Thobisa Simelane

Paperless Society

Paperless society

We live in a world where paper has formed such an integral part of our lives that it may be hard to imagine a world without paper. The use of paper is so commonplace that most people have never considered the all important question, “do we need so much paper in the world”? One imagines that an attempt to curb the use of paper, especially in our places of work, would have very slow and unsatisfactory results. The truth of the matter is that no civilised government would attempt to outlaw the use of paper. That would be a ludicrous… read more

Culture and Environment

Umhlanga Reed Dance, Africa

If Swaziland were a ship, culture would be her anchors. Even though change and modernisation have permeated into society, strong cultural values remain unchanged in the Swazi people. So important is culture to Swaziland, that there are holidays reserved for cultural events. One such event is the Umhlanga Reed Dance. This particular day generally involves a large number of girls marching for miles to harvest reed which is used to build beautiful huts at the royal residences. The large number which may be up to 80 000 maidens gives one an idea of the amount of reed collected. The environmental… read more

Hydrofracking Threat

Clearing land for hydrofracking

Hydrofracking, formally known as hydraulic fracturing, is a gas extraction mechanism that involves pumping large amounts of water, sand and chemicals underground to unearth natural gas from rock formations. This new mechanism is economical for companies in gas extraction, for the environment it can spell devastation. The environmental threats from hydrofracking are numerous, an overview as to how the mechanism works is thus necessary to appreciate the gravity of the overall potential for disaster. Hydrofracking requires large quantities of water which is either transported to the extraction site or pumped from a nearby water sources. The water is then mixed… read more

Climate Change Migrants

The effect of rising sea level

Rising sea levels have been documented in various media of communication. For as long as the subject of climate change has made headlines, the effect of global warming on the world’s oceans has been proven by numerous scientific research and studies. The obvious problem with ocean levels rising is that ocean water encroaches on land inhabited by human beings as their place of permanent dwelling. Unfortunately, migration on the basis of the effects of climate change is a rather new phenomenon. This makes it rather difficult for international governments to recognise climate change migrants as refugees in the legal sense…. read more

Alien Plants

Water hyacinth a major environmental problem

Travelling to different parts of the globe can be an exhilarating experience, so much that when our travels near an end we wish we could take every beautiful thing we have seen back home with us. People with an affinity to plants and vegetation may encounter a new species of plant they reckon would look good in their farm or garden and they obtain seeds of such plant not knowing that they may have sentenced their environment to a fierce attack. The invasion of an alien plant. Alien plants are plants that have found a way into an environment in… read more

Mining Responsibly

Mining in South Africa

South Africa is the biggest mining country in the world, a report compiled by Citigroup estimates that the country has over USD 2.5 trillion in precious metals reserves. To the corporate world this means potential to realize big profits, however to the many communities located in close proximity with mineral reserves this may spell the potential for catastrophic environmental disasters. The South African legislature recognized the need to address potential problems associated with mining, thus it passed the Minerals and Petroleum Resources Development Act 28 of 2002 (MPRDA). This piece of legislation requires all persons who have applied for a… read more

Fire and the Environment

Fire usage and the environment

Fire is a necessary resource in the daily lives of many African communities. From time immemorial, it has been used for cooking, generating heat in the winter, generating light at night, harvesting honey from wild bees, and for religious/cultural rituals, amongst other things. When used appropriately, fire is a wonderful gift from mother-nature. Similarly, when abused and/or misused, fire can be a curse to the natural environment and human beings alike. The Food and Agriculture Organisation estimates that globally, 350 hectares of wild land are consumed by fire each year, and that 90% of the time such wildfires are a… read more

Firewood – Paying the Price

Selling Firewood in Africa

In principle there is absolutely nothing wrong with earning a living from the offerings of our natural environment. After all, the environment is there for human sustenance and enjoyment. That is why it is very important to strike a balance when interacting with nature, we must always strive to give to it as much as we take from it. The protection of the symbiotic relationship we have with the environment is the only way we can ensure that all the beauty that is around us will be there for future generations. In Swaziland, it has become customary for a lot of low income extra-urban… read more

E-Waste and Africa

E-waste in Africa

You may have heard the expression “when America sneezes the whole world catches a cold” being said in the context of the global financial economy. The same may be said in regards to first world countries, vis-a-vis the developing world, when referring to the generation of e-waste and its effect on the natural environment of developing countries. E-waste is defined by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (“OECD”) as any appliance using electric power that has reached its ultimate life span. According to the United Nations Environment Programme (“UNEP”), in 2010 an estimated 62.5 to 125 tonnes of e-waste associated cable found its way… read more

War and the Environment

The effect of war on the environment

Human beings and infrastructure are often the focus of discussion when the destructive consequences of armed conflict are under consideration. The natural environment in which we live is often forgotten, yet it may well be the one of the most affected casualties of war. Warfare takes place on all three forms of environmental media ie. water, air and land. This very fact renders the environment vulnerable to abuse and misuse when two or more combatants are at war, especially because destroying the environment requires little effort, whereas defending the environment is not an easy feat, even for the most militarily… read more