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.

 

 

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