out a species by simply not making an effort to monitor its population, properly manage its trade, or enforce the law. If wildlife hunting is going to remain legal, the least we can do is ensure that it is actually “done right,” so that these iconic creatures do not wind up confined to the pages of history books.

A leopard rests in a tree in Kruger National Park. Photo by: Tom Dooley

A leopard rests in a tree in Kruger National Park. Photo by: Tom Dooley.

The Current State of “Conservation”

Year after year, we are becoming increasingly aware of humankind’s massive impact on nature—the continuous changes in climate and environment, and the widespread loss of species, some of which existed long before us. Fortunately for the future of this planet, there are some who are taking action. Environmental and wildlife organisations have been created and meaningful legislation has been passed in order to help combat these issues. But is everyone following through? Recent evidence suggests they are not. Specifically in regards to this hunting and exportation of endangered wildlife, we are currently driving species towards extinction out of pure laziness—laziness in observation, in management, and in enforcing the necessary regulations meant to protect and sustain these species for the long-term. This demands change.

CITES and How it Works

Over 35,000 plant and animal species (species of concern and of non-concern) are currently listed in a document called CITES (The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora). CITES is, in simplest terms, an international agreement between governments aimed at protecting species. States, or “Parties,” which have joined CITES adopt and adhere to its framework voluntarily in combination with their own national laws and domestic legislation. In its entirety, the Convention is meant to ensure that the ongoing trade of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival. This past July, the European Union became an official party to CITES and its goal to ensure that trade remains legal and sustainable. This is a positive sign for managing, implementing, and regulating proactive wildlife trade in Europe.

In South Africa, the Scientific Authority, a body administered by the South African National Biodiversity Institute, regulates the trade of CITES-listed species. One of the ways they accomplish this is through creating and publishing scientific reviews regarding whether or not trade endangers a species. These reviews are furthermore referred to as “non-detriment findings” (NDFs). This process is part of the commitment that a CITES party must undertake in order to assess and inform wildlife trade and its viability and impacts on species. The most recent NDF, published in May 2015 by the Department of Environmental Affairs, is a topic of major alarm and distress for conservationists and animal-lovers alike.

CITES Exposed

CITES recognizes that, “Levels of exploitation of some animal and plant species are high and the trade in them, together with other factors, such as habitat loss, is capable of heavily depleting their populations and even bringing some species close to extinction.” In theory, having CITES in place should therefore be extremely beneficial to our environment and wildlife populations. According to its own mission statement, CITES should be helping to prevent humans from causing serious damage to ecosystems and eradicating various species for their own pleasure or economic gains. The issue is—this is not happening. In the case of many of the CITES-listed species, as revealed by this latest NDF, trade quotas (the number of specimens of a species that can be traded and exported per year) are being issued without proper scientific data or substantial information to back them up. The consequences of this could be disastrous. Especially with species that are already threatened or endangered, these flawed and arbitrary numbers amidst an already flawed and poorly regulated system could be putting many on a path straight towards imminent destruction. This is particularly true in the case of the leopard, a species very close to my own heart.

A Cape mountain leopard on the prowl. Photo via The Cape Leopard Trust.

A Cape mountain leopard on the prowl. Photo by: The Cape Leopard Trust.

Non-Detriment Findings for the CITES-listed Leopard

The leopard (Panthera pardus) is listed on Appendix I of CITES, meaning that it is considered to be a species threatened with extinction and may be negatively affected by trade. Trade in leopards and their parts are therefore to be permitted only in “exceptional” circumstances. This new NDF provides more than several reasons as to why this should be the case.

Although it has proved to be a relatively resilient species, the leopard, like most plants and animals, is still susceptible to human disturbance and has now been wiped out from at least 37% of its African range. Their current threats include, but are not limited to, habitat loss, excessive off-takes (legal and illegal) of presumed damage-causing-animals (DCAs), poorly managed trophy hunting, the illegal trade of leopard skins for cultural and religious attire, and incidental snaring. Leopard populations are especially at risk with trophy hunting due to there being no restrictions on the sex, age, or size of leopards that can be hunted. In fact, South Africa is the only country permitted by CITES to export leopard trophies that actually allows the hunting of female leopards. This is particularly disturbing. Research has shown that leopards may be resilient to human disturbance only if there are healthy females that are still able to reproduce. A population viability analysis conducted for the South African leopard population also concluded that the risk of extinction almost doubled when females were on the trade quota. The hunting of female leopards carries the additional risk of her cub(s)’s death(s) as well, as cubs are not likely to survive after their mother is killed or taken from them. This is just the tip of the iceberg of concerns that this new scientific review addresses in its summary.

Hunted While Facing Extinction

Regardless of all of these negative facts, South Africa is still permitted under CITES to export 150 leopard trophies annually. The NDF explicitly states that this number was arrived at based on speculative population estimates and an analysis of data that was extremely poor. It even acknowledges that, “There is no rigorous estimate for the size of the South African leopard population, nor reliable estimates of leopard population trends at national or provincial scales.” Some of the key role-players in the allocation of these CITES export permits and hunting activities are the provincial conservation authorities (e.g. CapeNature, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife). I find it extremely unusual that a group of intelligent individuals such as this was able to decide how many leopards it is safe to hunt while having little to no knowledge of just how many leopards are left in their increasingly fragmented habitat.

It is also important to note that this export number refers only to the permitted and documented exportation of the animal. According to the NDF, legal trophy hunting and DCA control are poorly managed and rarely properly documented. Illegal forms of harvest are frequent and are obviously unregulated and unmonitored. The limited data that does exist suggests that the levels of illegal hunting and export of leopards exceed the levels of that which is legal, making it even more difficult to access reliable records and monitor the true effects of trade on leopard populations. When we consider all of this illegal harvesting that takes place and the weak regulation in the provinces, the number of leopards exported could reach well into the thousands. This begs the question, are we making informed evidence-based decisions on leopard off-take? This NDF suggests otherwise…a real concern for many of us.

The NDF goes on to conclude, “The legal local and international trade in live animals and the export of hunting trophies at present poses a high risk to the survival of this species in South Africa.” In some areas such as Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal, the review states that trophy hunting is proving it may not be sustainable at all. Instead, excessive quotas, over-hunting of the same areas, poor trophy selection, DCA control, and other illegal activities have been extremely detrimental. How are we then, in good conscience, still permitting the widespread killing of leopards when we are clearly being shown that it is likely doing far more harm than good?

The Cederberg Leopard and Caracal Projects checked two remote cameras in Klipbok Kloof. They were rewarded with a great image of this male leopard, "Titus." Photo by: The Cape Leopard Trust.

The Cederberg Leopard and Caracal Projects checked two remote cameras in Klipbok Kloof. They were rewarded with a great image of this male leopard, “Titus.” Photo by: The Cape Leopard Trust.

Time for a Change

For CITES to actually do what it aims to do and protect species, we need to develop a coordinated national strategy that can provide standardized guidelines to all provinces for the management of leopards and other species that are at risk. This will enable us to have reliable, scientific data that can lead to more accurate and sustainable quotas. It will also ensure that all legal policies and recommended guidelines are adhered to so that species may still thrive amidst human disturbances.

The work of conservation organisations like the Cape Leopard Trust and Panthera, such as the ongoing monitoring of leopards with camera trap data and seeking faux alternatives to leopard skins and trophies, may also be replicated throughout the provinces to help ensure this species’ long-term survival. These are programs of constant action; for it is constant observing, constant amending, constant educating and engaging that is going to save species in the long run.

How You Can Help

The NDF makes more than several references to a lack of data, poor management, poor documentation, and unregulated practices involving the hunting and exportation of the leopard. If we, as both citizens and as concerned stewards of the earth, can urge the government on local and national levels to address these issues, we may have a fighting chance at keeping these magnificent creatures alive and roaming freely in our wild lands.

I therefore implore you to take action. Become a “citizen scientist” for the Animal Demography Unit and help to map leopard distributions through their MammalMAP project to ensure that there is reliable data out there for these quotas. Or, if you want to learn more, follow organisations like the Cape Leopard Trust, Panthera, Conservation Action Trust, and the Animal Demography Unit, who are all actively working to positively influence the leopard hunting quota issues as well as broaden our understanding of South Africa’s amazing large predators, like leopards. But they cannot do it alone. Without your help, it is unlikely that we will have a strong enough force to create change and move forward into a brighter future.

You once demanded justice for the illegal hunt of a protected lion, now you have a chance to demand justice for these leopards. But, more importantly, you have a chance to become a voice for all of these threatened or endangered animals that cannot advocate for themselves. We need this voice to make a difference. With your support, we get one step closer to fixing a flawed system and ensuring that these incredible creatures still have a future alongside us. So act now, support these organizations, and make your voice heard.

Inquiries:

For all citizen scientist inquiries, please contact Ashwell Glasson, Chairperson of the Animal Demography Unit: glasson.ashwell@gmail.com

References:

Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. (1973). Washington, D.C.

Molewa, B. E. (2015). Government Gazette (pp. 12-15) (South Africa, Department of Environmental Affairs).

Creative Work Hub Embraces Biomimicry – Creating Conditions Conducive for Life

On the East side of Cape Town, on the road parallel to the best coffee shop in the world (Truth) you will find a small building that is attempting something incredibly innovative—turning to nature for solutions to how to properly work and live in harmony. I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Melissa Siko, one of the partners on the project with a background in chemical engineering and systems analysis, to learn about all that is going on behind those walls.

75 Harrington Street

Currently, 75 Harrington Street is functioning as a collaborative, creative, co-working environment. Happy people move about the ground floor, grabbing world renowned cappuccinos (for only R 12 – best price in town), typing away behind laptop screens, and engaging in lighthearted meetings. In the floors above them, countless offices boast fun and unique interior design, open spaces, and large windows letting in soothing natural light.

Plants soaking up the sun - 75 Harrington Street, Cape Town

Plants soaking up the sun – 75 Harrington Street, Cape Town

Developed by the Cape Craft and Design Institute (CCDI) and Steven Harris of The Bank, the building is meant to encourage “co-creation” and is ideal for any and all creative businesses, organizations, or startups that prefer an open network and a communal working space. As if this wasn’t interesting enough, 75 Harrington is now making strides to become the go-to example of environmental creativity and resilience and an example of an amazing workspace in its city location.

Sustainable Ideas - 75 Harrington Street, Cape Town

Sustainable Ideas – 75 Harrington Street, Cape Town

The ultimate goal for this colorful and creative space is to create a living example of a fully functional urban ecosystem. Melissa, alongside likeminded creatives and professional engineers, has been working on a 3-floor building model based on the principles of biomimicry—using nature’s intelligence to make human systems more sustainable. The top floor, roof farming, is already showing signs of progress.

Beginnings of a rooftop garden - 75 Harrington Street, Cape Town

Beginnings of a rooftop garden – 75 Harrington Street, Cape Town

Several plant design systems and gardening boxes are already scattered on top of 75 Harrington waiting to be put to good use. The GoPro urban vertical gardening kits even have some leafy greens poking out of their holes and reaching for the sun. Melissa hopes that this space will encourage members of the community to come together and grow their own plants and food. The first floor of the building will then become a food market, where farmers can come and sell their locally-grown produce together rather than being in constant competition. In between these two levels will be a floor dedicated to community education, where meetings and workshops on topics such as urban agriculture can be held to further the sustainability initiative.

Biomimicry Basics - 75 Harrington Street, Cape Town

Biomimicry Basics – 75 Harrington Street, Cape Town

The main principles for this biomimicry project (as detailed above) include evolving to survive, being resource and energy efficient, adapting to changing conditions, integrating development with growth, being locally attuned and responsive, and using life-friendly chemistry. By following these guidelines, Melissa hopes 75 Harrington Street will become more than just a creative workspace—it will be an environment where people can come together and participate in reinventing our current way of living so that are we are more in tune and adapted to life on earth.

It was a pleasure to see these creative ideas being put into action and I wish the best of luck to everyone involved! A special thanks goes out to Melissa for all of her insight into the project. If you are ever in town, I recommend grabbing a coffee there and seeing the space for yourself!

If you want to learn more about biomimicry, check out Melissa Baird’s recent post on the future of engineering.

Rat Poisons Kill More than Just Rats

By Laurel Serieys, PhD

Cape Leopard Trust, Urban Caracal Project Coordinator

University of Cape Town and University of California, Santa Cruz Postdoctoral Researcher

Caracal@capeleopard.org.za

UrbanCaracal.org

Facebook.com/UrbanCaracal

079-837-8814

Rat Poisons Kill More than Just Rats

Anticoagulant rat poisons are the most frequent method of rodent control used worldwide. However, through inadvertent poisoning of wildlife and bioaccumulation of the poisons in food webs, they threaten species that prey on poisoned rodents or their predators. These poisons have been used for decades to control rodent populations in and around urban and agricultural areas, but are only now increasingly being recognized as an important conservation threat to wildlife species. They interrupt the production of certain critical blood clotting proteins and so death occurs by internal bleeding. However, death can occur up to 10 days after ingestion of a lethal dose. Meanwhile, poisoned rodents continue to consume the poisons over a period of days, becoming super toxic while also increasing their attractiveness to predators as they become weakened and easier to capture. For predators that feed on small mammals targeted with poisons, transfer of the poisons from one species to another occurs and so inadvertent widespread and chronic secondary exposure can occur for many wildlife species.

South Africa Food Web

Hypothetical food web for the Western Cape depicting how rat poisons may enter ecosystems and bioaccumulate across many predatory species. We have only tested a genet and 7 caracals to find them all exposed to the poisons, but the problem is likely much more widespread across many more species. Credit: Desiree Smith, www.whimsicalcollection.co.za

Exposure of nontarget wildlife to these rat poisons has been documented for numerous mammalian and avian predatory species worldwide. Studies have shown that exposure prevalence can exceed 80-90%, directly causing death in species such as coyotes (a wild dog in the North America), pumas (a large wild cat in the Americas), red foxes, buzzards and a variety of owl species (i.e., barn owls, barred owls, great horned owls), and even in endangered species such as San Joaquin kit foxes and bald eagles in the United States (U.S.). However, the poisons can have other important effects on wildlife if low levels of chronic exposure occur.

Photo of a bobcat (B#250) captured for the Los Angeles bobcat project examining the effects of anticoagulant rat poisons on bobcat health. B250 was a large healthy adult male when initially captured in 2010, but photos taken by local residents in 2011 show that he was infected with severe mange. He likely died of the disease.

Photo of a bobcat (B#250) captured for the Los Angeles bobcat project examining the effects of anticoagulant rat poisons on bobcat health. B250 was a large healthy adult male when initially captured in 2010, but photos taken by local residents in 2011 show that he was infected with severe mange. He likely died of the disease.

In Los Angeles, California, U.S., researchers (myself included) have worked to assess other cryptic consequences that these poisons pose on wildlife. In Los Angeles, I examined the effects of the poisons on bobcats, a medium-sized wild lynx cat. Working with biologists from the National Park Service (the South Africa National Parks equivalent), we found a strong link between poison exposure and bobcat death due to notoedric mange, a microscopic mite that burrows into the skin of the infected animal and can cause extensive hair loss, emaciation, and eventually death. Bobcats are more than 7 times more likely to die of mange than any other cause of death if they are exposed to the poisons multiple times. And the disease has had profound impacts on California bobcats; in one region, an estimated 90% of the population perished due to the disease. Through this work, I also found strong evidence of immune dysfunction that occurs as a result of exposure of the poisons– dysfunction that could explain increased susceptibility to fatal mange infections. We documented other effects linked with the poisons as well. We tested five bobcats that were hit by cars for the poisons, and found all were recently exposed, suggesting that frequent but low level exposure poisons may increase bobcat vulnerability to death due to other factors. Finally, we also tested two fetal bobcats (found in a road-kill bobcat) and showed that they were already exposed to the poisons, indicating that chronic exposure may begin before an animal is even born!

Jasper was a young juvenile caracal radio-collared as part of the Urban Caracal Project. He was hit by a car on the M3 in Cape Town. He was found exposed to 3 different anticoagulant rat poison compounds, indicative of multiple exposure events because each bait formulation comprises a single compound.

Jasper was a young juvenile caracal radio-collared as part of the Urban Caracal Project. He was hit by a car on the M3 in Cape Town. He was found exposed to 3 different anticoagulant rat poison compounds, indicative of multiple exposure events because each bait formulation comprises a single compound.

Following this work in California, and now a researcher that has launched the Urban Caracal Project in Cape Town, South Africa, I have been curious to assess the potential threat these poisons pose to wildlife in the Western Cape as well. Testing is performed on liver tissue, and so I must rely on opportunistic collection of samples from caracals, and other species, that I find dead (frequently due to being hit by cars) in the area I work. I have tested now 7 caracals and a large-spotted genet, and amazingly, have found all exposed to the poisons! To my knowledge, this is the first such testing done in African wildlife, and testing must be done at a specialized laboratory in California. Yet like the species I studied in the U.S., I have also detected evidence of low-level chronic exposure. The consequences of low-level chronic exposure in caracals and genets are unclear. However, one of our young caracals died due to what I believe were complications associated with exposure to the poisons. These data are particularly relevant in the urban setting of the Cape Peninsula where, like in Los Angeles bobcats, we are documenting vehicles and disease to also threaten caracals. Pulling these observations together, it raises questions whether caracal exposure to these same poisons synergistically increases their vulnerability to deaths associated with other human activities? Additionally, if every animal we have tested has been exposed to the poisons, how pervasive are these poisons across the landscape, and how many species are affected?

Early results for the Urban Caracal study show that of 7 caracals tested, all were exposed, most frequently to 3 different compounds each. The compounds detected are the most toxic available for use to target rodents.

Early results for the Urban Caracal study show that of 7 caracals tested, all were exposed, most frequently to 3 different compounds each. The compounds detected are the most toxic available for use to target rodents.

The value of collecting these types of data to contribute to conservation efforts is underscored by action I have seen take place in California as a result of the bobcat work. The data that I, and other researchers, collected recently contributed to legislative action across the State to increase restrictions concerning the consumer availability of these poisons. Without specific data and an understanding of mechanisms of how these poisons can have multiple impacts on wildlife, increasing the regulation of poison use and availability is difficult to justify. Further, poisons that interfere with the reproductive success of wildlife populations can lead directly to population declines, and if animals are being exposed to these rat poisons before they are even born, it does raise the question how far reaching the effects of the poisons may be. But the collection of these data are difficult and rely on being in the “right place at the right time.” Finding animals that have died can be difficult, and the testing is expensive. If you are interested to help support the development of this work, please help by reporting road kill caracals as soon as discovered directly to Dr. Laurel Serieys (079-837-8814) so that we may collect the carcasses for testing. Additionally, please consider sponsoring a “poison test.” Each animal tested costs R1,500. For more information about the project and how to support the work, please visit the website urbancaracal.org/support/ and follow our progress on Facebook.com/UrbanCaracal

Growing Future Leaders: Earthchild Project

“If every 8 year old in the world is taught meditation, we will eliminate violence from the world within one generation.”

-Dalai Lama

By Rowen Ravera

Increasingly society is placing greater value on education, and realizing that investing in education today is essential for future generations of capable citizens. However, while academic results are important, a holistic approach to education looks further towards growing a generation of conscious, confident and responsible future leaders.

Holistic education connects each student to the community, their environment and themselves, while focusing on values such as compassion and peace, to create greater meaning and purpose in life and education.

Peak Hiking

The Earthchild Project is a registered non-profit organisation offering holistic education to under-resourced primary schools in Cape Town townships. They work with over 2000 children, within the existing school curriculum, focusing on health and wellness, life skills and the environment.

For meaningful and sustainable change, they aim to connect their Earth children to themselves, others and their environment through yoga and meditation, to cultivate practical skills for life through gardening and worm farming, and to inspire a new generation of young leaders through hikes and holiday programmes.

Yoga Kid

Additionally, this year the organisation began working with a small group of high school students called their “Alumni”. Their Alumni have all been part of the project for many years, having joined in primary school. Now in high school, they are honing their leadership skills to inspire the next generation of Earthchildren!

The organisation was started 9 years ago by Janna Kretzmar. After traveling and working on an eco village in South America, Janna arrived back in Cape Town with her heart set on one thing – to find a way to transform our schools and education. She began volunteering at Chapel Street Primary School in Woodstock, setting up an organic vegetable garden and running guided meditations with the children.

Garden Club

Janna came into contact with many NGOs and volunteers who were doing great work in schools. However, she observed it was difficult for the schools to maintain the projects set-up once the NGOs had left and moved on to other projects. The teachers simply did not have the time or energy to sustain extra initiatives.

This is what inspired the Earthchild Project model – by placing a full time facilitator in a school, the organisation is able to introduce and maintain holistic education in a sustainable way. Today Earthchild Project employs five full time staff members, as well as over 20 volunteers in Khayelitsha and Lavender Hill – the NGO has created employment for locals too (our coordinators grew up in the communities they now work in).

The team have all personally experienced the benefits of yoga, meditation, the law of attraction, a healthy diet, regular exercise and time in nature (to name but a few). This is what inspired them to spread this knowledge and these tools to children living in Cape Town’s township communities.

Their work, however, depends on the support of the community. How can you help?

  1. Raise funds. Donate at Earthchildproject.org/donate (you can nurture an eco-warrior for just R350, which provides one child with weekly environmental education for a year). Alternatively, organise a fundraising yoga class, hike or other event in your community.
  2. Volunteer. They have many ways for volunteers to get involved, including joining hikes on Saturdays, assisting during school hours, or even lending a hand gardening and harvesting worms! Find out more about volunteering: Earthchildproject.org/volunteers
  3. Raise awareness. Tell your friends and family about the importance of holistic education. You can “Like” their Facebook page, Facebook.com/earthchildproject, or tell your local yoga studio about the organisation.

For more information go to Earthchildproject.org or email info@earthchildproject.org

 

 

Rethink the Bag

Plastic shopping bags…we see them in stores, we see them bunched up in our kitchens, we see them drifting aimlessly through the streets and out to sea. We have become so accustomed to using them that we do not consider alternatives and ignore the damage we are doing to our planet. One woman, Hayley McLellan, is helping create greater consciousness about the world that we live in by “Rethinking the Bag”—changing consumer behavior to clean up and protect our environment. Karoline Hanks has given us a glimpse at Hayley’s impressive efforts and the changes you can make in your everyday life.

Coastal park landfill - Muizenberg. Image credit to owl_books via http://rethinkthebag.org/

Coastal park landfill – Muizenberg. Image credit to owl_books via http://rethinkthebag.org/

Meet the power house behind the Rethink the Bag campaign

By Karoline Hanks

It is always wonderful to come across really driven individuals who are making waves in environmental circles. They are often incredibly passionate, yet unashamedly modest folk. The belief in what they do runs so deep and they walk the talk through every aspect of their personal lives – at the same time quietly getting on with the business of making a difference at a broader level through the work they do.

Hayley McLellan is one such game changer. She is the tour de force behind the Rethink the Bag (plastic bag ban) initiative that has received considerable attention from a variety of different organisations and appears to be gaining a foothold in the minds of many. Her primary objective? To have the ubiquitous plastic shopping bag banned across South Africa.

Hayley calls herself an environmental campaigner. And that she is. But she is a far cry from the bog standard image many have of a placard-wielding, tie-died skirted vegan who becomes unreasonably emotional in the face of corporate resistance.

The mere glimmer of a consumer backlash gets many store owners folding their arms and coming up with a barrage of reasons why they cannot possibly hop aboard. When confronted with this kind of resistance, Hayley just breathes, smiles, listens and agrees. She recognises that every one of the objections is valid, and allows the space for them to be worked through and discussed. Invariably she finds a way to create successful alternatives and solutions.

Hayley appreciates that the smaller, single stores are going to be much easier to guide in this process than the large, corporate, national brands that monopolise retail. Yet despite this, has recently had phenomenal success with the Spar Western Cape group, with a series of very high level meetings and promises of significant in-store changes.

Throughout her career, Hayley has been involved in the animal care and behaviour industry. This has encompassed many aspects, including staff management, animal rehabilitation as well as large-scale public speaking and educational presentations. She was the animal keeper for the Two Oceans Aquarium’s penguin and bird collection for four years. Her campaigning passions and public engagement skills lead to the aquarium carving out a new niche position as Environmental Campaigner within the Communications & Sustainability Department.

Hayley started out by getting an initial commitment to in-store awareness and providing them with locally made, affordable, alternative shopping bags. Designating specific focus days has also worked well for this campaign thus far. Annual International Plastic Bag Free Day on July 3rd has offered excellent opportunities for some very impactful events. In a bid to encourage store owners to adopt the campaign at a far deeper level, Hayley has created a ten-step programme.

The key emphasis is on offering choices. “This approach alters the whole conversation moving forward”, says McLellan, “I ask them to consider starting at Step 10 and to work their way up, choosing where they feel comfortable slotting in….you would be amazed how this approach works!”

“Step 1 is my personal nirvana: an outright ban on plastic shopping bags. Step 2 is a 1 week total ban – a trial of sorts. Step 3 is a ban every Thursday”, explains Hayley.

“Introducing Rethink The Bag to the community of Hout Bay has been an immensely rewarding and exciting journey”, explains Hayley, “I have joined forces with the NGO, Thrive – a very active environmental group in Hout Bay. Thrive had attempted a similar plastic bag awareness/ban several years earlier. With us in the mix, the campaign has been beautifully resurrected”.

Hout Bay is a mini metropolis with all the main retailers and Hayley was introduced to many of the major store owners via Thrive’s champion Bronwen Lankers-Byrnes. The Spar outlets in Hout Bay were the first to adopt the programme and carry it forward beyond the July 3rd. With this initial success, introductions to other Spar stores took place. The campaign is now at a stage where two formal presentations to the WCs Spar’s marketing department have been made. The possibility of this particular retailer rolling out a plan of action in this province is looking very promising indeed.

Hayley – we salute you!

Hear more from Hayley in Rethink the Bag’s short documentary “Baggage” below:

The Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth

By Cormac Cullinan and Melissa Baird

On 22 April 2010 the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth (the Earth Rights Declaration) was proclaimed by the more than 32 000 participants in the People’s World Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth held in Cochabamba, Bolivia. This pivotal event has created an opportunity for people around the world to take the lead in addressing the key challenges of the 21st Century and prove that regardless of what governments do, global organisations and communities will make the 21st meeting of the Convention of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change ( COP 21) a success by signing a People’s Convention to establish an International Tribunal for the Rights of Nature.

The formal establishment of the Earth Tribunal is an important next step in the process of developing systems of governance designed to ensure that humans live in harmony with nature. The more organisations and individuals that show their personal and professional support behind the tribunal process, the greater its authority and the more effective it will be in exposing the need for far stronger and more creative international responses to our pressing environmental problems.

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” ― R. Buckminster Fuller

Article 9 of the draft People’s Convention for the Establishment of the International Rights of Nature Tribunal provides that “the convention may be signed by representatives of a nation, tribe or other traditional group of indigenous peoples, any organisation that wishes to promote the effective implementation of the rights and duties in the Earth Rights Declaration in respect of a specific geographical area or areas, or any specific being such as a river, or species; or any local community.”

This means you can endorse the international tribunal in your personal capacity and lobby organisations and communities to become signatories to a Peoples’ Convention that will formally establish the Tribunal here.

In Paris on the 4th and 5th December this year, the International Tribunal for the Rights of Nature will hear a wide-range of environmental legal cases covering issues like megadams in the Amazon, mining, oil and gas exploitation and responses to climate change that further commodify nature and attacks on those who defend their part of the earth.

The Tribunal judges are highly experienced and respected individuals from many continents and represent many cultures including indigenous people, who base their decisions on the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth which was adopted on 22nd April 2010.

This is our unique opportunity to unite with people and organisations around the world to start creating a world that focuses on regeneration of the Earth’s resources and people.

Endorsement by Archbishop Emeritus Desmond TutuRights of Nature International Tribunal

“Successfully addressing climate change and healing the damage which industrial civilisations have done to Earth will require more than new technologies and market mechanisms.  It will require a fundamental transformation of our relationships with Nature.  We are not the masters of Earth, entitled to dominate and exploit her “natural resources” for our own selfish ends, but privileged participants in a wondrous and sacred community of life. Bringing about this transformation and creating viable human communities that live harmoniously within the Earth community will require committed and concerted action. The Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth calls upon each of us to embrace our kinship with all the beings of the Earth community and to recognise, respect and defend the rights of all. Now is the time to answer that call.”

The Wonders of This Bag

If you haven’t heard already, there is a new fireless slow cooker that is doing more than just providing scrumptious food—it is changing the world, one meal at a time. Sarah Collins has taken a traditional cooking method and transformed it to help improve the health and quality of life of families throughout Africa and across the globe. The “Wonderbag” is a revolutionary slow cooker that is both portable and does not require any electricity. Simply bring your food to a boil, place it in the bag, slow cook it, and serve! Keep reading to learn more about how this wonderful bag is combating the health, social, economic, and environmental problems that Africa is currently facing.

Wonderbag Process

By Grethe Mattheus

Most of us know the beautiful design and numerous everyday benefits of the Wonderbag, but few people really grasp how far the ripple effect from this non-electric, portable, slow cooker stretches. The story of Sarah Collins and her drive for sustainable impact is not only a proudly South African entrepreneurial success story, but one that truly shows the power of connecting hearts and homes around the world.

Sarah’s original inspiration came from the memories of her grandmother’s economical cooking methods and her deep connection with African women. Years later, and on their way to 100 million Wonderbags sold worldwide, her entrepreneurial upbringing and strong focus on building relationship with local communities, has proven the perfect synergy for a brand that is recognised from the midlands of Natal to the hallways of the United Nations.

In a middle-class existence it is easy to forget about the alarming fact that 3 billion women around the world still cook over an open fire each day and face the danger of death caused by smoke inhalation. Statistics show that over 4 million people die from this cause and 50% of these premature deaths are children under five. The simple act of preparing a meal in a developing country has huge challenges for many. Often low-income households use firewood for fuel to cook food and this not only results in deforestation, but many hours often spent by women looking for wood. These are hours that take girls out of school and mothers away from caring for their children. How amazing that, as Sarah states, “the oldest technology in the world” can contribute towards a solution for this problem and bring an innovative answer to rural and urban communities alike. Whether reducing smoke from an open fire or carbon emissions from a suburban household, this ShweShwe bag proves that innovation is not always new.

Building a sustainable social enterprise not only requires a value creating product, but also creative means to reach the target market. Through personal experience and relationships with rural communities, Wonderbag is maximising its impact by constantly finding new ways to get their product into the hands of the people who need it most. For this purpose the Wonderbag Foundation has built a model that focuses on empowering and educating communities through partnership organisations, activations and monitoring & follow-up programmes. This ensures wide distribution, deep impact and real transformation. The Wonderbag Journey forms a community of hope around the globe, starting with Wonderbag donations to The Wonderbag Foundation, linked to online purchases from all over the world. The Foundation ventures out on giving trips and distributes the bags through partner community relationships in Africa. There, families are trained on how to use the bag and are empowered to understand the health and environmental benefits of using the bag. The Foundation also monitors health results through local clinics. One of the best parts of this positive impact cycle is that the time saved by women using Wonderbags are used to train these women to develop skills that will contribute to building a stronger social and economic climate in their community. For every one of these families in the developing world that uses a Wonderbag the positive impact can be quantified and measured. Every bag used saves 1.7 trees, slowing deforestation rates; saves 1000 liters of water per year; saves 1248 hours spent collecting firewood per year and reduces up to 1 ton of carbon emissions.

To put the cherry on top, this organisation with an international footprint, still sources all their raw materials from South African companies and the product is thus truly 100% locally made. Wonderbag is an inspirational example of a holistic approach to addressing a social and environmental need and a testimony of change agents building a better South Africa through passion and innovation.

For more information visit: wonderbagworld.com or wonderbagfoundation.org