Sandspruit strolling

We took a stroll along the Sandspruit on Sunday, heading upstream from 8th Avenue, Rivonia/Woodmead, along the areas that are looked after by the residents. Most parts are beautifully cared for, and established trees show evidence that people have been looking after the space for years.

Seeing that people take care of these spaces brings my soul hope. It reminds me that it’s not too crazy of me to think that we can – eventually – rehabilitate our urban river systems. It even gave me enough hope to not be too sad about the ever-present litter in the river – particularly in areas of the river bank that aren’t maintained. It’s a thankless and ongoing job to remove litter from the river, but it has such a positive impact. The people looking after this stretch of the river deserve a massive shout out.

Worrying about water

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I posted this image on the right quite a while back, and it feels more appropriate now than ever before. I’m so incredibly concerned about the water issues in Joburg and what worries me most is everyone’s apparent indifference to it.

In environmental circles a few years ago, there were warnings of drought and predictions of water restrictions. No one outside of those circles really listened. Share a predictive date that’s 5 or 10 years away and it’s apparently so removed from anyone’s reality that it’s not taken seriously. There are theories out there that say the human brain isn’t able to take threats seriously until they are imminent – but now that we have the very real threat of a lack of water, the average Joe still doesn’t appear to be taking it seriously.

Yes, there have been a few news articles in the paper, and the odd interview on radio. There’s the odd water-related hashtag floating about and most people are aware of the 6am-6pm restrictions. What’s missing for me however are the conversations around it, the mobility of the masses around it, or support from media and business. Very few appear to be talking about this issue with any sense of urgency.

Don’t we care? Don’t we understand? Is it not newsworthy enough? Or am I just not tuned into the right channels?

Admittedly, I actively insulate myself from everyday news channels, but the pertinent issues always rise out of the noise for me to find out about. In fact, I’ve found it a very effective way of filtering out the bullshit. So, the fact that I don’t hear much about our water crisis without actively going to look for the info, worries me greatly. It feels like the water issue and social encouragement to behave responsibly with our water supply is not finding a way to be heard, shared and acted upon.

Am I alone in feeling this way? Please let me know – I’d love to be proven wrong on this issue. I’d love to hear that everyone else is as concerned as I am.

The frogs need you…

Pickersgill’s Reed Frog - the focal species of the EWT's Threatened Amphibian Programme.
Pickersgill’s Reed Frog – the focal species of the EWT’s Threatened Amphibian Programme.

As you know I’m a bit of a froggie, with a particular love for reed frogs (see previous posts here, here and here), so of course I’m always keeping an ear and eye open for any updated news about our little threatened friends.

The EWT (Endangered Wildlife Trust) has a relatively new Threatened Amphibian Programme which focuses on the conservation of frogs and their habitats across the country. They are busy running a survey at the moment to establish the public’s perception with regards to frogs. Amazingly (to me anyway) some people are actually scared of frogs and there are all sorts of superstitions and fallacies involving them which inadvertently result in people doing harm to the precious little things.

Please download it at the link below, fill it in and send it back to the email address listed in the document. It won’t take long, but it will be very helpful to the EWT.

» Attitudes to Frogs – SA

Come and picnic with me

rietfontein_ridgeFriends of Rietfontein is having a picnic at the Rietfontein Nature Reserve this Sunday (23rd June) in the glorious winter sun*. I will be there and I hereby invite you to join me!

The picnic is part awareness for the reserve and part fundraising to help us fight the proposed K60 road development that will cut off the corner of the reserve if it goes ahead. We’re asking for a small donation of R20 per person and we’ll answer all your questions about both the reserve and the K60 should you have any.

Mainly though, we’d just like people to come and enjoy the reserve and spend some time outdoors with friends.

Full details about the picnic can be found on the Facebook event – please RSVP there too, and bring along your friends and family (just not your dogs – sorry).

* I know for a fact that the sun is glorious at the moment because I spent this past Saturday in it at the Walter Sisulu National Botanical Gardens. I even got a tad sunburnt!)

Pic taken by me of a beautiful Protea Caffra right on the top of the ridge in the Reserve. May 2013.

Getting down and dirty

Last night I finally got around to watching “Dirt! The Movie“. As it’s name suggests the movie is all about dirt. Soil. The stuff of life.  I’m not saying that lightly – soil really is immeasurably important to all life on earth, and this movie goes a long way to explaining how and why.

I have known about the importance of soil for some time thanks to my parents adventures in organic farming, so the beginning of this movie felt a little slow to me and in all honesty I didn’t enjoy their little animations of sad micro-organisms. Nevertheless, once past all the bits I knew, and faced with examples of the mass destruction of our soil due to the clearly flawed approach of modern agriculture, deforestation and mining, I was fully hooked. Commentary from inspiring environmentalists like Wangari Maathai and Vandana Shiva add weight to those of expert gardeners, organic farmers, natural builders, arborists and even photographers from around the world who have seen and experienced first hand the importance of soil.

While the film makes a very clear point about how we ignore, abuse, and destroy our soil, it isn’t all doom and gloom. The movie ends on a positive note by showcasing a number of initiatives that aim to reconnect people to the soil, to restore degraded areas and to utilise our land in more sustainable manner.

If you are in any way concerned about understanding our human interaction with natural resources, or even if you’re just a keen gardener, this movie is a must-watch.

Supporting the Friends of Rietfontein

friendsofrietfontein_logoThis morning I attended a meeting with the Friends of Rietfontein (FoR) and FreeMe to discuss the K60 road development that I mentioned in my previous post “Development vs conservation of wild space in Joburg”.

I was pleased to see that there were over 20 people there, even though many of the people thought the turnout was bad. Clearly the few environmentally focused meetings and events I have been to in the recent past have given me more realistic expectations.

The meeting was focused on the positioning and approach that FoR and FreeMe wish to take to oppose the road development which besides the physical 65m land loss, will impact the wildlife rehabilitation work of FreeMe and effectively kill the green belt that currently exists upon that ridge.

Suffice to say that it’s the same old story we hear in most development vs conservation issues where it’s about the environmentalists having to prove that the company doing the EIA isn’t doing a thorough job, nor one that is representative of all parties involved. It’s that same story about lack of public notification, lack of available information and basically just trying to railroad a ‘suitable’ environmental assessment through as quickly as possible so that the developers can get to building whatever it is they want to build.

It’s so infuriating to me that this EIA process – a legal requirement I remind you – which is intended to protect our environment is so very broken (or so easy to circumvent?!).

Anyway, this handful of concerned people are going to try to put together a full proposal about the true impacts this road will have to the reserve and to offer alternatives instead (Witkoppen anyone?). I have offered my assistance in terms of helping to share information and knowledge via a Facebook page that I’ll set up for them. They currently don’t have a single point of communication online, so hopefully this should help somewhat, and I’m pleased that I can help in some small way. It should hopefully also help to get more public interest and participation too.

So, expect to hear much more about Rietfontein from me.
And with that, let the fight begin! :)

Development vs conservation of wild space in Joburg

I’m sad to have to report on two issues of development vs conservation happening right in our backyards.

The first one is in Krugersdorp. It’s the Proteadal area – the mountain ridges between Krugersdop and Roodepoort alongside the Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens. The only remaining wild and open land in that area which the wildlife, and in particular the famous Black Eagles, take refuge in from the ever-expanding Tuscan-style complex development that is taking over that area.

Proteadal
Views of Proteadal. Photo via Proteadal Conservation Association.

The second one is even closer to my home – it’s the extension of the K60 road in Sunninghill and Paulshof. It’s the Paulshof stretch that is of primary concern particularly because it is set to cut through a portion of the Rietfontein Nature Reserve, which is where the FreeMe Wildlife Rehabilitation Center is based. The Nature Reserve is not big, but it is a perfect sanctuary for sick and injured wildlife that has taken the brunt of our ever-increasing march into their habitat.

Rietfontein Nature Reserve. Photo via City of Joburg.
Rietfontein Nature Reserve. Photo via City of Joburg.

I’m sure you know how I feel about the loss of open land – I am firmly on the side of conservation on this one. And before you start yelling “bunny-hugger” I’d like to point out that while yes, I am enormously concerned about the fate of the wildlife in these areas, but more so, I am also actually concerned about the limited amount of natural open areas in Joburg in general. It is neither sustainable nor good for us to pave over every bit of open land in our neighbourhoods all in the name of more houses and bigger roads. Believe it or not, we humans actually NEED open space.

More and more, researchers and scientists from many different disciplines are realising that humans need nature around them. It calms us. It also helps us in ways that we aren’t even aware of – like pollution control, insect and vermin control, water management. (Read this. )

It is incredibly short-sighted to demolish our small remaining tracts of open land. These areas should be protected as part of our natural heritage and be recognised for the many benefits they are already providing for humanity.

If you would like to get involved with supporting the conservation efforts of either of these two areas, here are the details:

Proteadal, Krugersdorp/Roodepoort

Join the Proteadal Conservation Association to help preserve the area. Membership is mere R10 per year. Email proteadal@gmail.com for more information.

You can follow them on Facebook and they are currently running an online petition which I encourage you to sign.

K60 extension, Paulshof/Sunninghill

For information about the EIA, see the map for the proposed extension or to participate as an Interested and Affected Party please download the documentation from either http://paulshof.org/ or http://sunninghillnews.co.za/?page_id=293 . If you wish to apply as an AIP, you have until the end of the month – 30th April (ie: do it RIGHT NOW). I suggest keeping an eye on the FreeMe website and their Facebook page as well as the Paulshof Community website  or Sunninghill Community website for updates.

Keep your eyes on local newspapers too, as both of these issues have been written about in their areas.

Trees vs Billboards – episode 3

In the past I’ve highlighted the annoying habit that some of our outdoor advertising companies seem to enjoy: that of cutting down or dramatically trimming back street trees so that their billboards are more easily visible.

In two previous cases, the issue ended up in the local papers, in one the advertiser withdrew their ads and people hung their head in shame and promised not to do it again.

So you can imagine how annoyed I was this morning to discover another tree has fallen victim to this habit.

The tree in question is just south of the William Nicol and Ballyclare intersection in Bryanston. It’s a beautiful established Acacia tree which has been literally butchered so as to ensure a clear view of a Primedia Electronic billboard. The branches have been torn and broken – look at these pictures I took:

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I actually cannot explain the rage I feel about this. This behaviour is shameful.

There is NO advertising in the world that will bring as much benefit to the world as a tree does.  When will advertisers (and developers for that matter) start to realise that they need to work with and around nature?!

PS: If you don’t think trees are important to society, please read these articles: