The Earth Organization is an international, independent, non-profit group which seeks to reverse the dwindling spiral of the plant and animal kingdoms and our environment through education and action.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

The Elder Rhinos Need You


"The Elder Rhinos Need You"
Published in the Namib Times
By Marcia Fargnoli

The sun is setting and you are sitting by a water hole.  In the distance you see a puff of air, warm and made visible against the cool night breeze.  As you watch, slowly she walks toward you.  She stops and gazes out at the scenery, as if she sees something beyond.  She walks to the water hole pauses and catches your eye. The majesty of meeting a rhino in the wild is an unforgettable moment. 

Rhinos are one of the great elders of the animal kingdom.  Ancient bushman rock paintings in Southern Africa depict rhinos, which have always played an important role in the circle of life. They are prehistoric creatures and according to science they have been around for 50 million years.  Yet 95% of the world rhino population has been decimated by humans in a short time period. At the beginning of the 19th century, there were one million rhinos in the wild.  By 1970, there were around 70,000.  Today there are less than 24,500.   

Some 100 rhino have been killed this past month in South Africa and more recently 5 dead rhinos have been discovered per day just across our borders there.  In June in Namibia a rhino was discovered dead with its horns brutally removed, 6 months after a poached rhino was discovered on Christmas day. 

Is this how we treat the elders of our planet?  Human beings should be ashamed of themselves. 

Even though rhinos are well built for survival, they were not prepared to face an organized gang of humans with an insatiable taste for greed.  The driving force behind the horrific killings of this great animal elder is the very thing which was meant to protect them.  Their horn has been sought after for rumoured and unproven medicinal benefits in Asia.  Historically, using rhino horn is a sign of prestige in several Asian cultures.  

Due to the demand for their horn, Namibia lost most of its rhino population in the 1970s and 1980s.  Now Namibia hosts one third of the total black rhino population on the planet.   How quickly can that amount of rhinos be lost?  Current statistics show that it has only taken 2 years for 1,700 rhinos to be decimated in South Africa. It can happen very quickly.  Black rhinos are one of the rhino species most under threat and they are classified as critically endangered, meaning that they are at an extremely high risk of going extinct in the wild.

In Namibia there are increasing threats as bordering countries clamp down on security and Asian mining companies encroach onto rhino territories.  Yet the Ministry of Environment and Tourism and Save the Rhino Trust are prepared for the worst.  Recently a letter was featured on Business Day that said “Rhino poaching can be stopped dead in its tracks, and Namibia can show South Africa, Africa and the world how to do this.”  So come on Namibia, let’s do this. 


We need your help. Please report any suspicious activity regarding rhino or other wildlife by sending a toll free sms to 55555.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Marine Phosphate Mining Has Been Banned


This week the Namibian government has made history by taking a landmark decision on behalf of the environment for current and future generations by banning marine phosphate mining for the next 18 months.  Cabinet has sited that we must be cautious and that “such mining cannot happen if there is no certainty on what impact these phosphate mining activities could have on the environment.”  This is the first time that the Namibian government has taken a stand such as this by making reference to the Environmental Management Act 2007, section 3(2)(k) which enshrines the precautionary principle in law.  Cabinet has set a very clear precedent that the Namibian government takes this provision of law very seriously.  We thank them for their vision and wisdom.

The Namibian government has also taken a stand in terms of the Constitution, section 95(l) which states that the government must maintain "…ecosystems, essential ecological processes and biological diversity of Namibia and utilization of living natural resources on a sustainable basis for the benefit of all Namibians, both present and future.” The late honourable Chief Justice, Justice Mahomed described the Constitution in a landmark decision stating that the Constitution "...is a mirror reflecting the national soul/the identification of the ideals and aspirations of a nation, the articulation of the values bonding its people and disciplining its government."  Indeed this week we have demonstrated that the soul of our nation has not been lost.

We are one of the few countries in the world with the protection of the environment enshrined in the Constitution. It is our duty to honour, protect, and defend this provision.  The living Constitution is the supreme law of our country, which governs the creation of all laws and the interpretation of those laws.  Our elected government officials take an oath to uphold, protect and defend all provisions in the Constitution. This week they have demonstrated to us that they take this oath seriously.  We thank them.

This week our government has decided that it will not compromise the integrity of our supreme law by promoting industry that will directly and dramatically decrease the sustainability of the living marine resources, leaving behind an ocean that cannot provide for future generations.  Phosphate mining of the seafloor is a major concern for leading marine scientists worldwide as it could cause a collapse in the marine ecosystem which provides a very important source of food and jobs in a drought ridden developing nation such as Namibia in addition to being home to one of the most productive marine wildlife ecosystems in the world.  The concerns of the scientists have finally been taken seriously, with Namibia taking the lead worldwide to consider science in decision making.  

Along with the government, many key stakeholders have stepped up to the plate and taken a stand to raise concerns and awareness on marine phosphate mining, also stating that we must remain cautious as there could be potentially disastrous effects.  As many of you know, the Earth Organization along with a larger group of partners have been fighting for the precautionary principle to be employed with regard to Marine Phosphate Mining since 2011. The communities raised their concerns and reflected that the potential cost of going forward with marine phosphate mining would not be acceptable to society.  The principle cited by the people was that if society does not accept the cost then the government should not either [Environmental Management Act 2007, section 3(2)(h)].

The decision to place a moratorium on marine phosphate mining has put Namibia as a world leader in wise and cautious thinking in terms of marine mining.  Where many other countries have rushed forward in causing irreparable damage to the marine environment by not taking scientific reasoning into account, Namibia has shown wisdom in being cautious.  This very caution is exactly how sustainability is achieved.  Indeed if this type of decision making continues to take place, we face a bright future.  The very sun that is on our flag is the light which Namibia shines for the world to see.  We have set the precedent.

Let us continue to be the example for others to follow.  May we always stand in the soil of unwavering truth and let justice prevail as the most beautiful blossom.
"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."  - Margaret Mead
Please take the time to send a thank you letter to our honourable Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources Bernhard Esau who took the lead to ensure that our marine environment is sustainable for current and future generations by sending an email to besau@mfmr.gov.na

For more background information on the hazards of marine phosphate mining, please go here: https://sites.google.com/site/earthorganizationnamibia/action-campaigns/marinephosphatemining


Saturday, 14 September 2013

March for the Environment 2013


As part of Biodiversity Week 2, today we marched for the environment with this year's theme being about stopping pollution of our food, supporting local food, being conscious of not wasting food, and protecting the environment. These kids really are such an inspiration. We each took a turn at getting on the microphone to raise awareness about environmental issues. We offered words of hope and inspiration on the streets of Walvis Bay. Together united we spoke on behalf of those whose voices are unheard, especially the environment and future generations.This is grassroots change at it's best.... with the roots being our children and our hope. If these are our next leaders, then we have a bright future ahead of us. 

For more photos from this event, please click here:  March for the Environment 2013

Ocean Art Competition and Hummingbird Launch


As part of Biodiversity Week 1, there was an ocean art competition organized by the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources, the NACOMA project, and several coastal schools for World Ocean Day. Our Director was asked to give a speech and offer words of encouragement while officially launching the Hummingbird Programme of the Earth Organization Namibia. The Hummingbird Programme is aimed at helping every person to realize that no matter how small they are they can make a difference. See: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IGMW6YWjMxw to watch the story of the hummingbird. The slogan is "I will be a hummingbird. I will do the best I can."

For additional photos of the event, please click here: Ocean Art Competition and Hummingbird Launch

Fearless Summer - Winter


Our Director of the Earth Organization Namibia is a Native American Indian from NY and living in Namibia. In June she played her Native American Flute on the street with a signboard to raise awareness on the world wide problem of extreme energy. This music is a prayer and a voice for all our relations whose cries go unheard around our planet every day. As part of the June Week of Action of Fearless Summer, she played her Native American Flute on June 24th in Manhattan, NY and on June 29th in Swakopmund, Namibia. Let us unify for the environment across the seasons from all the directions- North, South, East and West.

Please go here to view more photos from the events: Fearless Summer - Winter Photos

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Our Beautiful Benguela


"Our Beautiful Benguela"
Published in the Namib Times
By Marcia Fargnoli

One upon a time, there was a beautiful ocean current named Benguela.  She was one of the greatest caretakers on Earth.  She gave the most abundant food on the whole planet and provided free meals to the tiniest and most gigantic creatures in the entire world.  Animals from across the Earth traveled far distances to visit her.  Dolphins, whales, seals, turtles, birds and fish were among her children.

Beautiful Benguela was such an amazing caretaker that she even provided water to those that lived on the land. The tiniest of water droplets danced on her surface and moved across the parched landscape.  Those in search of freshwater and food found that she provided everything they needed to survive.  

She was a great artist and at the end of every day she took the time to create the most beautiful paintings with the sun.  The colours were extraordinary.  Some nights she was covered in a blanket of mist and other nights the stars shined brighter over her than anywhere else. She was an exceptional musician.  Her waves hummed the most delightful songs by day and by night.  She never stopped singing. She was inspiring and offered solace to countless weary souls. 

She was joyful. She tickled toes with her cool comforting waves.  The children spent countless days befriending her.  They played for hours on end and lost themselves in childhood games. Her waves danced continuously and some went out on boards and boats and danced with her.  She made people smile. She was distinctively special and something unique and unmistakable about her resonated with anyone who took the time to notice.

Yet there were others who didn't care.  In fact they only wanted to make money from her.  They dumped poison into her, threw garbage at her, blasted for oil, and cut and dug away at her floor.  They took more food than they needed and they searched endlessly for anything to bring money.  Greed ran rampant.  Those in search of wealth didn't understand her nor did they even seem to have a heart to care about what they were doing to her.

The gluttonous humans took almost everything from her, leaving her a shadow of what she once was.  Her children started dying. Whales, dolphins, birds, seals, fish and all kinds of creatures washed up dead onto the shore.  Yet, the ravenous continued, they said it’s normal. They didn't understand the animals were warning them to stop.

Beautiful Benguela was so magical and gave so generously. Why would anyone want to harm her? The people who understood and loved her dearly knew something was terribly wrong. They cried vast tears each night for her.  The children wished upon a star that she would no longer have to face such abuse.

Some people fiercely defended her.  They called and they cried, but the bullies continued.  She fought to stay alive for years, but Beautiful Benguela could not survive the constant torment from the bullies and eventually she collapsed. This is how it came to be that we lost the world’s most beautiful and generous caretaker.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

The War on Life


"The War on Life"
Published in the Namib Times,
By Marcia Stanton

You’re on a flight, off to somewhere fun.  You look out at the wings of the airplane and you are amazed at how strong it is.  Suddenly you look and you see a nut and bolt come apart.  At first, you think it will all be fine... until another comes off, and then another.  The wing starts coming apart. You panic.  The plane will not be able to keep flying with a broken wing.  If only that mechanic had paid attention and made sure the plane didn’t lose all those nuts and bolts.  Perhaps one or two lost would have been fine, but losing so many made it so weak it eventually fell apart. 

The same holds true with removing species from our planet.  As species die off and don’t get replaced, the weaker the Earth gets and the more likely we are to crash.  Currently it is estimated that we are losing approximately 10,000 species per year. These species are permanently gone- they are extinct.  Some might say that extinction is natural and it’s always occurred, but the problem is that the current rate of extinction is between 1,000 to 10,000 times higher than normal. 

We humans are almost wholly responsible for this drastic increase in species loss. We demand too many resources. We pollute, mine, create industrial areas, construct roads, power lines and power plants, build unnecessary structures, and hunt, fish, and collect too many species.  Simply put, worldwide we take way more than we need.  We effectively convert areas where animals live into places they cannot survive, all to meet the demands of excessive human wants. 

One by one, we drive species to extinction, never to return.  Yet each species has a unique role to play.  If you remove one species, it affects all the other species in a negative way.  A healthy ecosystem is a balance of a variety of species which depend on each other.  None survive alone.  A larger variety of species makes the environment stronger, just as more nuts and bolts in an airplane make it stronger. This is what we call biodiversity.

Biodiversity provides food security, jobs, medicine, disease and disaster control, and social, cultural and spiritual needs. Only 5 percent of known plant species have been screened for their medicinal values, although we continue to lose at least 100 plant species daily. According to the World Resources Institute, “surprisingly, scientists have a better understanding of how many stars there are in the galaxy than how many species there are on Earth.”

Although we don’t yet know all the species on the planet, we do know that at least 80 percent of our needs come directly from species including those we don’t know by name.  In our greedy drive to be ‘civilized’ – to have more than what we need - every year we destroy 10,000 of the very species which are essential to our own survival.

The question remains “can any civilization wage relentless war on life without destroying itself and without losing the right to be called civilized?” Rachel Carson

The Unsung Heroes


"The Unsung Heroes"
Published in the Namib Times,
By Marcia Stanton

That little yellow and black critter buzzing around your yard is one of the greatest heroes our planet has ever seen.  You may say she’s annoying and perhaps even scary, but the fact is that you need her for your survival. Albert Einstein said that if she “disappeared off the surface of the globe, man would have only four years to live."

She is the bee: the most effective plant pollinator on earth.

Bees - along with beetles, butterflies, birds and bats - are responsible for pollinating the earth’s plants.  Without them, over 30% of crops and 90% of wild plants would die.  Humans and animals rely on plants for survival and if we destroy plant pollinators, we destroy plants and ultimately most of our food and oxygen.

These natural crop pollinators provide us with free agricultural labour that would otherwise cost US$250 billion.  Bees ask no salary to do their work and they put in plenty of overtime hours. How do we repay them? We eradicate these incredible little volunteer labourers with pesticides and we effectively retrench them permanently. 

We’ve been throwing caution to the wind for too long using pesticides without comprehending the long term affect.  Now bees face a major crisis called Colony Collapse Disorder and one of the main causes is long term pesticide use.  Scientists have detected over 121 different pesticides in samples of bees, wax and pollen.

As a result, it has been estimated that 50% of the bee population has already been wiped out and specialists are concerned that bees are heading for extinction. Losing this many bees greatly increases the chance of a major world food supply crisis.  According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, bees alone pollinate 71 of the 100 crop species responsible for food security. 

Bees are irreplaceable and the fact remains that there are simply not enough humans in the world to pollinate all the world’s crops by hand.  One bee colony pollinates up to 300 million flowers per day.  A human could never keep up as the only way for a person to pollinate is to use a feather brush to place pollen on each individual flower.  This is a labour intensive process that drastically increases the cost and decreases the yield of food production, ultimately causing much higher food prices and food scarcity. Globally, it costs US$5.7 billion per year for the lower crop yields and increased production costs caused by bee decline.

Although scientists do not know precisely how to avert the disaster, they have suggested a precautionary approach until more is known.  As a result, this year on April 29th, the European Union voted to place a two-year moratorium on three pesticides that could pose an acute risk to bees.

Now more than ever we need to remember the unsung heroes of our planet and proceed with caution on how we treat them.  Let their plight remind us to stop tinkering with things we don’t fully understand.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Are Our Rich Mineral Resources a Curse?




"Are Our Rich Mineral Resources a Curse?"
Published in the Namib Times, 10 May 2013.
By Marcia Stanton

Most of our vast land and ocean has been leased out to mining companies. It’s concerning given that generally mining is not sustainable as it involves the removal of finite resources which do not reproduce within a reasonable period of time. Sustainability is supposed to be a pillar of Namibian society, with the concept even incorporated into our Constitution. 

Due to mining being an unsustainable industry highly reliant on unstable world markets, many mining projects fail and at some point all mines have to close. The result is an ecologically damaged area, a polluted environment, exhausted water resources, poor health, job and income losses, unnecessary infrastructure and the entire mining footprint to clean up.  With mineral agreements across our entire country, the cumulative impact is substantial.

Some might argue that the positive impacts outweigh the negative.  Often people argue that mines are a large source of employment, but according to the National Planning Commission, mining only accounts for 2% of jobs in Namibia. It is a benefit that mining supplies 8.8% of GDP and provides 54% of foreign exchange earnings, but the dependency on minerals may actually be a curse.

According to Oxford, Namibia is ranked 16th in the world in terms of mineral dependence and this dependency is only increasing.   High reliance on minerals is considered negative and it is associated with poor governance and lower levels of economic and institutional development. 

The earnings from the mineral sector may sound enticing, but the concentration of mineral rights remains mostly with the wealthy and is inaccessible to the local people, causing income inequality.  If the wealth generated from mining only remains with the few, does it really serve to benefit all of society? 

The World Bank has stated that high income inequality threatens economic status and development potential.   In 2011, the 40 richest mining billionaires earned a net worth of US$300 billion.  This is equivalent to about of 40% of sub-Saharan Africa’s GDP (excluding South Africa).  According to UNICEF, the wealthiest 61 million persons hold the same amount of money as the poorest 3.5 billion people in the world. 

Namibia has one of the most unequal distributions of income and wealth in the world according to UNICEF. This is due to mining dependency.  This poses a major problem as the quality of life of people in a country depends on how income is distributed.  

Business Insider has demonstrated that income inequality is the cause of the world’s most pressing social problems including the depletion of essential health care services, water and sanitation facilities, and primary and secondary education.  Social impacts include diminished child welfare, low life expectancy, and increased crime, teen pregnancy, mental illness and addictions.

The Economist has called income inequality “one of the biggest social, economic and political challenges of our time.”  If we are truly prepared to take on this challenge then we must question whether leasing our entire country out to mining companies is a good idea after all.

Friday, 17 May 2013

LL Namibia Phosphates Marine Phosphate Trial


LL Namibia Phosphates proposes to develop a world-scale marine phosphate mine and to process the phosphate as feedstock for phosphoric acid production.  The company is looking at conducting a trial in Luderitz (Namibia).  Although the advertisement states that no chemicals or additives will be used, the phosphate that will be used in this manufacturing process contains heavy metals such as Cadmium, Arsenic, Lead, Mercury, Chromium, Vanadium, Selenium and the two radioactive elements Uranium and Thorium.  These hazardous and radioactive wastes will need to be leached from the crushed ore, which will have a large long-term negative impact on the health of the people and the environment.   If you are concerned about these or other potential impacts, please become an Interested and Affected Party.  If you register as an Interested and Affected Party, your comments must be taken into consideration in terms of the Environmental Management Act of 2007 and the Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations of 2012.  

In order to register as an Interested and Affected Party, please contact: 
cvisser@rbs.com.na
eaizaaks@rbs.com.na
fax +26461306059.  

Thanks for your care and concern!


Thursday, 16 May 2013

Nature’s Guide to Happiness


Published in the Namib Times, 3 May 2013.
By Marcia Stanton

This place makes you feel part of creation, a place that puts you in touch with your soul. It’s so vast it takes your breath away.  Because the land is so infinite and so untouched it delivers a sense of calm and peace.

This is what tourists visiting Namibia say according to personal interviews with the Namibia Tourism Board.  People come to Namibia to get away from the stress created in more developed countries.  Stress is a huge problem in the world and there are over 326 million internet sites available to help us deal with it. 

Although some people think that money can buy happiness, the truth is that affluence is the main cause of stress.   Many prosperous countries and people are facing increased stress because of the wealth they have.  People come to Namibia to get away from this stress and tourism is ranked as one of the four pillars in Namibia’s economy for this reason.

Our bodies were not designed to take the type of stress many now face with loud noise, crowding, or pollution.  If you put a bird in a cage with no access to the natural world, it will pluck all its feathers out.  Similarly, if you put humans in a place with little access to a clean environment, they will develop ailments like depression and/or addictions.  Whether we like it or not, our body recognises nature as being good for us and things contrary to nature as bad for us. 

The “Happy Planet Index” has exposed the issue of environmental stress and has alternatively ranked countries according to sustainability and happiness with the overall score determined by factors including wellbeing, life expectancy and the impact on the environment.  Many developed countries are worse off than less-developed countries in terms of happiness.  Costa Rica ranks as the happiest country along with nine countries from Latin America and the Caribbean in the top ten ranking. 

Namibia is ranked 96 of 151 countries with lower life-expectancy and income inequality being the main factors behind the poor ranking.  Even with these negative factors, Namibia is happier than the well-developed country of the United States which is ranked at 105.  Namibia also fares better than our neighbours South Africa (ranked 142) and Botswana (ranked the worst at 151). 

We have income inequality in common with our neighbours as a major factor leading to unhappiness.  According to a Mail and Guardian analysis, mining is the key driver behind income inequality and causes a greater division between rich and poor.  Namibia, South Africa and Botswana all have a rich supply of minerals and are the three most unequal countries in the world. 

So what is it that puts Namibia at an advantage over the United States, South Africa and Botswana in terms of happiness?  Our vast environment raises our ranking and without it we would be very unhappy indeed.  We damage the environment less and this is our saving grace.  We live in an arid Eden that delivers a sense of calm and peace.  Where would we be without it? 

Monday, 13 May 2013

Thank you for your support!!

This past weekend, this blog reached 40,000 total page views since we started it last year.  Thanks to each one of you for your support!!  

Friday, 10 May 2013

Fearless Summer - Fearless Winter


Join the Movement. Be Fearless. Speak the Truth. Join us for this Fearless Summer - Fearless Winter (see We Are Fearless Summer Website).

Our Director of the Earth Organization Namibia is a Native American Indian from NY and living in Namibia. She will be playing her Native American Flute on the street with a signboard to raise awareness on the world wide problem of extreme energy. This music is a prayer and a voice for all our relations whose cries go unheard around our planet every day. As part of the June Week of Action of Fearless Summer, she will play her Native American Flute on June 24th in Manhattan, NY and on June 29th in Swakopmund, Namibia. Let us unify across the seasons from all the directions- North, South, East and West. 

Exact locations are yet to be announced.

For more information, find these events on facebook by clicking the following links:
Fearless Summer (Manhattan, NY) 
Fearless Summer (Winter) (Swakopmund, Namibia) 

For more information, please go here:
We Are Fearless Summer Website
We Are Fearless Summer (Facebook)
The Earth Organization Namibia Website
The Earth Organization Namibia (Facebook)

Monday, 6 May 2013

The Worth of the Deep Blue



"The Worth of the Deep Blue"
Published in the Namib Times, 26 April 2013.
By Marcia Stanton

Although humans cannot live in the ocean, without it we would not be able to live on earth.  The ocean makes up 71% of the Earth’s surface and 80% of all life is contained there.  It regulates the climate and absorbs nearly one-third of human-caused carbon dioxide emissions. It provides over half of the planet’s oxygen and regulates the earth’s weather which in turn provides us with fresh drinking water.

Much of our food is provided by the sea and fish is a very important source of food security, particularly for the poorest in society. The ocean is a lifeline when we get hit by drought and it contains the only food not dependent on freshwater. According to the UN, the ocean is the largest source of protein on earth and approximately 2.6 billion people rely on marine life as their primary protein source.

The ocean provides much of the medicine to help fight cancer, heart disease and viruses. It promotes psychological well being and provides opportunities for recreation.

Over 3 billion people on earth directly depend on marine life for their livelihoods. According to the UN, the market value of ocean and coastal resources and industries is estimated at US$3 trillion per year or 5% of global GDP.  In Namibia, the fishing industry alone provides direct employment of around 13,380 people and contributes $4.8 billion in foreign currency earnings and approximately 5% of Namibia’s total Gross Domestic Product.

In total, all the natural resources and services the ocean provides for free is worth about US$21 trillion annually.  Yet, even though it contributes so much to our well being, we know more about the moon and mars than we do our ocean.  Unfortunately humans are tinkering with the delicate balance of the ocean that we know very little about.  We have only explored 5% of it, yet 40% of the ocean is negatively affected by us.  Pollution,  mining, oil exploration and development, and overfishing are the main drivers to the demise of the sea.

One of the worst human impacts on the ocean is pollution.  The main cause of marine pollution is the use and production of the fertilizers nitrogen and phosphorous (phosphate).   Sewage, solid waste, vehicular and industrial emissions only compound the problem.  The result is that there are now 405 dead zones in our planet’s ocean caused by pollution.  These areas are so toxic that virtually no life except algae and bacteria exists there. 

Only 4% of these dead zones are showing any sign of recovery and most are only getting larger.  The largest dead zone in our ocean is 70,000 square kilometres.  Global warming will only lead to the increase in dead zones.  If we stay on the present course, it is predicted that more than a fifth of the world’s ocean may become a dead zone. 

Now more than ever, we need to proceed with caution on how we treat our ocean, not only for the wellbeing of marine life, but for our very survival which intricately depends on the health of the ocean. 

Monday, 22 April 2013

The Movement of the People

This sign next to the Hudson River is a chilling reminder that the effect of pollution remains long into the future.
It is up to us to be the change we wish to see.

"The Movement of the People"
Published in the Namib Times, 19 April 2013.
By Marcia Stanton

Peacefully rowing down the Cuyahoga River in your boat, you think all if fine until suddenly the river catches on fire.  You go to the Hudson River to catch a fish, but there is a sign that says fishing is banned because the fish are so contaminated with toxins they cannot be safely eaten. You sit under a tree to listen to the birds but you hear none. You look up and there are no birds to be found.  You find out that the culprit is the pesticide DDT and it is also being detected in human breast milk resulting in 15% of infant deaths.  You decide to visit Storm King Mountain, a park renowned for its natural beauty, only to find that it is the proposed site for the largest power plant of its kind in the world.

You move to a new village called Love Canal.  A few years later, people start reporting an alarming number of miscarriages, cancer cases and nervous disorders. Some 56% of children are born with a birth defect.  Children playing in the rain puddles come back home with burns on their hands and faces from the water.  A few years later you find out that your village had been built on top of 21,000 tons of toxic waste.  Suddenly the government advises you to stop eating the fruits and vegetables you grow in your yard and to stop drinking the water.  In fact, they advise you to move.

You then decide to relocate near the beautiful Susquehanna River, only to be greeted by an eerie siren and to find out that 150,000 litres of radioactive waste has just been released into the river from the local Nuclear Power Station.  The consequence: a spike in infant and animal mortality, birth defects and thyroid cancer discovered only years later. 

All of these real events happened in the U.S. in the 1960s and 1970s, along with many other similar events.  On April 22, 1970, some 20 million people, over 12,000 high schools, 2,000 universities and thousands of community groups protested and called for environmental reform.  They called it Earth Day- a grassroots movement of the people.  As a result of this movement in the U.S., the Environmental Protection Agency and 8 critical environmental laws were passed to protect the people and the environment.  

By 1990, the grassroots Earth Day movement included 200 million people in 141 countries.  This facilitated the 1992 United Nations Earth Summit where several international environmental laws were passed.  In 2009, the United Nations passed a resolution to designate April 22 as International Mother Earth Day.  Now 43 years after the first Earth Day was formed by a grassroots movement of concerned people, over a billion people in 192 countries are raising environmental concerns on the same day making it the largest civic observance in the world.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”-  Margaret Mead

Thursday, 18 April 2013

How Many Planets Do We Need?


"How Many Planets Do We Need?"
Published in the Namib Times, 9 April 2013.
By Marcia Stanton

It is time we rethink our addiction to limitless growth.  We are using the planet like a credit card, selfishly withdrawing too much while leaving the debt for future generations to cope with. 

The environment is a global commons which people often exploit in order to increase their own maximum individual benefit.  Meanwhile the greater global impact gets ignored. As a result, we are over using our earth’s resources.  In fact we are currently using the resources at a rate of 30% more than what can be regenerated. 

According to the Global Footprint Network, at our existing worldwide rate of resource use, we need 1 ½ planets to sustain the present level of development and consumption.  If global resource use continues to expand at the modern rate, then we will need 3 planets to sustain the earth’s population in 2050.

Presently Namibia needs 1.15 planets to sustain itself, meaning that as a whole the Namibian population is not living sustainably.  In future, Namibia could become even more unsustainable if our goal is to develop in the same manner as the first world.  European countries need nearly 3 planets and the United States needs about 4 planets to sustain their population at existing rates of development and consumption.

Clearly something has to give as we only have 1 planet.  Some 40% of all living species on Earth are at risk of going extinct and 20% of all freshwater species have gone extinct due to human activities.   If the present rate of soil damage continues, we have only about 60 years of topsoil left in the entire world for growing food.  Currently, 40% of human deaths are caused by environmental pollution.   The worst impacted are the poor who have far less access to resources including health care. 

The writing is on the wall.  Our present limitless growth will lead to the mass suffering of future generations.  They will not be able to sustain themselves from the damaged planet we are leaving them unless we make serious changes now and look at truly sustainable options for development.  Although “sustainable development” seems to be the latest buzz word, few people grasp the true meaning.  Sustainable development is defined as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” 

In order to live truly sustainably, then we need a paradigm shift in how we think and behave. We must take pressure off of the planet’s resources by lowering our consumption and population and increasing resource efficiency.  We must limit our use of non-renewable resources such as oil, coal, natural gas, uranium, phosphates, and other minerals.  We should sustainably make use of renewable resources such as solar energy, air, wind, water, soil and plants. 

It is time for us all to make changes in order for future generations to survive.  After all, "the earth is not ours; it is a treasure we hold in trust for our children and their children." - African Proverb

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Please Comment By April 24, 2013 - Husab Uranium Mine


Please make your voice heard and comment by April 24, 2013 on the Husab Uranium Mine [Swakop Uranium (Pty) Ltd] Environmental Impact Assessment Report Amendment. 


The environmental impact assessment (EIA) report amendment for the proposed changes to the Husab mine is available for public review. 

Electronic copies of the EIA report amendment will be distributed to the following authorities and  parastatals: 
• Ministry of Environment and Tourism – Directorate of Parks and Wildlife (MET:DPW); 
• Ministry of Mines and Energy (MME); 
• Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry (MWAF); 
• National Heritage Council of Namibia (NHCN); 
• Ministry of Health and Social Services (MHSS); 
• Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare (MLSW); 
• Chamber of Mines (CoM); 
• NamWater; 
• NamPower; 
• Erongo Regional Council; 
• Arandis Town Council; 
 Swakopmund Town Council; and 
• Walvis Bay Town Council 

Full hard copies of the scoping report are available for review at the following public places: 
• National Library of Namibia (Windhoek); 
• Swakopmund public library; 
• Walvis Bay public library; and 
• Arandis public library. 

Electronic copies of the report will be made available on request (on a CD). 

To ensure that your comments are included in the final EIA Amendment Report, these should be provided at the public open days and/or be sent in writing to the e-mail address/fax provided below by Wednesday, 24 April 2013. 

In writing to SLR via fax (+264 64 403 327) and/or e-mail (wpetrick@slrconsulting.com or rchristians@slrconsulting.com). 

If you have any related questions, the contact details of the consultants are listed below: 

Werner Petrickwpetrick@slrconsulting.com 

Robyn Christiansrchristians@slrconsulting.com

Liezel Swan, Office Administrator

Email:lswan@slrconsulting.com
Mobile:+264 81 829 6782
Tel:+264 64 402 317
Fax:+264 64 403 327

SLR Environmental Consulting (Namibia) (Pty) Ltd
House Schumacher
6 Tobias Hainyeko Street, Swakopmund, 
Namibia



Friday, 5 April 2013

Our Great Elder Namib



"Our Great Elder Namib"
Published in the Namib Times, 28 March 2013.
By Marcia Stanton

Once upon a time, our Great silent Elder Namib lived; she was older than the rest- 55 million years old in fact. She was a remarkable caretaker and was the guardian of the world’s most magical animals that were different from any other animals in the whole world. You could see right through some while others blended in with the earth so you couldn’t see them at all. There were big ones and tiny ones- some lived in a little bush that held water in its leaves; others made dens under the sand. The tiniest most colourful plants lived all over the surface while 2,000 year-old plants had the best view in the desert. Birds came from all around the world to visit this special Elder because they loved her and they entrusted her to care for their young.

The ocean’s fog provided clean drinking water and there was plenty of food. The light of the sun and the moon illuminated the breathtaking scenery by day and by night and the wind brought with it the warmth and the cold. There must have been billions of stars in the sky at night! Oh what a beautiful Elder, our Great Namib.

Humans became good friends of the Great Elder and found shelter in her desert. The children spent countless hours playing with her. Humans loved her dearly and were thankful for her gifts, but one day a new group of humans arrived that started hurting her, our quiet sensitive Great Elder. They poisoned, bullied and beat her up in the interest of money and fun, until one day she had scars all over her body, scars that even the moon could see at night. No one place was left unscarred.

Some humans were nice and tried to protect her, but they got bullied too.  Other humans knew our Great Elder was suffering, but they thought it was better to befriend the bullies and ignore what they were doing to her. This gave the bullies even more strength to destroy our Great Elder. The human children were heartbroken and they hated to see their friend suffer.  Although they feared they were too small and insignificant in the eyes of the adult humans, they tried to protect the Great Elder anyway.  When the bullies threw garbage on her, the children picked it up. They cried vast tears each night for their Great Elder and prayed that she would no longer have to face such abuse.

While the children were crying, the bullies continued. They even started poisoning all the water and food. They killed the magical plants and enchanting animal friends, including the babies! These animals fought to stay alive until one day they gave up.  They could not survive the constant torment from the bullies, and they disappeared forever. Our Great Elder Namib and all her friends died that day.  This is how it came to be that we lost the world’s oldest desert.

Monday, 25 March 2013

Namibia Our Motherland

PROUDLY NAMIBIANWorkers at the Village Café in Swakopmund proudly display their national colours in celebration of 23 years of Namibian Independence on 21 March 2013.

"Namibia Our Motherland"
Published in the Namib Times, 22 March 2013.
By Marcia Stanton

Let each one of us think today about what it means to have pride in our country- to have love for and devotion to the welfare of our nation.  A country is made up of people and the environment which sustains those people.  We need air, water and food for our survival.  Without the environment, we cannot have a nation because without the environment we cannot live.  The environment cuts across all cultures and is essential to us all. The welfare of our country depends on our environment. Let this thought unify us.

Our flag embodies the values of our nation to which we salute. Pride for our environment is captured in symbolism. Green represents vegetation and agricultural resources. Blue is a symbol of the clean Namibian sky, the Atlantic Ocean, the country's precious water resources and rain. The gold sun embodies life and energy.  Red stands for people and their heroism and resolve to build a future of equal opportunity for all. White signifies peace and unity.

Even our Constitution recognises our dependence on the environment for our survival and our need to protect it. Article 95(l) states that the government of Namibia must maintain "…ecosystems, essential ecological processes and biological diversity of Namibia and utilization of living natural resources on a sustainable basis for the benefit of all Namibians, both present and future.”  The living Constitution is the supreme law of the land which governs the creation of all laws and the interpretation of those laws.  Our elected government officials take an oath to uphold protect and defend all provisions in the Constitution.  It is our duty to honour the supreme law of our nation. 

Yet, we are now being asked to compromise the integrity of our supreme law by promoting industry that will directly and dramatically decrease the sustainability of the living resources, leaving behind a poisoned environment that cannot provide for future generations.  The late honourable Chief Justice, Justice Mahomed described the Constitution as "...a mirror reflecting the national soul/the identification of the ideals and aspirations of a nation, the articulation of the values bonding its people and disciplining its government."  Echoing his words, in essence going against our Constitution by failing to maintain Namibia’s environment for current and future generations is equivalent to losing the soul of our nation.  Compromising our environment for short term monetary gain means we have lost the values upon which our great nation was formed.

Today more than ever we need to echo the words of our national anthem. Let us have pride in our country, land of the brave, land of unity, contrasting beautiful Namibia. Namibia our country is the beloved land of savannahs, a breathtaking coastline - heaven on earth. It's time for us to hold high the banner of liberty and stand for freedom from being enslaved by money. Let us stand for what is timeless, true and just. Take pride in the environment you call home. Namibia our Country, Namibia Motherland, we love thee. 

Our Endangered Dirt



"Our Endangered Dirt"
Published in the Namib Times, 15 March 2013.
By Marcia Stanton

Our soil is endangered. Some 40% of soil used for agriculture around the world is classified as either degraded or seriously degraded – meaning that it is nearly impossible for plants to grow on that land.  The World Economic Forum has demonstrated that if current rate of soil damage continues, we have only about 60 years of topsoil left in the entire world.

What does it matter?  In short, soil produces food and we cannot live without food for more than 3 weeks.  Soil is a critical building block to all life on land and it enables plants to grow. We and other species depend on plants for food, oxygen, habitat, medicine, and regulation of the water cycle and climate.

Although we need soil for our survival, we do things to the soil which make it unusable and damage our health. We pollute and damage soil by mining, using pesticides and chemical fertilisers (phosphate and nitrate), and disposing of oil, fuel, coal ash, industrial wastes, and garbage.  This pollution causes food to be tainted with toxic substances, resulting in health problems. Long term health effects include cancer as well as brain, skin, nervous system, and gastrointestinal tract damage amongst others.  

Soil pollution also causes depletion in soil health, resulting in long term health impacts on people and the environment. The same pollutants that harm people also damage animals, plants and micro-organisms in the soil.  Statistics have shown that land pollution alone results in a loss of 6 million hectares of land and 24 billion tons of topsoil per year.  This is a direct loss in soil that can be cultivated to produce food.

Industrialized food production has also lead to additional soil loss.  Although food production initially increases with the use of industrial techniques, this practice is unsustainable and causes long term damage to soil. Heavy reliance on pesticides and fertilizers such as chemical phosphate and nitrate has contaminated the soil, diminished soil quality and weakened the land. 

 As a result, soil is being lost at 10 to 40 times the rate at which it can be naturally replenished.  Because soil is a complex mixture of eroded rock, mineral nutrients, decaying organic matter, water, air, and billions of living organisms, it cannot be easily recreated.   In the last 50 years of using industrial farming techniques that use chemical fertilisers, 1/3 of once arable land is now unusable.  Industrial agriculture also takes jobs away from small farmers which accounts for 79% of the employment in Namibia. The United Nations has declared that food security in Africa will only be increased by using organic agriculture (which does not use chemical fertilisers).  According to the United Nations, “simply applying the ‘industrial’ agricultural models of the twentieth century into the twenty-first as a single, global solution will not serve us well.”

In Namibia, our Constitution calls on us to maintain a sustainable environment for current and future generations for a reason.  Without the environment, including the dirt beneath our feet, we cannot live.