OPINION | Political navel-gazing will not save the Earth

A number of environmental reports have raised the alarm recently – that we, the human species – are decimating the very planet we depend on.
These reports highlight the deteriorating quality of air, the rampant pollution of our rivers, micro plastics in our food to the warming of our oceans, among other things.
One thing which seems certain is that we have been under-estimating the extent of the threat this rapid deterioration caused by human activity poses to the Earth and human society.
“There is much evidence showing species distributions have changed, and usually that is because things are warming.”
According to the Sunday Times, Carl van der Lingen, who is a member of the Daff’s [department of agriculture, forestry and fisheries] climate-change task team, said fish populations were shifting.
He said while the task team would not make a conclusive commitment, they alluded to the likelihood that warming was a phenomenon caused by climate change.
Clearly, these changes in our sea life will affect the fishing industry. In our predicament of a slow economy and massive unemployment, this spells further trouble.
However, what is perhaps of more concern, is that our troubles extend far beyond the fishing industry or unemployment. We are in fact talking about the ecological balance required by the existence of life on Earth itself.
Another report, “Current CaCO3 dissolution at the seafloor caused by anthropogenic CO2”, reported on by the Mail&Guardian, came out recently.
It alludes to the huge amount of carbon dioxide which is going into our oceans, creating acidity and loss of oxygen.
This phenomenon is associated with human activity – large amounts of carbon dioxide produced by industrialisation go into the atmosphere and into the oceans.
This creates a toxic environment for marine life, which we at the end of the day consume. So, as often observed in ecosystems, the cycle of life brings these toxins back to us without fail.
The World Wildlife Fund’s Living Planet Report 2018 says:
“From 1970 to 2014, there was a 70% overall decline in vertebrate population sizes, ie the population abundance of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish have, on average, dropped by more than half in little more than 40 years.”
This is a shocking account of our rapid “progress” – for lack of better word – which has seemingly not only decimated societies, but environments and animal life.
Professor Peter Britz of Rhodes University reportedly explained further that human beings are part of a greater eco-system and are completely dependent on it for survival.
You would think we need no reminders about this fact since we regard ourselves as an intelligent species and all.
It is for these reasons that we in South Africa must wake up to the fact that our troubles are far beyond the squabbles of, and within, political parties and their petty politics.
We are on the verge of disaster, which must be averted now, if intervention is to mean anything.
While there may be debate on climate change, especially at a time when truth has become dispensable and politicians contradict scientists, it is urgent for our government and many others, if not all, to take action.
Nothing will matter if the Earth becomes an uninhabitable planet.
The cost will be too ghastly to contemplate.
It is therefore truly exasperating to have to deal with the sordid details of the scandals of the likes of Gigaba, whose hands seem to be occupied with things best kept away from the public eye.
The depravity of the man made itself known when he stood by a man as morally challenged as Jacob Zuma while he helped him raze this society. State capture seems to have found a champion in him, and he served it well.
President Cyril Ramaphosa must allow him to go hold whatever he wants with his hands, away from public office.
As for us, we better get past the navel-gazing which has brought us here, not as disparate entities or groupings vying for advantage, but as a species on the verge of extinction ourselves, perhaps in the same way we consigned our fellow creatures.
Is that perhaps too hard?..

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