Two cousins, one proposed mining project on ancestral land and a battle of epic proportions.In the Amadiba area, on South Africa’s stunning Wild Coast, the Pondo people have tended their traditional way of life for centuries. Nonhle, a young local eco-tour guide, is a staunch supporter of her people and the endangered environment on which their livelihood and culture depend. Her cousin Madiba, a local entrepreneur and self-proclaimed modernizer, is fully supportive of a titanium-mining proposal and the government’s controversial plan to build a tolled highway across their land. Tired of his community living without good access to employment, hospitals and schools, Madiba uses every backhanded method imaginable, scurrilously courting private capital and questionable government officials. While the South African President deposes the pro-environment Pondo Royal Family, Nonhle rallies inspiring support with little more than dogged determination.
Featuring arresting cinematography, beautiful sand animation and sensational original music, The Shore Break delivers both a visually and emotionally riveting fight to the finish. See the trail below and more on this debate HERE and HERE.
During 2014 1,084,400 tons of plastic waste was sent to South African landfills. This is according to the latest plastic recycling statistics released by PlasticsSA. PlasticsSA commissions research into the status quo of the plastic recycling industry each year. The information is gathered by interviewing recyclers from around the country and intends to provide valuable data for the industry, government and other stakeholders. Anton Hanekom, Executive Director of Plastics SA explains the need for this research. “It gives us a clear indication of the flow of plastics products in South Africa, the state of the plastics recycling industry and the recycling markets. It is therefore a valuable tool for promotion, knowledge of the industry, forward planning and policy development.”
The 2014 results show that the amount of plastics converted from local production and imported materials in South Africa remains the same from the previous year at 1,400,000 tons. There has been a slight increase in 2014, 22.5% of plastic waste produced was recovered and recycled compared to the 20% of the previous year. “Although this is the same total as was reported for 2013, the conversion rates for certain types of plastics have increased and others decreased in tonnages owing to the impact of light-weighting plastics packaging, which had a marked increase on South Africa’s consumption rate, asserts Hanekom. A recovery of 32.9% of all plastics packaging material has been achieved.
The majority of plastics that are recycled in South Africa are used locally to manufacture new products, mainly films (packaging, building and industrial) and pipes. Of the 315,600 tons of plastics diverted from landfill in 2014, 90.2% was recycled locally; the remaining 9.85% which amounts to 31,087 tons were exported for recycling elsewhere. While this represents a slight increase from the previous year, the industry has witnessed a significant drop since 2009, when 97.6% of recovered waste was recycled in South Africa. Hanekom further explains that it is a challenging period for the industry, “Not only are we facing increased electricity, transport and raw material costs on the local front, but the sharp increase in imports also poses a very real threat to our progress.”
Employment in the sector
According to the statistics, 47420 people are employed by the industry’s informal sector and 6037 people by the formal sector. Overall, job creation in the industry increased by 11.4% in 2014 compared to the previous year. There are 221 recycling companies in South Africa and an estimated 1800 converters in the industry, most of which are Small Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMME’s).
The future of recycling
On the future of the recycling industry, Hanekom is confident that South Africa is on the right track. “South Africa is being recognized as one of the world leaders when it comes to “closing the loop”, or recycling products back into their original form. Whilst our first choice will always be to recycle plastics for re-use, we are investigating waste-to-energy recovery options for difficult to recycle or end-of-life plastics that could provide a viable answer to our country’s current electricity crisis, save natural resources and support our objectives of saving landfill space, reducing litter, saving energy and reducing carbon dioxide emissions.”
In the Mother City the mountains are ablaze. It is late summer. Four days ago the fire started in Farmer Peck’s Valley adjacent to the seaside suburb of Muizenberg, known for its surf and sharks. Sitting here at home it is 42°C and the sound of helicopters are a constant background alongside the low hum of the city of Cape Town going about its daily business. The fire spread quickly and gained strength owing to strong southeaster winds typical of Cape summer weather grounding helicopter crews and leaving ground-based fire teams to fight the blaze. Despite the best efforts of emergency services the fire spread throughout Silvermines section of Table Mountain National Park over towards Fishhoek, Tokai, Noordhoek and Hout Bay.
Emergency services staff and the crews of the Volunteer Wildfire services as well as numerous other fire teams have been working through day and night to contain the blaze and to try and minimise damage to neighbouring property and danger to residents of the city. Numerous people have been evacuated from homes in proximity to the fire line and residents of a care home in Noordhoek have been treated for smoke inhalation. Several hikers caught in the blaze have also been rescued. Several homes as well as the upmarket hotel of Tintswalo Atlantic near Hout Bay have been burnt to the ground. As the fire continues to burn additional staff from the Working on Fire project have been brought in from other parts of the country to provide support to the fire effort and relieve those who have been working to the best of their ability to keep everyone safe and out of harm.
The media both local and international has been flooded with extensive coverage and social media channels have been buzzing with photos, commentary, opinion and questions. The injury and loss of livelihood to all those affected is tragic. It is the challenge that all residents of Cape Town face when living at the margins of an iconic national park filled with flammable vegetation that easily can burn during the summer months.
However, there seems to be a widely held view that the fire is also a force for destruction of the vegetation of the mountain and are filled with sadness of destruction of the beautiful fynbos. Fire can bring challenges, loss, injury and destruction to the unluckiest city residents. My heart goes out to those affected who have faced fear or loss of their homes or have been evacuated away from the fire line. I wish strength to the fire crews who have been working tirelessly in the toughest of conditions to contain the blaze.
This reality comes as part of life within a city in the Cape Floristic Region. The fynbos vegetation that clothes the mountains of the Cape Peninsula and throughout the Cape Floristic Region is both fire prone and fire dependent. When fynbos burns it is a challenging neighbour to live alongside. But alongside our sympathy and support for all those affected we need to also understand that fire is a natural part of the ecology of the Fynbos Biome. After the tragedy of injury and destroyed property will come new life in the veld. Without fire there would be no fynbos.
The burning of fynbos vegetation is an inevitability. It is sad that people are negatively affected but it is far from sad that the veld itself is burning. This vegetation type has been subjected to fire for millennia and the optimum fire interval is every 10-14 years. Fire is a keystone process without which many plants in the fynbos would not be able to regenerate, produce offspring or reproduce. Fynbos plants are either resprouters or reseeders: Either they can resprout after a fire has passed through or they produce seeds that are adapted to survive fire and require heat from the fire and chemical compounds from the smoke to germinate.
At present after the fire Silvermines looks like a blackened lunar landscape. At first glance it appears that nothing can have survived. But as the fire moved through the landscape members of the Proteaceae family will have opened their cones and spread their seed within hours, ready for new life to begin once more. These seeds provide essential food and nourishment for those rodents who have survived the fire.
Fire also stimulates the growth and flowering of numerous different species. Fire lilies from the genus Cyrtanthus will flower less than two weeks after fire, their flowering being stimulated by the smoke. Given that this is a summer fire, as time goes by other geophytic (bulbous) species will also break their dormancy and start to grow and flower. As the autumn rains and cooler temperatures come later in the season seedlings of reseeding shrubs will start to germinate, their dormancy having been broken by the heat and smoke from the fire. As winter passes growth continues and as spring arrives the fynbos will be filled with a profusion of colour from mass flowering of bulbs such as those from the genus Watsonia and numerous others. Other plants such as orchids will also grow and flower, making the most of the additional light and space created by the burning of the overstorey vegetation.
A question often asked is what about the animals? What will happen to them? Insects and birds will fly from the fire and many insects and spiders will survive as eggs or pupae buried in the soil or underground in ants nests. Many reptiles are adapted to take refuge in cracks in the rocks or in rodent burrows as the fire moves through the landscape.Tortoises often survive veld fires in this way but among these slower moving creatures there are often a few casualties. Their sad charcoal blackened bodies are often visible scattered through the skeletons of shrubs after a fire has moved through. Nature seems cruel at this moment. Those larger mammals that can will run from the flames. Numbers of some rodents including the Pygmy Mouse will actually increase after a fire owing to their preference and tolerance of more open landscapes.
It may not seem so now amidst the heat, chaos, injury, loss and destruction, but with time out of the ashes of this fire will come new life….like a phoenix. Watch and wait…..
Hello! Here we go! We’re off and running – crowdfunding for a container to for an eco-education hub at our nursery in Woodstock. Help us in the transformation of this space to a community resource for environmental education and hands-on experience: “We have managed to transform this space from a pile of rubble to an abundance of green,” explains Misha Teasdale, Greenpop’s co-founder and Tree-EO. “But we have a bigger vision for it. We want to create an innovative green education hub accessible to everyone, where people can come together to learn, share, and eat. A space where we’ll spread awareness on the importance of trees, of growing our own food, and of taking care of our environment.”