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September 2014

This month, we continue our break from our series on alien invasive plants as most are still dormant and difficult to eradicate. In this 13th issue (yes, we are already one year old!); we will instead look at a potpourri of current environmental issues.

Prof. Kobus van der Walt of the North West University (Potchefstroom) presents a weekly “Omgewingspraaitjie” on Afrikaans radio (RSG) on Saturday mornings at 06h45. In one of his recent programmes, he highlighted some rather alarming environmental statistics.

  • In regular ice ages in past history, the earth’s average temperature was 6 degrees celsius cooler. These ice ages generally lasted 900 years, followed by 10,000 year warmer cycles. Carbon dioxide levels averaged 280 ppm in warmer cycles and 180 ppm in cold cycles.


  • The world is currently due to enter an ice age, but with carbon dioxide levels now at an unprecedented 400 ppm we are in fact entering a warm and not a cold cycle. This is factual, as evidenced by glacier melt and sea temperature rise.
  • Soil erosion, salinisation and depletion continue unabated.


  • The world’s human population increases by 1 million every 4 days!
  • The gap between humans and the environment widens continually. When it is dark we switch on lights; when it is too bright we use sunglasses; when it is cold we use heaters and when it is too hot we use air-conditioners.


  • 40% of the earth’s surface is already developed to meet the needs of humans.
  • Only 12% of the water in rivers reaches the sea as man has ever increasing demands on this resource.


  • The sea has become a huge toilet and refuse dump for humans.
  • Due to global warming it is predicted that Polar Bears will inter-breed with Brown Bears in future.


  • One billion people go hungry every day while millions are overweight.
  • 300 000 seabirds and 100 million sharks are killed annually.


  • Only 1% of the world’s population breathe clean air.

Sadly, environmental issues seldom bring good news and this is unfortunately true of the issues listed above. One wonders when (if ever) humanity will realise that our greed and uncontrolled breeding are driving us headlong towards the destruction of all life on earth.

Will we ever find world leaders who will take these warnings seriously and initiate concerted action to reverse our self-destruction?  Not until each and every thinking person who wants their children to grow and flourish stand shoulder-to-shoulder to  elect leaders who will do something other than ride the gravy train into the ravine

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