31 of South Africa’s beaches will be awarded Blue Flag status on Thursday in recognition of their cleanliness and positive environmental management. The 31 beaches span 13 of South Africa’s municipalities and is almost double the number of beaches awarded Blue Flag status last year. Last year just 18 beaches around the country received Blue Flag status, nine of those in the Western Cape.
The Blue Flag award is run by the Foundation for Environmental Education and is given to beaches and marinas that have met stringent standards of water quality, safety, environmental education and information and general environmental management criteria, set by the FEE. Globally almost 4,000 beaches and marinas globally are being awarded Blue Flags.
Of the 31 beaches being awarded Blue Flags tomorrow, seven of them will be in Cape Town, one more than the city received last year. Last year, six beaches were awarded Blue Flags: Clifton Fourth, Mnandi, Bikini in Gordon’s Bay, Muizenberg, Strandfontein and a section of Camps Bay.The Western Cape last year had a total of nine beaches with Blue Flag status with Grotto, Hawston Beach and Stilbaai adding to the City of Cape Town haul.
The 31 beaches being awarded Blue Flag status will be announced tomorrow by Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk.
350. It’s the amount of carbon dioxide that scientists believe is the safe upper limit for our planet. It’s also the name of a global movement that is mobilising the world to take action on Saturday October 24, the International Global Day of Climate Action. The day of action will include actions from almost every country in the world and will call on all governments to take action to reach achieve an “ambitious, fair, and binding global climate deal”.
Two years ago scientists issued a series of studies showing that a carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere of more than 350 parts per million (ppm) would be disastrous for life on earth. Right now the atmospheric concentration of CO2 is 390ppm and the 350 campaign on Saturday will be to call on leaders to set goals to reduce this to under the 350ppm threshold.
Around South Africa there will be a series of events celebrating the 350 declaration. Johannesburg celebrations will include the Jozi 350 Climate Action Day at Emmerentia Dam, and the Tree planting for carbon offset. Cape Town events will include the Human 350 on Table Mountain and the 350 melting iceblocks on Muizenberg beach.
The campaign has also attracted support from a number of prominent people including Bishop Desmond Tutu, who penned an article in support of 350.org which has been published in major US newspapers. In Unity doomed apartheid. Next up: climate change, Tutu wrtites: “In South Africa, we showed that if we act on the side of justice, we have the power to turn tides. Worldwide, we have a chance to start turning the tide of climate change with just such a concerted effort today.”
A full list of SA events can be found on the 350.org website.
The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) today approved a standard for a one-charger-fits-all format for future cellphone chargers. For consumers this means that they will not need to buy a new charger each time they change cellphones and they will be able to share a single charger between multiple users. For cellphone makers it will reduce the need to ship a new charger with each and every phone they produce, significantly reducing the number of chargers in production.
The move to a universal charger comes just two weeks before the Climate Change Talks to be held in Barcelona in early November and cements a decision first made at the Mobile World Congress in February. At the time all major manufacturers, excluding Apple, agreed to work towards a universal cellphone charger. Apple subsequently joined a European initiative to promote universal chargers by 2010.
The ITU says the new Universal Charging Solution (UCS) is expected to reduce standby energy consumption by 50% and “eliminate 51,000 tonnes of redundant chargers, and a subsequent reduction of 13.6 million tonnes in greenhouse gas emissions each year”.
The new charger format will use the MicroUSB input jack, a connection already built into many newer cellphones.
In years gone by, village residents and even early city dwellers were familiar with the notion of “The Commons”, collaboratively owned and managed resources such as grazing land, rivers, forests and water sources. But gradually over time private ownership and corporate growth have whittled away at these all-important resources and today the idea of publicly-owned space and food is all but forgotten. There are, however, some that are trying rekindle an interest in public versus private space and the resources that can be developed in these.
One of these is Fallen Fruit, a US-based artists project that offers a new way of rediscovering the Commons and aims to re-educate city dwellers on public versus private space.
At its heart Fallen Fruit is a mapping project that collects data publicly accessible fruit in various suburbs around Los Angeles. Most of the fruit mapped is on trees in private gardens and parks but which cross the border line into the public space of pavements and roads. Fallen Fruit – aka David Burns, Matias Viegener and Austin Young – encourage residents of their suburb to pick these “public” fruits, tell friends there whereabouts and even plant fruit trees on their own property borders. The group also organises nightime “forages” involving residents who are educated about the public fruit available and the idea of public space.
Matias Viegener says that their are multiple motivations for the group, apart from its art origins. “One is ecological and environmental. We’re interested in changing the actual the organic shape of the city and suburbs. The other reason is social and cultural. We’re interested establishing relationship between people that don’t have existing relationships. LA is a very anonymous city. Most people don’t know their neighbourhood and their neighbours. It’s about walking, knowing your neighbours, knowing your neighbourhood.”
Another project challenging the relationship between public and private space with horticultural tools is the UK-based Guerrilla Gardening.
Founded by London-resident Richard Reynolds, the Guerrilla Gardening website started life as a record of his own secretive night time gardening expeditions around his home. Frustrated with not having a garden of his own and by the generally poor state of public gardening in the area, Reynolds took to the street under cover of dark to plant flowers in land not owned by himself. He documented the progress of his garden on his website and quickly attracted other like-minded gardeners eager to improve their suburbs and cities with greenery.
Like the Fallen Fruit project, Guerrilla Gardening is as much about the plants as it is about public space and getting residents to get involved in improving their surrounds. In his recently released book, On Guerrilla Gardening, Reynolds talks extensively about the erosion of public space over the years and how there are few places left where citizens can simply enjoy being without being expected to pay for a drink or entrance fee. Using neglected public spaces, Guerrilla Gardeners aim to both make neighbourhoods more attractive as well as creating more spaces for residents to enjoy the outdoors.
Because guerrilla gardeners work with land that is not their own they technically fall foul of the law. Reynolds explains how this can very often bring them into conflict with authorities but how residents are generally more welcoming of the positive changes and very often get involved themselves.
Both the Fallen Fruit and the Guerrilla Gardening projects offer interesting approaches to challenging the perceived wisdom around food production, public space and community involvement.
Owls are associated with wisdom in some cultures, think of the wise old owl in the Winnie the Pooh stories. But, sadly, those stories are about as close as some kids are ever likely come to the birds.
Not everyone in South Africa would see this as a big loss, though. Owls are feared in many African cultures because they’re associated with back luck and death. Take this story from a Birdlife International news release this week, for instance. A family in Zimbabwe apparently called their local Birdlife for help because they feared they’d been bewitched by an owl and were apparently afraid for their lives.
The owl turned out to be a white-faced Scops-owl (Otus leucotis), like the one pictured above, that had been hanging around the family’s home for about four months. “The father of the family was very scared and did not want to go anywhere near the tree where the owl was perched”, Rueben Njolomole, BirdLife Zimbabwe’s education officer said. “The owl did not want to leave the source of it’s food, and may have been a domesticated owl which had escaped because it was not scared of humans.”
Owls’ nocturnal calls may seem creepy to some, I suppose, but to others they’re lovely and the birds serve a useful purpose in suburbia. They can eat thousands of rodents each year, reducing the need for other, often poisonous, methods of control.
Birdlife Zimbabwe says it has decided to do something about the negative folklore surrounding owls in that country. Its staff are visiting local schools to educate children about the benefits the birds can bring and the organisation wants to produce a 30-minute documentary for national television to demystify owls.
In South Africa, owls have much the same image problem. But I just came across a company called EcoSolutions that’s doing its bit to make people in Johannesburg and other urban centres more owl friendly. It has set up an urban owl box project in Gauteng, Northwest and the Western Cape provinces in a bid to give the neighbourhood spotted eagle owls and barn owls somewhere to breed. The project also entails an education programme in schools.
“Many owls hunt within suburban gardens and although food is available, breeding sites are in short supply,” EcoSolutions says on its website.
So, if you want to do your bit to bring owls back to your leafy ‘burb – and encourage natural rodent control – you can contact EcoSolutions about installing an artificial owl breeding box in your garden – look at their website for more information.
Alternatively, if you’re good with tools, you could build your own owl box, the Endangered Wildlife Trust put together some information on how to do it here.