The environment vs greed

The environment has long been caught up in a war controlled by money and greed. It’s a war in which the powerless must attempt to overcome the powerful – something that can only be done if everyone stands together against them and is aware of what is going on around us.

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Years ago it was said by the Cree Indians, “Only when the last tree has died, and the last river been poisoned, and the last fish been caught, will we realise we cannot eat money”. This Indian proverb is well known today and has been used in many arguments towards promoting the protection of the environment, but it seems to have had little substantial effect on the psyche of modern powers.

People might tell you that we have crossed a major threshold towards protecting our environment – and with the numbers of environmentalists out there today it would seem to be true. However, everywhere I look I seem to find contradictions to this. A common and well-publicised example would be rhino poaching – where the existence of one of South Africa’s Top 5 threatens to be extinguished by the love of money.

You may argue that animals become extinct all the time – and that would be a flawed argument at the very least – but imagine losing an animal so intertwined with South Africa’s identity – your identity? However, I would like to tell you about a less well-known story. Every day we use it. Right now, as I’m writing this, I am missing it. I’ve stored it up in batteries but all too soon it will run out and I can’t wait until 6pm when it’s due to return. What am I talking about? Electricity – the very fibre of our modern day society.

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Electricity production is a big modern day global problem, yet South Africa seems to be all too ready to sit back and let someone else deal with it – or worse, to ignore it until irreparable damage has been done. I say this as an introduction to the thing that’s on many people’s minds in this area: wind farms. Wind farms are a sustainable way to relieve the pressure our insatiable desires place on the environment, yet people continue to oppose them.

A company has recently proposed setting up a wind farm on farm land close to Grahamstown. This would not only help the environment but would also benefit the local farmers involved. However, local game farmers and other farmers who don’t stand to benefit are opposed to it. As the process behind initiating a big project like wind farms is large and lengthy, large amounts of research must first be done and those in opposition to them must be given time to make a case and/or stall the process.

It is all very well for everyone to have their say but it concerns me that people may be focusing too much on self and less on the environment. The local game farms seem to have proposed, in support of the wind towers not going up, that their hunting clients will refuse their business because these technologically advanced structures will destroy the natural appearance of the landscape. It is suggested that they think it might ‘destroy the bush experience’, for lack of better wording.

If that’s their view I propose another: If it’s the ‘bush experience’ they are looking for, why don’t they see how they like living without electricity? Or better yet – try getting their clients to come when all around pollution pervades the air and water. Of course that may not be tomorrow or even in the next few years, but if we don’t start going sustainable it will come. Isn’t it our responsibility to ensure our children see the stars like we can, without them being blocked out by the pollution we have created?

And remember, ‘landscape views’ change all the time. Telephone poles have changed them. Cellphone masts have changed them. Electricity pylons have even changed them. But, if we’re not careful to make sure the next change is to the good of the environment, we stand to lose a lot more than just a view. People need to wake up and smell the roses – for with the way the world is going, the roses might not be there tomorrow. Who is more important? Small groups of people or the world as a whole?