Honouring Africa’s Conservation Heroes

Pic by Stew Nolan

Pic by Stew Nolan

On World Ranger Day, the 31st July 2016, the Game Rangers’ Association of Africa (GRAA) salutes the brave African rangers who have dedicated their lives protecting our continent’s greatest assets, its wildlife and wild spaces. In the last 12 months, according to the International Ranger Association (IRF) and GRAA records a known total of 111 rangers worldwide have paid the ultimate sacrifice whilst standing in defence of our natural heritage. 32 of these deaths were recorded in Africa. It must be remembered that these are just the reported deaths and the actual figure is more likely to be substantially higher. World Ranger Day is about honouring the lives of these fallen heroes and highlighting the remarkable contribution being made by rangers in the field of conservation.

“While there have been at least 189 rangers killed in Africa since 2009, many others have been injured whilst on duty,” says Chris Galliers, Chairman of the GRAA. “The work of a ranger in Africa has always been dangerous but what we are seeing now is that the majority of these ranger deaths are as a result of homicide. As the GRAA, we are working hard to reverse this trend by improving the support offered to rangers so that they can carry out their duties effectively and confidently. This is where we need greater investment, if we are to secure the life support systems and wildlife on the continent.”

Rhino2The current plight of Africa’s iconic animal species such as lion, elephant and rhino is well known. Transnational organised crime syndicates in the pursuit of ballooning profits threaten our continent’s biodiversity. They are not the only issues facing Africa’s biodiversity however. Overexploitation of natural resources through bush meat poaching, illegal logging, destruction of habitat and poor management practices alongside the threat from invasive alien species, climate change, nutrient loading and pollution all have dire consequences.

And yet in spite of these challenges, Africa’s rangers remain steadfast in their dedication to make a difference at the very coalface of conservation. Their task is not an easy one and comes at great personal cost.

A recent World Wildlife Fund (WWF) survey entitled ‘Ranger Perceptions: Africa’ involving 570 rangers across 12 countries in Africa highlighted the fact that rangers are putting their lives on the line whilst not always receiving the necessary support. 82% of these rangers said they had faced life threatening situations in their careers to date. 59% believed they are ill equipped to perform their duties, while 42% felt they are inadequately trained for the work they are required to do.

While working long hours in the relentless African bush, rangers not only need to think about their own safety and that of the animals they are protecting, but also the safety of their families at home. According to the WWF’s survey 77% of rangers indicated that they see their family for 10 days or less per month due to their work commitments. 75% of rangers had experienced intimidation and threats because of the work they perform. It is a blight on humanity that nature’s protectors are subject to this abuse.

Baby rhino may 2012 kariega game reserveIt is of utmost importance that Africa’s rangers remain motivated in the field and that their overall well-being is prioritised. This includes servicing their emotional, psychological, environmental, financial, intellectual, occupational, physical, social and spiritual needs. We need to guarantee we create an enabling work environment to ensure rangers can perform their duties which are so critical to all conservation efforts.

On World Ranger Day 2016, the GRAA calls on communities, governments and NGOs to support the honourable and important work of rangers and ensure they receive the necessary training, remuneration, equipment and support they so desperately need.

By supporting Africa’s rangers, you support the species and habitats under their care. We thank our rangers who continue to serve conservation with such vigour, bravery, resilience and dedication and pay tribute to our fallen comrades. We will remember them.

How non-hazardous hospital waste can be recycled

“The rising costs of healthcare waste management in South Africa and the rest of the world are forcing hospitals and clinics to rethink the way in which they deal with their healthcare waste”. This is the opinion of Southern African Vinyls Association CEO, Delanie Bezuidenhout, who, in partnership with Adcock Ingram Critical Care, recently launched an innovative idea for implementing a PVC recycling programme that separates non-hazardous PVC waste from healthcare risk waste.

RecycleAs part of its drive to implement a PVC recycling initiative at hospitals and health care facilities around South Africa, SAVA has recently trained close to 1 000 hospital staff over a period of 53 hours about the ins and outs of PVC recycling.

PVC is a versatile polymer which is widely used in the healthcare environment for a wide range of different applications. These range from rigid PVC used in piping, to soft applications such as IV bags, tubing and oxygen masks in hospitals. Inflatable splints, blister packs for medicines and flooring are all PVC products, and most of it can be diverted from landfill or recycled into a wide variety of new materials, such as shoe soles, pipes, hoses, door mats, gum boots and traffic cones.

According to Bezuidenhout, the healthcare environment uses large volumes of safe, high performance PVC that is highly recyclable. “Many of these products never even make contact with patients, but are thrown away indiscriminately because of over-cautious practices that were introduced in the 1980s when HIV and Aids were peaking in the public awareness, but little was understood about the spread of the disease at the time,” she says.

SAVA advocates that there are numerous advantages for hospitals wanting to pursue this course of action, such as contributing towards the overall environmental compliance for the facility, enhancing community relationships, avoiding long-term liability, increasing staff morale, as well as various specific economic benefits.

“Hospital waste management processes have significantly improved over the last decade and our own experience and results of similar projects implemented successfully elsewhere in the world have proven that the recycling of non-hazardous medical waste has the potential to be successfully implemented in health care settings, thereby contributing to the efficient use of resources, while improving cost-efficiency or even being cost neutral for hospitals,” says Bezuidenhout.

There are various challenges to any recovery operation and SAVA has found that one of the biggest issues with this specific project was the lack of suitable storage space for waste bins, whilst the logistics of moving waste was also seen to be a prominent challenge that needed to be overcome.

“We are proud to report that we have managed to successfully navigate these obstacles in various pilot projects that have been launched in the Western Cape and more recently also in Gauteng. Through good planning, ongoing education, constant liaison with the waste management team, and having a project champion on site, these challenges can be overcome,” Bezuidenhout concludes.

How youth and business are learning environmental lessons from each other

Recently the 3rd Annual National Green Youth Indaba 2016 was held in Tshwane, Gauteng, with more than 500 hand-picked pioneering youth and more than 50 exhibitors making it South Africa’s biggest and most eco-prominent youth conference.

World Oceans Day Cleanup KZN 2016Plastics|SA was invited to attend the Green Youth Indaba in recognition of the work the Association is doing to promote the recycling and recovery of plastics. Waste Management and Recycling were two of the key areas highlighted for discussion and Jacques Lightfoot (Sustainability Manager, Plastics|SA) was selected to facilitate a panel discussion with young recycling entrepreneurs and the audience under the auspices of the National Recycling Forum (NRF).

According to Lightfoot, major emphasis was placed on the role of youth in the environment: “The panel discussion offered a unique opportunity for the NRF and audience members to hear first-hand about some of the exciting initiatives that our country’s young eco warriors are involved in,” Lightfoot said, adding that the importance of the recovery and recycling of recyclable materials in South Africa was a major discussion point that received a lot of air time during the panel discussion.

World Oceans Day launch and Cleanup 2016 group pic“It was interesting to hear the different views as we discussed the most pressing environmental issues and green opportunities for youth within South Africa.

“Although the focus was on motivating and engaging young people to play a proactive role by addressing issues related to the sustainable development of our country, it was equally inspiring for us as an industry to attend and learn from them. It is important for us to assist our future youth leaders by creating platforms for them where they can be innovative, and learn to be meaningful players in the industry,” Lightfoot concluded.

Participating in an event such as the Green Youth Indaba, and interacting with business professionals such as Jacques Lightfoot, is great preparation for living and working in the competitive, globalised world of the future, where the ability level of the individual will be crucial, especially as human capital and critical thinking skills will continue to be the most important assets of our future society.

How to cope with the coming change

Bacon snacksWith our freedoms, comforts and prosperity, ours are the most fortunate generations that have ever lived. Ours might also be the most fortunate generations that will ever live, for we could be the last generations to be able to shop for food according to our personal preferences; to have the luxury of a daily shower or bath; to step onto a floor that has been heated; or have the freedom to get into a car or board an aeroplane on little more than a whim.

With the massive changes taking place at this time it is axiomatic that ahead lies a period of turbulence and unpredictability. So how can we prepare to build resilience in the face of possible future shocks like climate change, peak oil and economic contraction?

There is much that we can do and first-off my advice is to begin fostering a mindset of restraint and frugality; learning and teaching your children to rethink, reduce, recycle, reuse. Become a generalist – by this I mean expanding your skills base so that you can be as self-sufficient as possible.

DSC_0091Grow your own food whether this is on a rooftop, in a window box, in a recycled tyre or in a community garden. Harvest and store rain from your roof. If possible generate your own energy supply and generally take care of your needs. Teach others to do the same by sharing your skills.

Insulate your home as best you can, green your home’s outer envelope, and begin weaning yourself off unsustainable energy and other luxuries. Be as well informed as possible about local, national and international events. And above all live with confidence in your innate ability to meet any and all challenges, knowing that the best antidote to anxiety is action.

What to expect from the coming change

DSC_0334Globally, we are experiencing the birth pains of a momentous cultural shift, and for most of us this is a difficult time. However, inherent in this evolutionary leap are challenges and opportunities that could enable us to attain new dimensions of being, with a previously unknown human capacity for wisdom and selflessness emerging.

Becoming change-fluent is no easy thing, and adapting to change, even change we seek, can be extremely challenging, because as we struggle to keep pace with altering circumstances and their attendant required responses, our adaptive resources like energy and mental acuity are tested to the limit.

The rapid changes that are taking place within our time mean that many of us are living and working at the outer reaches of our adaptive range. Over a prolonged period this can result in fatigue and exhaustion of our adaptive resources. At this point we may begin to exhibit clear stress signals such as anti-adaptive behaviour, reduced morale and motivation, impaired performance and productivity, work absenteeism and even diseases of adaptation. An important coping mechanism would be to establish our homes, offices and communities as stability zones where we can live and work within structures of peace, harmony and order.

DSC_0687Those of us who embrace the evolutionary flow are likely to find ourselves increasingly out-of-step with those who resist it, with controlling entities trying to increase dominance and punishment for a time as they feel their power waning. Communication difficulties and interpersonal conflict are therefore to be expected, with relationships changing, and in extreme cases, even irreparably breaking down. This, however, is a pathway to a different way of being, thinking, feeling.

A lesson for this period, therefore, is not to hold onto what has been, but to make space for what is to come. And as security structures fall away, there is a growing realisation that the only true security is that which is found within, with strength being developed layer by layer as each test of our innate resilience and resourcefulness is passed, and new ones embraced.

How recycled plastics are helping to save a mangrove swamp

Beachwood Boardwalk KZNWorld Oceans Day is a global day of celebrating the ocean, and this year people all over the world are celebrating “Healthy Oceans – Healthy Planet’ and promoting the prevention of marine litter.

For the 2016 World Oceans Day, Plastics|SA (the SA Plastics Industry), collaborated with Grindrod Bank, Wildlands Trust, POLYCO and Packaging SA, to upgrade the walkways at the Beachwood Mangroves in Durban. “These mangroves are a very sensitive ecosystem and are often damaged and desecrated by debris washed down from the nearby Umgeni River,” says Douw Steyn, Sustainability Director at Plastics|SA.

The weathered and rickety wooden walkways, which make their way from the entrance all the way to the beach, were replaced by raised walkways which are made from recycled plastic including thousands of milk bottles and plastic bags. The walkways will now withstand the weather conditions and provide safe and easy viewing of the area and its inhabitants.

World Oceans Day launch and Cleanup 2016 group picTo celebrate World Oceans Day 2016 and the unveiling of the new walkway, Plastics|SA recently joined Beach Cleanup KZN and volunteers from companies such as SAGE, Durban Solid Waste, Toyota, The Glass Recycling Company, KZN Wildlife, RNL Plastics, Duwalcoe and Wakefields Properties to cleanup the stretch of beach from the Mangroves to Blue Lagoon.

Plastics|SA was also a key supporter of a World Oceans Day event organised by the Department of Environmental Affairs on 17 June by providing bags for clean-ups on the beaches around Blue Lagoon Beach in Durban. Douw Steyn addressed the audience consisting of 2 500 volunteers from government, schools, local communities and industry on the importance of taking responsibility for our plastic waste and its recycling. He also made use of the opportunity to promote the plastics industry’s annual “Cleanup and Recycle Week” which will take place this year from 12 to 17 September 2016 and will be dedicated to the memory of Nelson Mandela.

World Oceans Day Cleanup KZN 2016During her presentation at the event, the Honourable Director General, Nosipho Ngcaba, emphasized the importance of creating awareness around marine litter, and educating communities on the value of clean water as well as the opportunities offered in waste.

Remember a healthy ocean, a healthy planet!!

How the world is changing

wall pictureThere can be no doubt that we are living in a time of unprecedented change and I don’t know about you, but I can feel the energy! We are manifesting all the anxiety, restlessness and disruption of a civilisation in the throes of a great change. And interestingly, this change, which many believe has epochal significance, has been prophesied by many diverse wisdom teachings and major religious belief systems around the world.

For example Buddhists believe that the Wheel of Dharma, which takes an infusion of energy in the form of a paradigm shift every 500 years throughout its 2500 year cycle, has once again come to an end signalling a new beginning or rebirth for humanity, with Man as being divine in nature, being the paradigm shift.

In the Islamic tradition Al-Qiyamah (The Resurrection), which is considered a fundamental tenet of faith by all Muslims, is a time of judgement and resurrection. Some Muslims construe the signs of Quiyamah as unfolding in these first decades of the millennium.

DSC_0252In the Indian tradition we are now in Krita Yuga (the age of transition), coming out of Kali Yuga (the age of darkness and ignorance) and being on the verge of entering Satya Yuga (the age of truth). According to the Mayan calendar we are in the Sixth Night of the Galactic Underworld before the onset of the Seventh Day on November 3, 2010, with October 28, 2011, signalling the completion date of the cosmic plan. And from a Western astrological perspective we are transitioning from the Age of Pisces to the Age of Aquarius, a time of greater joy and positivity which also signals a rebirth and spiritual awakening.

As great shifts and tides shape a new global reality we can expect great upheaval. However, this transition is also likely to bring great positives as for many people it will intersect with a personal shift from a left-brain emphasis on rationality and the purely material, to an inclusion of right-brain creativity and intuition.

This will merge the two spheres or hemispheres of the self, uniting values of authority, dominance, control and rationality with those of consultation, persuasion, influence and insight, resulting in a new wholeness and a greater understanding of our part in the living world.

It will also hopefully move us away from the separatist and reductionist approach which characterised previous eras towards a new paradigm that stresses interconnection and interdependence with the natural world.