Petrichor

The smell of rain

Stewardship of The Natural Environment – For the love of green

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Finding faultless greenery, infused with aromas of life, fresh air and lush biodiversity was not what I call a difficult task. Where I live, waking up to chirping birds and a kingdom of freshness, with grass and pillars of trees, rabbits and dragonflies, is but the norm. Silver Lakes Golf Estate inhabits multicultural vegetation and animal residents. The site is peaceful, vast and nurtured to the tee. Each individual grass, just as spiky as it’s neighbour. Every rock, looks as if it was load and arranged in its place. It represent a beautiful form of life, and we as residents should be proud of and fully invested in its maintenance. 

The golf course is shaded by variegated tree life, however I could only identify a Fever Tree (Thorn Trees), Karee trees and a Combretum of Bushwillow. 

 

Whilst walking through the area, I spotted an abundance of fish in the water, dragonflies hovering over the pond and several frogs croaking about their daily business. A rabbit raced across the course, before I was able to capture it in action and various other sounds of insects and creatures were hidden inside the tall rangy reeds.  Sitting in silence, underneath the umbrella of leaves of a tree, I closed my eyes to filter in only what I could hear. Choirs of birds competed with the engines of passing cars, however the clinking notes that sound like a hammer from the Blacksmith Lapwing and the Crowned Lapwing overpowered prevailed in the background. 

Some might think, that the golf course is yet another example of how humans have invaded and control nature to the benefit of human satisfaction, but this is not the case. Majority of land used for development, residential flats and apartments, highways and shopping centers demolish all vegetation and steer away wildlife. However, in Silverlakes the green belt in a place where human activity and nature are able to co-exist, the two world colliding yet never interfering with one another. The area is a tranquil setting for animals and nature to continue as before, even with human invasion. The third phase of the residential space is where wildlife dominates human activity, with creatures such as snakes, buck and zebras call the place home. 

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The first impression of this wonderful park life, is flawless but it is important to consider masked concerns that the area might uphold. The vast land has for obvious reasons been governed by human existence and although it promotes compelling wildlife and natural elegance, one has to wonder how much of the land was destroyed to make room for the thousands of property in this area alone. Yes, we are sticking beside our responsibility to ensure the place is clean, trimmed and magnificent to look at, but is it really our duty to barricade the growth of the trees through garnishing and piping them. It is justice to take 70% of the terrain and only give 30% to the rightful owners. It is really alright to confined the space of things that should not be tamed and should be able to grow without rules and in chaos. No. It is actually not okay. 

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We can take action on how much we take, demolish and use high and dry. We as an estate should implement a policy to shut down the promotion of any further improvements and housing additions to the acreage. This way, we do not downsize the playground and home for the creatures and natural life that have no place to relocate to. This is this their home too. Wildlife and nature should never feel like guests in their own home. It is our time to make their house a permanent home.

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Dendrophilia – Love of trees

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Introduction 

According to Penny Tinkler (2013), a photo elicitation is a newly introduced concept of conveying a research interview alongside photographs. Images “promote discussion, reflection and recollection” (Tinkler 2013:174). It is understood that pictures are “studied in their own rights” (Tinkler 2013:274) and the material that accompanies the imagery, aids in bridging ideas and making sense of the work as a collection.

 These collections divulge what the images say about “the past and the people who created and used them” (Tinkler 2013:174). Tinkler (2013) states that pictures add value to an interview through firstly, “facilitating dialogue” (Tinkler 2013:174). Photographs collaborated with written work, stimulate a breathe easy environment where discussion is freely encouraged between the interviewer and the interviewees, which ultimately shape “rapport and trust”  (Tinkler 2013:174) between the parties. Lastly, images generate beneficial information (Tinkler 2013:172) and evoke information, feelings and memories that allows people to reveal their true self within the conference. Children believe that photographs “have a powerful effect on interviews” (Tinkler 2013:174) and imagery enhance their understanding of research information. “Photographs are like a mirror to us” (Tinkler 2013:180). “We can learn a lot of things” (Tinkler 2013:180) by opening ourselves up to imagery and looking through a lens from a different perspective. 

Personal narrative

(1) Narrative of service

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When we were much younger, my father built us a treehouse in our backyard. The tiny hide-away was stilted between the branches of two oak trees thriving beside one another. Whenever we got up to mischief, forgot to take our dirty dishes down to the washing room or fed the neighbourhood stray  leftovers  from the fridge, the “Doll House” elevated high in the branches of the bulked tree was the perfect escape. We felt invincible up there. It felt as if we could just reach for the heavens and capture the stars with our bare hands. These two oaks, were the reason for our memorable childhood. 

(2) Narrative of power 

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The Lollipop tree. We recently moved into a house in ‘Silver Lakes Golf Estate’, where neighbours unconsciously compete for the most lush gardens and live by the saying “the grass the greener on the other side” which hypothetically mean, on their side of the fence. Lollipop trees are planted in majority of front courts. The more globular and youthful looking your Lollipop trees are looking, the better gardener you have employed. The better gardener you have, the more status you have around the community. 

(3) Narrative of heritage

 

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Last year in August 2015, my mother, aunt and I decided to fly down to Cape Town for the weekend. My mother, Charmaine, being compelled by historic paintings and artifacts took us to go see The Money Tree in Kalk Bay. This monstrous and magnificent tree is momentous for not only its age, but for being the safe haven from “driving rain and blistering heat” (Russel Galt 2013)  when ship officers would “dispense wages to their crews” (Russel Galt 2013).It has facilitated thousands of transactions over the years and “traders known as ‘langgannas’—a Malay word reflecting Capetonian ancestry—would gather around the Money Tree to purchase cartloads of fish”(Russel Galt 2013). 

(4) Counter narratives 

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The Fever Tree. In our back garden, planted side-by-side, were four grandiose Fever Trees. Otherwise known as Koorsbome in Afrikaans, these trees are popular for nesting birds because the lengthy thorns would act as extra protection from predators. These trees were home to various birds over the years, however, making their nests were was a chaotic and littered venture. Leaves and thorns from the Fever trees would cluster the grass below and fall into the swimming pool. Keeping the pool clean, was becoming an exhausting job and the dogs were constantly prodding in thorns and getting hurt. Eventually the trees became less of an aesthetic pleasure in the garden and more of a pester , and were taken out and planted in a more different place in the property. 

Interview 1: Charmaine Jooste 

After explaining all four narratives and the stories behind the images, based on my own memories relating to the appropriate narratives, Charmaine Jooste (2016), also recaptured a few of her own. Charmaine (2016) went on to discuss narrative of service, where she told a story about five pine trees that grew in front of their Georgian town house in England, 10 meters away from the busiest street. These humongous pines blocked the chaotic traffic noise and bussel. Without these trees it would have felt as if the buses and trucks were driving inside the house. These pine trees became a buffer, not only for the noise but also for the city life. 

Narrative of power, Charmaine Jooste (2016) explained that whilst living in Willow Acres which was then a newly established estate, it became apparent that the city council of Tshwane did not have the funds to develop the Greenbelt areas running through the estate. The board of trustees decided that the wild-veld area was attractive but did not necessarily compels potential buyers. A decision was made, to plant a lane of Acacia Sieberiana Trees (Fever trees). After 10 years these majestic trees lined the main street of the estate and took a many a visitors breath away.

Narrative of heritage, Charmaine Jooste (2016) talked about her recent visit to the Knysna forest where she stood in awe of the magnificent Yellow wood Trees. The national tree of South Africa, as she was told by her friend on their hike, can reach up to 2000 years of age and are a national asset. She further went on to reminiscent her journey to the forest and how she wishes that an end would be called to the harvesting of these giants in our forests.

Counter narratives, Charmaine Jooste  (2016) spoke about the Mulberry Trees at her local nursery school that created afternoon fun and delight for the scholars. The children would climb the trees trunks and harvest the small fruits which caused many children to go home with a grazed knee and laughter. However, the stain-ridden shirts and trousers were just too much for the parents and a fence was installed around the trees to avoid any future broken limbs, keep the uniform clean and to calm the nerves of the anxious mothers. The gated tree and children could no co-exist alongside happy mothers. 

Interview 2: Andre Jooste 

Andre Jooste (2016), after being shown the images and memoirs behind them, he shared his own life time experiences among all four narratives. Narrative of service, Andre Jooste (2016)  explained that during his early days at RAU (The University of Johannesburg), living in an apartment was not all it seemed of high glory and freedom. For Andre (2015) a student apartment was rather rusted and the cheapest old lot he could find. Although most of the lights decided when they wanted to switch on or not and the fridge was for the most part, rather empty, there was an Avocado pear tree that grew in the communal lawn outside. Andre Jooste (2015) spoke about how when the end of the month crept up on him and most of his money was spent on living the student life of beer and flowers for his girlfriend, those avocados made the most delicious spread on toast when with  a low-budget. 

Narrative of power, Andre Jooste (2016) mentioned that their family was relatively wealthy before his father passed away at a very young age. His mother could not afford the maintenance of their previous home and the family relocated to a different, more run-down and neglected area. This transition was difficult for Andre, for the sole reason that the journey to school travelling on his bicycle, now did not include the softened and pure scent of roses bushes lined in the streets. Rose bushes, were to him a symbol of power, status and riches. He promised himself, that when he graduated from university that his first pay check would go towards buying and planting roses bushes in his mother’s garden.

Narrative of heritage, Andre Jooste specified Jacaranda Trees. He noted that, their luminous purple glow lined in the streets of Pretoria was what he looked forward to every October. During the 4 years that he lived in England, he long for the purple carpet of petals that would cover the streets, but knew that only South Africa  was treasured with this beauty.

Counter narrative, Andre Jooste remembered a mammoth of a tree, known as a Black Wattle when he was growing up in Eden-vale, Johannesburg. The jumbo roots of the tree, started mounting the pavement of the house where all the cars used to park. The tree was far too large to remove, so as years went by the damage to the pavement became even futile. He also mention, the small yellow flowers that would blanket the pavement and how he loathed his fathers command to sweep up the nuisance mess.   

Interview 3: Lucinda Du Plessis

Narrative of service, Lucinda Du Plessis (2016) spoke about a Lavender Tree rooted outside her ballet studio. After her class, it became a weekly ritual to wait in the shadows of this tree. Her mother always knew where she would be waiting when she arrived to pick her up and Lecinda mentioned how this tree was her safe haven, a peaceful pillar where she could relax and finish some homework.

Narrative of power, Lucinda Du Plessis (2016) stated that a Cycad Tree was always something she associated with power, strength and royalty. She admired the Cycad Tree because it was oriental in a composition of greenery and recalled her mother mentioning how difficult it was to maintain a tree such as the Cycad and how prolonged the process of their growth is before you can actually appreciate their beauty.

Narrative of heritage, Lucinda Du Plessis (2016) mentioned a Sneeze-wood tree in her garden. All the neighbourhood friends would come over to play hide-and-go-seek, in her large backyard. Who ever was picked to seek their hiding friends would have to stand behind the large trunk and count to 50. This Sneeze-wood tree became the community favourite, memorialized or the laughs of countless children. It was there when Lecinda was born and is still standing there today. It is apart of who she was, is and it yet to become. 

Counter narrative, Lucinda Du Plessis (2016) spoke about a large Oak Tree at her grandparents home, that grew to be gigantic. Where the tree was planted, became the most avoided area of the beautiful back garden. However, this area included the swimming pool, where the Oak Tree would barricade the sun from warming the splash space. The tree was removed so that cooling down from the blistering heat was enjoyable to every member of the family, on a Sunday afternoon and not something everybody dreaded. 

 

Conclusion

It is facile to conclude that interviewing individuals alongside the accompaniment of photographs stimulates a laid back, conversational environment. The person being interviewed sheds off any unnecessary fear, discomfort and pressure whilst giving feedback on questions asked. Photographs paint a picture in the minds of the interviewee of what is being asked, so that the answered provided come from boxes of memories dusted and relived in this moment. People enjoy the thoughts from their, whether good or bad, their faces light up and the discussion is oiled up.Photo elicitation is important.

Dean (2016), was correct in saying that trees are not only pillars in nature, but pillars of our past, present and future. Their trunks, painted with various carvings, roughed edges and unevenly toned shades of brown. Their leaves whisper interesting stories in the wind of those who shared a bond with them. These beautiful residents adapt to the world that humans bring forth, they have conquered in silence and will stand to live through times where humans will suffer. We must nurture those who nurture us. 

 

Sources consulted 

Dean, J. 2015. The unruly tree: stories from the archives, in Urban forests, trees, and greenspace: a political ecology perspective, edited by LA Sandberg, A Bardekjian & S Butt. New York: Routledge:162-175.

Tinkler, P. 2013. Using photographs in social and historical research. London: SAGE.

Russel Galt. 2013. Heritage trees of Cape Town: beacons of local history & culture. [O] Available at: http://www.currentconservation.org/?q=content/heritage-trees-cape-town-beacons-local-history-culture [Accessed 29 April 2016].

 

Apocalypse Oblivion

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Introduction

Humans. Humans wake from their deep-sleep by a sun-kissed touch of warmth on their skin. Choirs of birds, warble in the trees outside. A clear blue, blankets the sky and candy floss clouds hold tranquil afternoon showers while the Humans get ready for the day.

Take off the blind fold and open your eyes to what really happens…

Humans. Humans are roused from their deep-sleep by a searing sun, begging them to stop. Pleading with them to wake up from this dream. This dream that barricades the reality that everything in fact is not okay. The birds, outside on saplings taking their last breath, are crying out to the Humans urging them to stop, but they do not listen. The blue skies are stained with the tears of Earth, pleading to fix the punctures in her exterior as she bleeds out. The acidic pillows that darken the heavens release pearls of acid fluid but the Humans do not melt. The Humans do not feel. 

Concept statement 

Rob Nixon proposes that, our earth, our home, is being suffocated by a “slow violence”(Nixon 2011:2). When Nixon (2011) mentions a “slow violence” he portrays a calamity that “occurs gradually and out of sight” (Nixon 2011:2), where he exposes what should not be hidden. Just as slow violence is made invisible by its illusive pace and dispersed impacts, its victims themselves are invisible, at least in the tiny and shifting lens of the world media. The world is more captivated by instantaneous catastrophes and untimely deaths of pop stars, than by a series of poisons that is busy seeping into the veins of Earth, leaving everything around us, nothing but unsalvageable  refuge.  

In Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor, Rob Nixon stresses large-scale difficulties in altering the perpetrators (humans) of their unconscious carnage (Nixon 2011:3). Nixon goes on to argue the difficulty, in conveying “stories, images and symbols” (Nixon 2011:3) to the billions,  that mirror the detrimental reality of climate change (Nixon 2011:2). Nixon (2011) relates his analysis with those of writer-activists, to exhibit  dramatic visibility of environmental emergencies. Through this Nixon is able to find new and innovative ways to convey his message, shifting the invisible to the visible. Even if the world decides to turn a blind eye and ignore what is right in front of them. 

In an age where the media venerate the spectacular (Nixon 2011:3), a central question still remains adamant to the cause: How can the world possibly amend the cold-shouldered warning signs of slow violence, to a prime mover where the majority is engaged in the quest for survival? Before it is too late… 

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

It is frightening to recall that many of us are uneducated about  the worlds largest ocean rubbish dumps. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, is a “large and continuous patch of detectable marine debris” (National Ocean Service 2014). A literal island of trash, that is said to be visible through space lenses such as “satellite[s] [and] aerial photographs” (National Ocean Service 2014). While most of the litter concentrations in the “North Pacific ocean” (National Ocean Service), is strikingly big as life and does not go unnoticed, most of the world are unmindful of its magnitude. Much of the wreckage is “not immediately evident to the naked eye” (National Ocean Service 2014) and is made up of tiny fragments of “floating plastic” (National Ocean Service). 

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The intensity of these ocean junk yards are challenging to size-up due to its dispersed debris when winds and water currents come into action (National Ocean Service 2014). The colossal mass, “Spanning from the West Coast of North America to Japan” (Mark McCormick 2015, is yet another perfect example of how humans violate the planet. Mark McCormick (2015) writes that oceanographers and ecologists estimate that approximately “70 percent of marine debris actually sinks to the bottom of the ocean” (Mark McCormick 2015) which is detrimental to multitude marine life living in coastal reefs. Humans have provided the perfect recipe for  a lethal “plastic soup” that is “non-biodegradable and do[es] not wear down (Mark McCormick 2015). This has led to the assassination of marine species.  We are the authors of our own horror story. 

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Mark McCormick (2015), writes that 80 percent of ocean rubbish monster is fed refuse from land-based activities in North America and Asia the rest of the 20 percent accumulates from boats, offshore oil rigs, and large cargo ships. Wildlife, that use these waters as a feeding ground suffer from the contaminated ocean. In a video trailer, Midway: Message from the Gyre “albatrosses mistake plastic pellets for fish eggs and feed them to chicks” who eventually die from nutritional deprivation or even sharp edges in plastic scraps that puncture the birds organs (Mark McCormick 2015).

Sea turtles are also targeted by  the disguised serial killers, when “plastic bags” (Mark McCormick 2015) are thought to be “jellyfish” (Mark McCormick 2015). Many marine animals fall trap to abandoned fishing gear that strangle and suffocate them or barricade them from any movement, where they end up at death’s door. “at least 136,000 seals, sea lions and large whales being killed each year” (Mark McCormick 2015). Plankton and algae, “ecological sponges for carbon” (Mark McCormick 2015) is a food source for vast amounts of sea creatures, and this is compromised when plastic mass act as an umbrella and delay any sunlight from entering the surface. 

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We, the people, dump man-made waste into beautiful waters that do not belong there. Like a cancer injected into the purest of souls. Oceans, just as any animal that recognizes it as its home has the right to life; water, the sun and the stars. It  is essential. Humans are crude to think that they can live in this world alone, without trees oceans and life of all forms. There can neither be civilization or any form of truly living if we obliterate and bankrupt this Earth of everything she was made to provide for. People are reaching the finish line, the race is almost over and all there is left to do is live a terrible future.

   

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Sources consulted

Jacob Silverman. 2015. Why is the world’s biggest landfill in the Pacific Ocean?. [ONLINE] Available at:http://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/earth/oceanography/great-pacific-garbage-patch2.htm. [Accessed 20 April 2016].

Mark McCormick . 2015. How the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is Destroying the Oceans and the Future for Marine Life. [O] Available at:http://www.onegreenplanet.org/environment/great-pacific-garbage-patch-is-destroying-the-oceans/. [Accessed 19 April 2016].

[n.a]. 2014. What is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch?. [O] Available at:http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/garbagepatch.html. [Accessed 19 April 2016].

Nixon, R. 2011. Slow violence and the environmentalism of the poor. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

 

 

 

“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.” ― Anatole France

Concept statement

The term “companion species” was birthed by Donna Haraway, in the scholarly work, The Companion Species Manifesto: dogs, people, and significant otherness (2007). It is here where Haraway, explores the human-animal relationship not as an affiliation where animals are killed for meat, exploited and trafficked for medical research or viewed as plague-infested beasts. Instead, her work publicises the co-existence of dogs and people, who are bonded in “significant otherness” (Donna Haraway 2007). Haraway bases her manifesto on her personal viewpoint that “dogs as the most significant example of companion species, the cyborg being but a toddler in our world of inter-species relations” (Donna Haraway 2007). She explains that the roller-coaster comradery relationship between the 4-pawed creatures and people is a “not especially nice; it is full of waste, cruelty, indifference, ignorance, and loss, as well as of joy, invention, labor, intelligence, and play” (Donna Haraway 2007). Her thesis looks into unveiling the way dogs are linked to human-beings on a social  and biological level and how these animals fluctuate human behaviour. 

This photo essay investigates the theory proposed in The Companion Species Manifesto: dogs, people, and significant otherness (2007). This analogy is accompanied  with the stories and personal narratives of relations between pets and their humans.

Narrative one

 

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This photograph shows Andre Jooste with his beloved cat, named Oreo. Oreo, named for her black and white jacket was once a refugee cat. She decided to adopt 23 Robin Street as her stomping ground, where she would put her street skills into play when breaking and entering and lounging on the Jooste family sofa. When Oreos frequent visitation became but the norm, the menacing creature quickly became attached to her self selected Master, Andre. Their human-pet relationship, became exclusive. Her ruffled attire at times allowed her new owner, some touch, briefly. One could call her fur bronx cat fashion. Although not very affectionate, even towards her beloved owner, she did show her pining for him by seeking-out his favourite chair, pillow and cupboard whenever he was traveling. 

Narrative Two

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This photograph is taken by Jolani Kriek and her most admired, bearded dragon, Teabag. Although is id difficult to comprehend, a close relationship with a cold-blooded reptile, this owner is convinced that her Teabag has a distinct way of showing devotion towards her. He apparently blinks his eye more often when she enters the room. As Teabag has an affinity for crickets, Jolani has even bitten off a cricket leg to sample the taste of her reptiles lunch. Sharing your four-legged friends food, is perhaps the ultimate test of this peculiar companionship. 

Narrative three

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This photograph is of Mrs Gerda Erasmus and her fluffy, long-eared vegan friend, called Skool Haas. Their unique relationship started, as both joined the staff of Kiddies Academy. Skool Haas was adopted by the owner as a distraction for the toddlers when saying goodbye to their moms. This task and responsibility that Skool Haas has accomplished on many occasions, made Mrs Gerda’s task much easier. She soon realized that together the friendly creature and her made a formidable team. These two ‘educators’ of the tiny people have merged their talents and come to fancy each others potential. A white furry companion and beautiful grey-haired gran conquer the hearts of little ones.

Narrative four

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It is easy to say, looking from this photograph of Divan Taljaard and his rather overweight patched friend Lulu, that this pet-human companionship was a match made in Heaven. Divan, the gentle giant who gobbles up anything he can find in the fridge instigates Lulu’s hobbies that include  sleeping all day, seeing how fast she can hover up a plate of food and leaving rather indiscreet evidence of where she decided to lounge for the day. When Divan journeys to Johannesburg during the week for his studies, Lulu makes sure that all the neighbours knows that her best friend has abandoned her by belting out a howl that sounds like a religious call. The saying ‘The apple does not fall far from the tree’ applies to this canine-human duo. 

Sources consulted

Taljaard, D. student, University of Pretoria. 2016. Interviewed by author. [Transcript]. 15 April. Pretoria.

Erasmus, G. teacher, Kiddies Academy. 2016. Interviewed by author. [Transcript]. 16 April. Pretoria.

Haraway, D. 2007. The Companion Species Manifesto: dogs, people, and significant otherness. Chicago: Prickly Paradigm Press.

Jooste, A.  engineer, AECOM. 2016. Interviewed by author. [Transcript]. 16 April. Pretoria.

Kriek, J. teacher, Kiddies Academy. 2016. Interviewed by author. [Transcript]. 16 April. Pretoria.

 

 

 

 

 

The echoed silence of the Anthropocene

What are the key propositions of the Anthropocene?

The Anthroposcene refers to the world’s “geoglogic” ( Erle Ellis 2013) status. This status has been altered by human interaction and quest for enrichment, progress and survival. The self-reliant ecological system is “man’s earth” (Gisli et al 2013). Millions of years ago, perfecting the art of craft weapons and fire lead to hunting which doctored the relationship between humans and animals on Earth (Gisli et al 2013). 

Three historical periods are significant to the rise of the Anthropocene. With the creative use of fossil fuels as a source of coal, in China during 960-1279, increased combustion of coal to provide energy sources lead to the detrimental atmospheric imbalance in carbon dioxide (Gisli et al 2013). The Industrial Revolution (1800’s), elevated human activity and the manufacturing of materials such as plastics, concrete and aluminum which have spiked levels in atmospheric carbon dioxide, nitrogen as well as phosphorus cycles (Waters et al 2016).  Lastly, the “Great Acceleration” (Waters et al 2016), birthed during the 20th century, along with the production of coal and the rise of the Industrial Revolution has opened fire on our vulnerable planet in a war where mankind is the leading force.

“Geochemical signatures” (Waters et al 2016) have infected and spread through Earth like a disease. We live in a world that is constantly battling the heightened “global sea levels”(Waters et al 2016) and boom in “erosion caused by deforestation” which bring about the loss of biodiversity of both fauna and flora in rain forests and wetlands. “Extinction rates”(Waters et al 2016) have sky-rocketed and “global temperatures” (Waters et al 2016) have  climbed levels to oppressive heat which threaten the continuity of our ecosystem.  

What sounds, recorded over two days within the area are constant? Can these dominant sounds be regarded as a soundscape of the Anthropocene?

Every morning in the Klaradyn Tuks residence, I get woken up by the cacophony of the   construction site in Hatfield which is dominated by the echo of bulldozers and wrecking balls. The Klaradyn dining hall brims with the sound of clicking cutlery on porcelain plates, heightened chatter of lady students and the clanging of stainless steel kitchen appliances. Crossing the street to the university campus, one can hear the horrendous traffic and occasional broken exhaust sound in the distance. The stamping feet of students scurrying to get to class is at times  accompanied by a few lost bird sounds in the Jacaranda trees. Entering the lecturing hall, the heavy drop of bags into the wooden benches and the scratching for stationery and leafing of papers are all sounds that emphasize mans intrusion in Pretoria East.  

These dominated sounds can be viewed as a soundscape of the Anthropocene. The world we live in today mirrors the “conversion of natural ecosystems to human-dominated landscapes” (Steffen et al 2011). We, the self-proclaimed rulers of this Earth have invaded the habitats of animals and destroyed the precious  vegetation in order to keep up with “both population and economic growth”(Steffen et al 2011). Life, in form of fauna and flora have been muted by “environmental stresses, such as air pollution” [and] fouling waterways”(Steffen et al 2011). Human-everyday-bustle has blockaded access to nature.

“What is it like to listen to birds in the Anthropocene?” (Whitehouse 2015:53), Are most of the bird sounds from a large number of bird species or only a few? How does your answer relate to the dwindling biodiversity evident in the Anthropocene?

According to Whitehouse (2015), calamitous human involvement has hushed the “animal orchestra” (Whitehouse 2015:1) and dunk the world into a sea of silence. Landscapes, should be sanctified with the harmonic sounds of birds and people should take for granted the birds ability to “iconically and indexically ground” (Whitehouse 2015:1)  them because when wildlife is silenced, the silence is felt (Whitehouse 2015:1).

Sitting outside for the past few days, closing my eyes and taking everything in, made me realize how difficult it  was to barricade the construction, the buzz and turmoil of Urban life. Birds do not sing in choirs anymore. If a bird appears, he sings to the world on a solo stage. These days, finding a single moment where the song of  birds are not challenged by the roars of human ambition, is rare.  The Anthropocene has vanquished the purity of the bird symphony.

Humans are culpable for the “silence, discord and destruction” (Whitehouse 2015:2) and sending the world into a time machine back to a state where “human and non-human” spheres could coexist without disruption, is impossible. The world is spiraling into a “silent spring”(Whitehouse 2015:2), where new life will no longer be welcomed by the hymns of a volery of birds. “Birds and other wildlife are under threat from everyday human activities” (Whitehouse 2015:3), one minute they appear in abundance and the next “they all disappear” (Whitehouse 2015:3).

How do the interviews, conducted with parents and grandparents, draw attention to the disappearing ecosystems and dwindling biodiversity of our present day? From your own school days to present, can you witness a loss of biodiversity as well as the degradation of ecosystems?

According to Charmaine Jooste (2016), who grew up on her grandmother’s plot of land, the vast acreage was covered with peach trees, blue-gum trees and apricot trees where on doves would rest, to sing early morning praises. There were chickens and turkeys roaming the back garden and there was enough room for a chicken coop. Separate from the structured front garden, there was a rose garden, peacocks and guinea-fowl called the plot home and different bird breeds would be seen on the property. Charmaine Jooste (2016) went on to mention, that the plot of land was then later developed into an estate of 100 homes each with a tiny postage stamp of a garden, enclosed by a concrete wall. The once gravel road, shadowed by km’s of trees were all chopped down to make way for a tarred main road. The sounds of the once free ranging flocks of birds are now hushed by the sound of ambulances and oncoming traffic. The development has contributed to the loss of biodiversity and the destruction of lush land to provide accommodation.

Mark Kriek (2016), described the plot in Suikerbosrand where he grew up and  his parents still lives as the perfect escape from the chaos of the city. The family owns large amounts of cattle that grazes on the well-maintained feeding grass. Goats stroll in between the cattle and chickens are kept in the back shed where their eggs are sold to organic food markets. Melodies coming from the bird life scattered across the forests can be heard all the way from the main house. Recently, the municipality made an offer to purchase the property and utilize it as a mining site for coal. Mark Kriek (2016) made it clear that his parents are reluctant on the auction. However if the home is sold, all the farm animals will be bargained off to neighbouring farms and the non-urban areas, providing shelter to wildlife will be hovered up.

15 years ago, we as a family were able to access the gravel roads, woods and veld for our weekend Saturday runs. The red gravel pathways that we used, was a scenic route with birds, small ponds and an occasional hare crossing our track. Since then, the beautiful landscape has made way for back-to-back concrete estates that has squashed and pushed nature to places unknown.  

Conclusion

We are living in the Anthropocene. We might not be aware of the difficulty that lies ahead in the future because, for many, our present seems sane and normal. Waking up to the uproarious sounds of construction, taxis honking and police sirens resounding the neighbourhood, is routine. That is our normal.  But imagine all of that was gone, and all we could was the sound of birds, in trees higher that the building we shadow them with. According to Whitehouse (2015), “The Anthropocene has also ushered in a new kind of anthrophony, with the sounds of industry, machinery, combustion engines and electronic amplification”. The world we live in today, so different from its purest days, “reduce the quantity of sound but also cause disruption to the relative harmony of the soundscape” (Whitehouse 2015:6) and our human race is to blame from the stress we place on “endangered, or altered biomes” (Whitehouse 2015:6) that have caused the “little organisational structure” to appear. 

 

Sources consulted 

Jooste, C, CEO, Kiddies Academy Nursery School. 2016. Interview by author. [Transcript]. 10 Match. Pretoria. N

Erle Ellis. 2013. Anthropocene. [O] Available at: http://www.eoearth.org/view/article/150125/ %5BAccessed 10 April 2016].

Gisli, P et al. 2013. Reconceptualizing the ‘Anthropos’ in the Anthropocene: integrating the social sciences and humanities in global environmental change research. Environmental Science & Policy 28:3-13.

James Pailley, (2015), Sciency words: Anthropocene [ONLINE]. Available at:http://www.scifiideas.com/science-2/sciency-words-anthropocene/ [Accessed 10 April 2016].

Kriek, M, Farmer, Heidelberg Suikerbosrand. 2016. Interview by author. [Transcript]. 9 Match. Pretoria. N

Steffen, W et al. 2011. The Anthropocene: conceptual and historical perspectives. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society 369:842-867.

Waters, CN et al. 2016. The Anthropocene is functionally and stratigraphically distinct from the Holocene. Science 351(6269):[sp].

Whitehouse, A. 2015. Listening to birds in the Anthropocene: the anxious semiotics of sound in a human-dominated world. Environmental Humanities 6:53-71.

 

 

African Rain Held Prisoner By Drought

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Who and what are the drivers of change? What is happening? What can be done?
  • Climate change
  • El Nino, a climate cycle in the Pacific Ocean
  • Over grazing
  • Poor irrigation practices

 

  • Cattle are starving to death
  • Increase in food prices
  • Loss of income
  • Country’s Agricultural sector is suffering
  • Job loss
  • Economic instability
  • Drought
  • Water scarcity
  • What used to be fertile land is now of no use due to dried up land
  • Crop yields are declining

 

  • Building more Dam
  •  Importing water resources from foreign countries
  •  Water conservation
  •  Exporting cattle to foreign countries
  • Importing food supplies
  • Educating the public on drought and how to minimize environmental concerns

Introduction

Many people just think of a drought as a short period where the land is dry and climates reach unbearable temperatures. However, living through a drought takes that small perception of what it may be, soaks it out and dries it even more so that the constant precipitation, a mouth thirsting for fresh water to run through the ruptures within your lips and a scorching sun that stings your skin when you finally decide to step out of the protective shadows, becomes a reality.

This blog post provides an environmental humanities analysis and critique of three media articles namely, ‘Drought pushes South Africa to water, energy and food reckoning’ written by Keith Schneider from fin24.com (2016), ‘Fighting the Great South African Drought’ written by Marianne Merten from the Daily Maverick (2016) and ‘How SA drought is hurting Africa’s poor’ written by Whitney McFerron and Frank Jomo from fin24.com (2016). The post makes use of notions from supporting theories in Poul Holm et al. in their article, ‘Humanities for the Environment—A manifesto for research and action’ (2015) as well as Shelby Grant and Mary Lawhon in their article ‘Reporting on rhinos: analysis of the newspaper coverage of rhino paoching’ (2014).

The investigation, asks and answers the following questions: Do the drivers for change relate to the “Great Acceleration” of human technologies, powers and consumption? How does the absence or presence of solutions relate to “The New Human Condition”? Do the proposed solutions engage with the business / corporate sector and can you identify a business that might be interested in partnering with the community to address the environmental concerns? Do the proposed solutions and means to do it stem from collaborative processes of research, stakeholder engagement and public participation? Are the solutions translated into practical means that can easily be achieved by the public?

Do the drivers for change relate to the “Great Acceleration” of human technologies, powers and consumption?  

The “Great Acceleration” refers to “human technologies, powers and consumption in [of] the last 70 years that has operated as a key driver of Global Change. These human advances have come with an alteration of the planet’s carbon and nitrogen cycles, rapidly rising species extinction rates, and the generation of atmospheric greenhouse gases, which in turn are catalysts for adverse weather patterns and increased ocean acidification, the consequences of which will condition life on the planet for centuries to come” (Holm, 2015:980).

According to Keith Schneider (2016), changes in rainfall have affected the supply of not only water in our country but also energy and food and has bullied the economy with financial strain. The 21st century came in with high demands of bridging the distance between “the economic line” that separates the “developed and developing” within South Africa (Keith Schneider 2016). In order to even implement this transition, strain is put on “coal-fired power plants [and] big water-consuming mines” (Keith Schneider 2016) that aims to provide basic needs to the over-populated residents in informal settlements. The country’s ambition for realignment and providing ground between the rich and the poor only ties the nations fate to “slow deterioration and critical choices” (Keith Schneider 2016). South Africa’s power sectors only contribute more heavily to the long-term effects of neglect to the environment, resulting in rainlessness and food shortage. It is our greed and our wasteful consumption of beautiful resources that has brought us a  world where climate change was once a mere myth but is now the reality we live in today. 

El Nino, is one of the leading drivers of drought in South Africa, according to Whitney McFerron and Frank Jomo (2016). El Nino, not only degenerates the appearance of nutritional land into vast skeletal horizons but also supports the devastating loss of crop yields which sky-rocket food prices, decline the supply of fresh water which therefore “widening hunger for some of the poorest”(Whitney McFerron & Franks Jomo 2016) in our country. The need to provide is growing and the capacity to deliver, is in jeopardy.

Based on the definition of the “Great Acceleration” (Holm 2015:980) and the information provided by Whitney McFerron and Frank Jomo (2016) and Keith Schneider (2016), it is evident that the drivers causing the drought in South Africa can definitely be linked with the “Great Acceleration.”

How does the absence or presence of solutions relate to “The New Human Condition”?

The “New Human Condition” pertains to how we, as individuals and as a community behave when confronted with the consequences and responsibilities of environmental  concerns (Holm, 2015:983). It is our duty as temporary tenants of the earth, to either conform and seek solutions to the decay, or to become contributors of the problem.

According to an additional article ‘Drought kills at least 19300 cattle in Zimbabwe’ written on the 24th of February 2016 found on news24.com (2016), a solution to the drought in Africa according to the deputy minister, “urged farmers to sell some of their animals” (Drought kills at least 19 300 cattle in Zimbabwe 2016:[sp]). Cash received from the sale could then be used to buy expensive (due to the rise in food prices) “feed for the remaining herd”(Drought kills at least 19 300 cattle in Zimbabwe 2016:[sp]). Another solution, news24.com (2016), to prevent any more lose to the already killed “19300 cattle in Zimbabwe”(Drought kills at least 19 300 cattle in Zimbabwe 2016:[sp]) was when a helicopter of “the Swiss Army”(Drought kills at least 19 300 cattle in Zimbabwe 2016:[sp])transported “water from a reservoir”(Drought kills at least 19 300 cattle in Zimbabwe 2016:[sp]) to the countries driest regions. Melting ice in Switzerland and other icy regions could potentially become beneficial to countries in African suffering from the dry season. This is a solution that could be costly but not impossible to implement.

The Daily Maverick states that the “Finance Minster Pravin Gordhan” (Marianne Merten 2016) looks closely into working with tasks teams on implementing a long-term resolution. Marianne Merten (2016) says the government wants to focus on ensuring “state guarantees”(Marianne Merten 2016) to farmers that should “guarantee up to 90% of loans”(Marianne Merten 2016) as well as ensuring “job security in the agricultural sectors” through paying employees of farms a “monthly subsidy” (Marianne Merten 2016). 

“Media shapes public opinion” (Shelby Grant and Mary Lawhon 2014:40) and must report not only on disasters happening in and around the region but should also educate the local public on ways that they could alter their everyday lifestyle through quick fixes whether or not they feel they contribute to the problem or not. Communities need to stimulate engagement and action as a whole, through the use of social media because trends are alluring and are desired to be followed.

Do the proposed solutions engage with the business / corporate sector and can you identify a business that might be interested in partnering with the community to address the environmental concerns?

The solutions proposed by the Marianne Merten from the Daily Maverick (2016) engage more with the government sector which is a separate entity and not considered similar to the business sector in South Africa, however the solutions mentioned in the Daily Maverick (2016) may be considered part of the business sector. This is because the government, in this instance, is primarily the moving power providing the money to generate the prolonged fix, but it directly affects the farm owners and workers who will receive the necessary means from the government to endure the financial end, which fall under the business sector. Solutions provided in the article by news24.com (2016) focusing on farmers selling cattle fall under the business sector, but  the Swiss Army transferring water to dry regions of Zimbabwe can be categorized under a Military sector.

I followed up on a business who actively partakes in addressing environmental concerns within the community. Charmaine Jooste, owner of both ‘Kiddies Academy’ nursery school and ‘Kingdom Preparatory School’ is known in the community for the measures she implements in and around her schools, concerning the environment. Schools are a very good place to start because it houses the leaders of the future. I have been to both schools on several occasions where I have observed that the schools make use of recycling bins around the perimeter where even elders are encouraged to drop off a few things from home. Jojo tanks, facilitate the flushing of toilets, watering the gardens as well as the vegetable patch. The children are awarded for their efforts in a special award ceremony. 

Do the proposed solutions and means to do it stem from collaborative processes of research, stakeholder engagement and public participation?

The Daily Maverick (2016), where Marianne Merten states solutions that intensively involve the efforts of the government which will only succeed if it stems from collaborative processes of research and stakeholder engagement through attentive planning. It does not however, require participation from the public. Solutions provided through the use of military equipment and resources from international aids such as Switzerland from news24.com (2016) (additional article without author) also makes use of collaborative processes and stakeholder engagement.

Are the solutions translated into practical means that can easily be achieved by the public?

Marianne Merten, merely stated solutions that were proposed to the “Cape Town Press Club” (Marianne Merten 2016). These specific fixes, involving the government donating money towards the agricultural benefit of the country have not been implemented as of yet and therefore have not been examined in practical from. Solutions publicized in  (2016) (the additional newspaper article that unfortunately does not reveal the name of the author) involves voluntary forces using military power and can therefore not be achieved through the aid of the public. 

It is critical that societies all over the country come together to provide solutions that are attainable within practical measures, not only by people who are well-informed through the use of social media and newspaper platforms but also those who do not have access to knowledge on quick fixes where the benefits of working as a team can be echoed in the future circumstances of our country.

Conclusion

Our country has abundant natural resources, agricultural expertise and fertile soil,  but the skies that blanket our horizons are unable to provide precious water to our land. This blogs works towards bringing troops together and creating awareness amongst those who live by the misfortune of the dry African season everyday through an environmental humanities analysis and critique using platforms created by the three media articles namely: ‘Drought pushes South Africa to water, energy and food reckoning’ written by Keith Schneider from fin24.com (2016), ‘Fighting the Great South African Drought’ written by Marianne Merten from Daily Maverick (2016) and ‘How SA drought is hurting Africa’s poor’ written by Whitney McFerron and Frank Jomo from fin24.com. (2016).

We cannot sit back any longer and not do anything, knowing that the nation has just suffered its lowest rainfall in a decade. Therefore, this outlook on the natural disaster that has chain our rain clouds may prove to be of importance in somebody’s life who may read it, where the media is absorbed only by the coverage of events that do not provide a looking-glass into the long-lasting problems of our future (Grant & Lawhon, 2014: 41). We, the people are the media. We, the people are the change.

Sources consulted

Drought kills at least 19 300 cattle in Zimbabwe. 2016. [O]. Available: http://www.news24.com/Africa/Zimbabwe/drought-kills-at-least-19-300-cattle-in-zimbabwe-20160224.html Accessed 1 April 2016.

Grant, S & Lawhon, M. 2014. Reporting on rhinos: analysis of the newspaper coverage of rhino poaching. Southern African Journal of Environmental Education 30:39-52.

Holm, P et al. 2015. Humanities for the Environment—A manifesto for research and action. Humanities 4:977–992.

 McFerron, W &  and  Jomo, F. 2016. How SA drought is hurting Africa’s poor. [O]. Available: http://www.fin24.com/Economy/how-sa-drought-is-hurting-africas-poor-20160322.html Accessed 2 April 2016.

Merten, M. 2016. Report: Fighting the Great South African Drought. [O]. Available: http://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2016-02-23-report-fighting-the-great-south-african-drought/#.VwIg2uIrLIU.html Accessed 3 April 2016.

Schneider, K. 2016. Drought pushes South Africa to water, energy, and food reckoning. [O]. Available: http://www.fin24.com/Opinion/drought-pushes-south-africa-to-water-energy-and-food-reckoning-20160124.html Accessed 2 April 2016.