ON TRACK | Settle in for the good fight against a climate polluter

Wild Woman trail running leader Kim van Kets tells 100 protesters at Nahoon Reef on Saturday that they must have stamina for the marathon ahead in the battle to prevent Shell from blasting and drilling in pristine Wild Coast oceans.
Wild Woman trail running leader Kim van Kets tells 100 protesters at Nahoon Reef on Saturday that they must have stamina for the marathon ahead in the battle to prevent Shell from blasting and drilling in pristine Wild Coast oceans.
Image: ALAN EASON

Kim van Kets, endurance athlete, adventurer and passionate advocate for our wild oceans and coast, urged the first public protest at Nahoon Reef on Saturday against Shell’s seismic blasting of the Wild Coast that this would be a “marathon” in their lives.

On Track asked Kim to spell out what she meant. Would public protest and environmental awareness  become a new aspect of our lifestyle and culture?

Here is her reply:

There are so very many things clamouring for our attention.  So many causes to fight, so many systems to be dismantled or rebuilt. So much suffering that should be stopped.  How do we choose what to focus on and how do we remain steadfast in that focus?  How do we stop ourselves from being distracted from our mission to save our coast by the next calamity?

Sometimes I think we must be able to imagine the end of things, so that we can imagine how we will come through that which we imagine

Revered Nigerian novelist Ben Okri wrote: “Sometimes I think we must be able to imagine the end of things, so that we can imagine how we will come through that which we imagine. Of the things that trouble me most, the human inability to imagine its end ranks very high. It means that there is something in the human makeup resistant to terminal contemplation.

“How else can one explain the refusal of ordinary, good-hearted citizens to face the realities of climate change? If we don’t face them, we won’t change them. And if we don’t change them, we will not put things in motion that would prevent them. And so our refusal to face them will make happen the very thing we don’t want to happen.” 

This fight to protect the Wild Coast is an ultra-marathon, not a sprint.  We can’t afford to explode into action for a week and then run out of energy.  And even if this battle is won, there will be another and another. 

Protecting our own corner of the ocean and the planet is a war we will be occupied with on many fronts for the rest of our lives. So how do we remain resolute?

I have adapted some of my ultra-distance running strategies to help me stay focused:

  • Introduce some of Ben Okri’s “terminal contemplation” into my daily routine;
  • Refuse to be immobilised by the enormity of the goal and problem.  Break it down; ask: What can I do today, where I am with what I’ve got to make a difference?;
  • Surround myself with people who share my energy and passion to make a difference;
  • Manage expectations. Plan for the worst. Hope and work for the best;
  • Celebrate milestones and small victories and find time for joy;
  • Be clear about my why. Why am I prepared to invest time and resources into this battle?;
  • Visualise a future devoid of marine life for my child, grandchild, niece or nephew;
  • Resist being drawn into discussion (and an ultimate state of shame and despair) by the what-about-ists — there are a thousand worthy causes — and the passive folk who shame you into feeling that you have no right to take action until you are a raw vegan who lives off the grid, cycles everywhere and recycles your greywater. Of course, we absolutely must interrogate and improve our own consumption (starting yesterday). But as the little people we must also simultaneously demand alternatives from government and big business and hold them to account if they do not supply them.  After all, I am not the one accepting billions of rand worth of investment to make the just transition to net zero carbon emissions or the change from fossil fuels to renewables. I expect them to show leadership in providing alternatives.

The news that Shell plans to conduct a large-scale offshore seismic survey for gas and oil deposits along the Eastern Cape's Wild Coast has drawn criticism from environmental groups and animal rights activists, with one group even threatening to chain naked 'Wild Women' to the ship in protest. Daron Mann speaks to attorney Kim van Kets from Wild Women on the Run's, and Jason Simpson, a chief engineer for controversial international conservation group Sea Shepard.


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