2018's Sphere of Influence

Glenda Vergeer, Creative Director & Editor

For most of us, the New Year signifies a beginning, a new fresh perspective and the determination to achieve our dreams. We begin each day, hoping for a better future for the ourselves and the next generation. I’ve been on a tertiary education journey, since last October and as I learn more about Sustainable Development and the fragility of our planet, I find myself pondering how best I can put all this new-found insight and my resources to best use. Admittedly, I’m still figuring all the finite details out in these early days of the year!

Notwithstanding though, during a lecture on ‘spheres of influence’ earlier this week, I realised my resources; amongst them a database of green business listings with restricted view; is of zero-use to anyone. Despite lengthy and justifiably sound economic advice, I still felt compelled to ‘open-up’ the restrictions on our e-directory listings for the next couple of months.

So whilst the economics model is being restructured, I’m delighted to be able to share the initial website analysis since our launch last year. With over 5300 views, averaging four minutes each; the most popular categories in our listings are the events page, and then content relating to recycling, alternative energy and waste management in that order. And all this without any boosted adverts or push marketing! As I finalise a more detailed report for you, I hope you will continue to support our journey and use our website as a useful resource for moving towards your own greener journey.

I wanted to also use this ‘note’ for the New Year to share my annual trend review, incorporating elements that could leap-frog our development sustainably, significantly changing the ‘sphere of influence’ on our community.

1. A Water crisis: increasing uncertainty of rainfall patterns with lower average than normal rainfall is commonly attributable to massive land degradation and climate change, but the crisis is also compounded by increasing pressure on our groundwater systems. It would be folly to underestimate our water ecosystem fragility, for I can’t fathom the impact if the taps are really closed in Cape Town on Day Zero.

2. Energy Dependency: whilst strides are being made to diversify our suite of energy sources, the risk of hydroelectric power failure is real, and the change to ‘dirty’ energy solutions isn’t mitigating that risk, it’s compounding a negative impact!

3. Food Security: Soil degradation, unsustainable farming practices and deforestation place our national food banks at much greater risk than we care to acknowledge.

4. Impact of Climate Change: its REAL! And it's not a developed world problem…it's a global threat to our humanity. We are over the edge already. Our carbon footprint and emissions are escalating, contributing to warmer temperatures, causing unprecedented extreme weather events. The risk of flooding and drought are already a reality - we just don’t pay attention to the signs.

5. Business Responsibility: Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) contribution and donations to a community are NOT the same as accountability and transparency in reporting on Sustainability Indexes. Measures and real activity to demonstrate how organisations are being sustainable within their own operations are how businesses need to be responsible.

6. Waste: If you haven’t watched it, then watch the series Blue Planet 2… the story and damage on the delicate ecosystems of our oceans is changing the landscape of packaging, forcing an urgency in agendas to manage plastic waste. Yet, waste management closer to home is more desperate with the risk to health and economic development… the full impact of the recent Cholera outbreak is yet to be fully accounted for. Yet, I’m still unclear who will take accountability to ensure it never happens again?

7. Mobility: complaints about the traffic are rife, but without collaborative planning to manage our crumbling road infrastructure, to manage the decreasing air quality standards or provide alternative transport solutions, we will be stuck for some time yet. Admittedly we’ve no capacity for electric vehicles much less autonomous technology, but aggressive emission target reductions and tangible commitments to supporting the transport industry are well within our grasp.

8. Liveability standards: these are based on our urban quality of life, considering various assessments of healthcare, culture and environment, education and infrastructure. More than 50% of our population is expected to live in urban centres before 2030, so we need to do MUCH more to understand the matrix and prepare our cities for an accelerating boom in migration.

9. Environmental Refugees: if nature washed away my livelihood in a flood, or dried up my prospects with a drought, then like millions around the planet, I would also pack my belongings and MOVE. Moving because of the impact of climate change is not fully appreciated and we often think if it as being international cross-border migration, but even local inter-city migration poses challenges for ‘refugees’ of our country.

10. Transparency: We don’t read the labels for ingredient contents, much less consider the nutritional value of our consumption. Yet, without a full appreciation of what we consume, its source and processing standards we decrease our ability to hold businesses accountable. The onus of our choices is indeed individual however, improved product labelling and transparency of content and source is a responsibility shared at institutional and organisational level.

Those ten environmental trends are my own for 2018, derived from a plethora of conversations and research, but with, I hope, sufficiently local specific context of our challenges. Already my “note” has exceeded its intended word count, before I could delve into the fore-mentioned references and case studies, but I hope your interest has been piqued.

There will be more news, facts and details about our local growing green sector’s impact and efforts to address each of these trends in each monthly newsletter and of course it’s all freely available on our website.

As always, I’d love to get your feedback and contributions, so I urge you to engage with us on Twitter and Facebook share this with a friend and encourage any business in the sector, we may have missed, to list with us. For now at least, its FREE and I reckon we could all do with increasing our ‘spheres of influence’ as we enrich the quality of each chapter in our sustainable journeys through the next eleven months of 2018.

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