Slice of life: The pressing issues of climate change




Today we find ourselves stuck in a tug of war with economic challenges and political disputes. Where one could feel overwhelmed just trying to keep afloat while junk status is a threat to our country. Yet one forgets that there are other factors, such as climate change, that should wave a red flag other than political and economic problems.
We naturally adapt to the climate we live in, but what happens if the changes to our climate take place quicker than we can keep up?

Climate experts revealed that February was documented as one of the hottest months ever recorded and the effects of climate change are being felt abroad and close to home. Scientists believe the unusual heat is a combination of El Niño climate patterns and man-made global warming.
In South Africa we have experienced minimal rainfall and intense heatwaves, causing crops and livestock to die. Due to the intense heat, water levels dropped and reservoirs evaporated causing water shortage in parts of the country. As a result water restrictions were put in place and food prices increased, all having a ripple effect on our economy and our daily lives.
Though not as important as increasing food prices, the effect can be seen in recreation as well.
In December I went with a group of friends to Hartbeespoort Dam for the weekend hoping to go boating. However, due to the lack of rain the water had dropped so much that we were unable to launch the boat.
Towards the beginning of March, the complete opposite happened. Hartbeespoort Dam had received so much rain that the dam had flooded, forcing the authorities to open all the sluice gates.
A classmate whose grandfather owns a farm in the Free State told me that her grandfather used his dying crops as cattle feed and that they had to sell some of their cattle as they did not have enough water for all of them.
My brother, along with his friends, went on multiple water runs to Steynsrus and Virginia in the Free State in February and March as part of the Education and Care Horse Outreach (ECHO) programme. This is a group of concerned horse lovers that responded to the call for water and food in the drought-stricken Free State.
I strongly believe that individuals should care about the earth. I’m no tree hugger if that’s what you’re thinking, but the fate of the one and only planet we call home is uncertain if we do not address the challenges we face.
Carbon dioxide and greenhouse gasses occur naturally, trapping heat inside the atmosphere and keeping the earth’s climate stable. However, due to higher amounts of greenhouse gasses being released the earth’s temperature is rising.
According to the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre, the Arctic’s ice cap has shrunk by nearly a third since 1979 and this winter’s sea ice is roughly a million square kilometres less than its average for this time of year.
Friday April 22 is Earth Day, which aims to encourage people across the world to be more environmentally friendly. This might mean increasing the amount they recycle, volunteering in local events, planting a tree, reducing their energy consumption or simply just spreading the word

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Five things to do this Earth Day Wits Vuvuzela, April 2016

Greener Wits on the cards

An environmental consultant has encouraged Wits to take the lead in plans to save the planet.

Lindsay Wayman, from Oricol Environmental Services, said South Africa falls in the top 20 greenhouse gas emitters in the world.

The harmful effects of greenhouse gases on the atmosphere are widely documented and include global warming, ozone depletion and adverse effects on biodiversity.

Wayman said the campus looks clean and has litter bins. But she called on the university to improve its waste management because litter was destined for landfill.

This results in waste not breaking up properly thus producing methane, a greenhouse gas 20 times worse for the environment than carbon monoxide.

She said graduates who leave the institution should have something to offer to the world in terms of reducing their carbon footprint.

“Wits’ aim shouldn’t be about intellectual standards only but sustainability as well.

“It starts here. The skills students get here are what they will take into the world.”

Wayman also called on the university to have a recycling website, recycling maps and even recycling events, such as a green week.

Wits’ grounds and waste management manager, Andries Norval, said awareness campaigns have been lined up for everyone at Wits, including the cleaning staff.

“We are trying to get permission from senior management to do recycling presentations in lectures and we are committed to see Wits leading all tertiary institutions in South Africa as far as recycling is concerned,” Norval said.

Universities around the world, such as the University of Sussex, have vibrant recycling initiatives which one can easily access on their website.

A group of Wits students has started their own branch of a non-governmental organisation, Generation Earth, which will be launched this weekend.

“Recycling should be a key part of Wits admin and the university should lead the students by example by having a greener mindset; a lot of people want to live green lifestyles but they just don’t know how,” said Generation Earth Wits president Michael Constantinides.

Wits has a recycling centre behind the DJ Du Plessis Building, West Campus and students are welcome to send their electrical gadgets there for recycling.