Sustainability. The common response to the word could be a rolling of the eyes, a turning of the page or simply a dismissive “Ag”; the word “eco-friendly” may as well be deleted from the English vocabulary… for all it is worth to the broader public. South Africa has embraced the “Technological Age” and developed at an alarming rate over the past couple of years. Infrastructure and top of the range products are at our fingertips… convenient and cost-effective. Has the principal of creating wealth for the improvement of the country overwhelmed us, though? “We need resources and services which are inexpensive and we need them now.” But what happens later, when sustainability can no longer be sustained? Little by little we are experiencing the effects of global warming; natural disasters due to climate change have the power to rob us of everything we deem important from our lives on this planet… yet we embrace it because of laziness and an unconscious mind-set. When, in future, our recklessness causes tsunamis and millions to die of heat stroke… where then, does an affluent country fare?
Environmental activists and individual organizations have made it their life mission to work towards the alleviation of pollution and the conservation of natural resources. I think that the real question is how much money is government willing to allocate to supporting this cause… how important is it to them to decrease the socio-environmental barrier which determines the destiny of planet Earth? We live in Africa; known for warm temperatures and humid weather… does it not make sense to utilize natural resources by investing in solar panels which will significantly reduce our harmful impact? In theory it makes sense, but realistically, eco-efficient methods are very expensive. Why not invest capital into an initiative that researches ways in which the cost of renewable resources can be made accessible to the majority of the country?
As president, I would ensure the implementation of environmental activity by firstly, researching and designing ways to reduce the “high-cost” of using natural energy resources. Gaining the public’s support is vital; a main point would be addressing the fact that many South Africans remain uneducated about the problem. Informing communities of the situation, as well as demonstrating methods in which they can positively contribute to the change, will motivate them to make a significant impact. Bursaries for tertiary education as well as youth workshops should be introduced to students interested in the environment given that they will, in return, teach people within their community how to live more consciously. Involving celebrities and music-greats to participate in ‘green’ concerts will get people excited about a good cause. Beach clean-ups, assistance to scholars involved in eco-clubs and information about easy ways to save our planet will be promoted. Our country may still have a long way to go in terms of housing, sanitation, education, basic health care… but somewhere the connection has to be made that without immediate establishments of conservation initiatives, it will be impossible to one day enjoy the fruits of our labour. One day there may be no planet left to enjoy it on.
Kirstin Meiring, Project 90 Club Member, Grade 10, South Peninsula High School
The thoughts of future leaders of our country