“When one tugs at a single thing in nature, one finds it is attached to the rest of the world” (John Muir). 

Do we have a balanced outlook on protecting our natural resources in Hartebeestfontein – or not?

When I see and hear how people react to events in our environment I often ask myself this question. Often, opinions are expressed that clearly indicate ignorance, assumptions and self-interest, with the latter mostly given preference. It is often said that humans will be responsible for their own downfall, and sometimes, one cannot but wholly agree with this and relate it to events in one’s own environment.

 

This past week, much was said about our country’s looming water crisis and that water consumption will be strictly regulated, similar to load shedding. Fact is that we do not have sufficient clean water, and that we cannot generate more water as with electricity, while the population is increasing at an unsustainable rate. Then there are people who tell me “This doesn’t concern me, I have lots of water, a strong borehole, and I’ll pump as much as I want and do what I want on my property, because I’m making good money”. They are oblivious of the fact that the water is not only on their property, not knowing where it comes from, or that their careless attitude can result in a water shortage for them and others, and that the plug may be pulled on their financial resources. They also don’t take into account that more people with more new boreholes use more water every year, and that available water resources have decreased alarmingly over the past two decades. They are also unaware of the fact that many boreholes that always had strong water have now dried up or are producing much less water. Furthermore, groundwater quality is decreasing as a result of salinisation and pollution, sometimes quite a distance from where it is pumped. This is probably indicative of the over utilisation of our water resources.

Few people realize that the mountains, and in particular, the Magaliesberg, is a reservoir of clean water in our area. Nearly all our groundwater comes from the mountains where it is stored and protected by the vegetation on the mountains and their slopes. So, if we don’t protect our mountains, we won’t have water. Some say we should not destroy any indigenous bush and vegetation, while others are of the opinion that deforestation must take place in certain areas for fire breaks, as prescribed by Law. We will thus prevent those veld fires, which are difficult or impossible to control in the mountains. (See the photo of such a fire break that was recently made at the foot of the Magaliesberg).

Admirers of vervet monkeys complain when bird lovers complain that the monkeys raid birds’ nests and fruit and vegetable farmers suffer huge losses and want to cull some of these monkeys. When a leopard is seen attacking baboons or monkeys in the mountain, some say leopards shouldn’t be there, and it also poses a threat to their livestock, while others are of the opinion that it is dangerous for hikers frequenting the various hiking routes on the mountain. If game is culled in order to protect the remaining game against starvation and death, there are numerous complaints.

Although various measures to curb crime with an effective communication system, for those who are interested to make use of it, in place, and although crime prevention has been relatively successful, excessive measures are taken with impenetrable fences and lights, etc., keeping everything in or out in order to ward off the “onslaught”. Protecting the environment or its flora and fauna becomes unimportant when people develop a fear of crime.

We can cite many examples, and each point of view will probably have merit from own conviction. I urgently request people to cultivate a balanced outlook in respect of protecting our natural resources and environment. Short-sightedness and self-interest in this regard will lead to your own downfall and that of many others. We cannot always point the finger at other people, while our own actions leave much to be desired. We should all do some soul searching and ask ourselves, what am I doing wrong, or what can I do to make a contribution in creating and maintaining a sustainable environment? This is not to say that one shouldn’t rebuild what has fallen into disrepair, but excessive revamping may just do more harm than good, especially if we keep on tugging at nature. Will we in Hartebeestfontein be able to keep our perspective and maintain a balanced approach in respect of protecting our natural resources? This will depend on everyone’s personal motivation and willingness to adapt and cooperate, as well as how we manage external influences that we’re all exposed to. Time will tell, and when we look back after some years, we’ll know whether we have succeeded or not.

Deon Greyling