As South Africans we are bombarded by messages about the emissions of our cars and the environmental impact of our living standards. We pay very little attention due to the large amount of real life messages hitting us on a daily basis. With a country plagued by poverty, unemployment, crime and many other issues, global pressing issues that will be our legacy seem impossible to focus on.
In 1958 the CO2 emissions were first tracked in Hawaii under the supervision of Charles David Keeling. The keeling curve provided a baseline of CO2 in the atmosphere. At that time CO2 in the atmosphere was 315 parts per million by volume. In 2014 the world reached the 400 mark. Also in 2014 another piece of evidence hit the world hard. According to the WWF Living Planet Index, the world Vertebrate species declined by 52% between 1970 and 2010. It was hardly reported on in South Africa.
South Africans have not always been spectators on the environmental front. We have shown some leadership in the area of Private Conservation. After the major wildlife destruction with the arrival of European populations, the country reached a major low in the animal population in 1964. From this low came a major success story over the next 60 years. This has partly been attributed to the growth of the private game ranching industry in the country.
Besides the economic benefit this industry has more than doubled the land under conservation in South Africa. Government conservation areas account for 6.1% of South Africa's land area while private conservation areas account for 16.8% of the surface area.
A big driver in the Industry growth was the need to find ways to efficiently use the land to provide for farmers' families. Why is it that we can be so action-orientated about the current issues and that we all watch as spectators on the big environmental issues. The concept of leaving the earth to our children does not seem to be a big enough driving factor. The every day need of providing for them seems to be more important.
There are so many things to focus on and so little of ourselves to give. The answer to making an impact is in fixing the small things around us. Noticing the building site next door where they clear the entire area of vegetation to build a concrete structure with paving, will make us more aware how such a small action multiplied for 7 billion people will make a massive impact. Once we notice the little things, our human spirit could come up with innovative solutions to protect our environment.
We can come up with uniquely South African solutions. The answer to fix the big environmental problems seems to be in addressing the little things. We can choose one focus area that will make a difference for example: creating an indigenous space in the unbuilt area around the corner; saving the frog in the local wetland that is in disrepair; or just removing some of your own paving to create an indigenous sanctuary.
In the words of Marcus Aurelius ‘Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one.’