Global warming: a local warning

10 October 2019 - 12:46 By Mila de Villiers and pan macmillan
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If “The Environment" and “Humanity" had individual Facebook accounts and they happened to be in a relash, their status would read “it's complicated".

The tangibility of this precarious relationship is probably nowhere as visible as with climate change. 

“We're destroying the world but at the same time we're amazing and we're doing great things," Sipho Kings, news editor of the Mail & Guardian and former environment reporter and co-author of South Africa's Survival Guide to Climate Change (Pan Macmillan: 2019), states with an air of unexpected blaséness over a cup of kaffee at Flynn (the “very new" coffee place) at M&G's Jozi HQ. 

Kings, whose reportage on environmental affairs has earned him the adulatory nickname of “doomsday" reporter, along with acclaimed author and freelance science journalist Sarah Wild, have teamed up to write a “survival guide" for us Saffas. It covers the fatal toll our inability to value the Earth and its resources has taken on our social and geographic environment. 

“Yoh, lank bleak topic, my china" most likely comes to mind ...

Not so!

Kings and Wild opine that, yes, we could possibly survive a changing climate. 

And changing it is.

“Realistically, South Africa is heating at twice the global average, we are polluting most of our water sources, it's getting hotter," Wild fires off, jiggling her knee to placate her infant daughter, who had accompanied her mum on this auspicious outing. 

The axiom adopted by the country's middle-class of “it's someone else's problem" should be eradicated, Wild adds. Climate change effects everybody and permeates all aspects of society, from economics to the education system. 

Cape Town's water crisis comes to mind, with Wild saying that “arguably some people in South Africa need to be using more water, but some people need to be using substantially less". (Here's looking at you, 'burb moms ...)

Wild adds that she hopes for “a future where people put an economic cost on the environment". 

Kings furthers that “life is intense and overwhelming" (#RelatableContent), and you might not have time to think about your impact on the environment at all times, but should still attempt to focus on “little things". 

“Try to imagine how much it costs the world to keep you alive," Kings continues, encouraging an attempt to move away from fossil fuels as a significant starting point to clip the proverbial wings of climate change's calamitous migration.

“Should I drive there?" is a question you ought to mull over before sommer getting into your tjor, for example. 

“Writing the book had filled me with guilt," Wild admits, with an apologetic grin. And with reason:

Reusable nappies? A mission!

Running a bath that's too big? Shit!

Buying grapes imported from Spain? The shipping! The packaging! 

Numerous pages of the guide are, in fact, dedicated to food and how to reduce food waste, and adapt our diets to enjoy sustenance alongside sustainability.

As to what they recommend we eat? Local is lekker.

Spring has sprung (though judging by many weather forecasts “an average day in Libya" would be a more fitting description of this heat — shisa!), with the following selection of fresh produce in season from September to November:

Fruit: apricots, bananas, guavas, grapefruits, lemons, naartjies, peaches, spanspeks, strawberries

Veggies: asparagus, baby marrow, cauliflower, cucumber, garlic, mielies, radishes, sweet potatoes 

(PSA: Even if you don't adhere to these specifics, bear in mind that the authors are journalists and thus always — always — want to be invited to dinner.) 

Diet is incredibly personal, Wild proclaims, saying that she wishes for an SA in which healthy food is more widely available. 

Fast food and carbon-intensive food are readily available, whereas nutrient vegetables and the like aren't, which is especially problematic for a country synonymous with socio-economic discrepancies. 

“This filters into inequality and a centralised food system," she resolutely relays.

The mindless buying or ordering of seafood should also be taken into consideration. Our oceans are at their most vulnerable and if we were to deplete their resources, the repercussions will be darker than the surface of the Mariana Trench. 

Greenhouse gases and heat in the atmosphere inherently affect the vast bodies of water surrounding the seven continents. 

Owing to the excess of carbon in the atmosphere, oceans worldwide are absorbing more carbon, and carbon + oceans = acidity.

This ocean acidification will eventually affect all creatures in the marine food chain. If the ocean food chain is disrupted in this way, it will have serious knock-on consequences for what humans eat — not to mention all coastal organisms and animals, Kings and Wild write in chapter 14 of their guide, aptly titled Oceans.

So reconsider before ordering a portion of prawns at the Troyeville Hotel (or anywhere for that matter, but meu Deus that Jozi institution has its culinary aquatic crustaceans down to a T), since prawns are listed as “red" on WWF's SASSI list. 

The Southern African Sustainable Seafood Initiative has compiled a list of the sustainability of seafood narrowed down to “green"= best choice (eg black mussels, kingklip, snoek), “orange" = think twice (anchovy, banded galjoen, yellowtail) and “red" = don't buy (perlemoen, king fish, geelbek). 

And yes, millennials, there is an app for that.

Dietary advice aside, you can also transform your abode into one which the planet will thank you for. 

This includes installing water tanks, planting indigenous trees, watering your garden/greenery with grey water and abstaining from printing an excessive number of pages. (Digital first!)

Put your right to vote/access to WhatsApp/social media platforms to good use and take up issues like leaky water pipes, overbuilding, invasive species, poor waste collection services and illegal dumping with a councillor, MP or city official. 

Both Wild and Kings lamented their individual neighbourhood councillor's lack of interest in creating a more sustainable 'hood for all.

And no, neither of them cared to divulge where they live. 


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