ENFORCING CHILDREN’S RIGHTS TO A SAFE AND CLEAN ENVIRONMENT ENSHRINED IN THE CONSTITUTION’S ARTICLE 24
The inconvenient reality of Climate Chaos/Breakdown/Collapse is here with us now whether we like it or not. Children are growing up to face a world without wildlife, fresh water, food security, oxygen or safety. We are a poor country and our people will not afford to live off technological mega-projects and expensive infrastructure like glass domes, breathing apparatus and other artificial environments that are planned in rich countries.
The melting glaciers of the arctic and antarctic will bring major flooding as they have already in many parts of the world. The Cape flats are at sea level and will be mostly underwater after the Ice is completely gone, our government are not responding to the threat in an adequate manner.
All around the world Children and Parents are taking to the streets to remind the adult population that they, the kids will be the ones left to eat plastic, to face the conflicts over depleted resources. They will be the climate refugees in the billions, when one in ten people will be on the move(there is no society that cope with that amount of migration).
Crop losses around the world in the last few months have devastated our global food stocks, economists are relying on the fact that food can be exported from other markets whilst we have seen losses and drop in production of 20% at least and probably more. The US have experienced tremendous flooding associated with the melting of the ice sheets, in other areas the rain just never came. The same situation is enfolding in China and Russia, we call this the grain belt of the world. The sheer scale of the landmasses and climate in those countries make it the surety of feeding the world.
Australia has experienced crop losses, along with South america, Eastern bloc countries, mighty Russia, vast Canada, intensive Europe and in Africa. Continual drought has reduced our food security in South Africa as well. The American Farmers experienced even Silo collapses, their entire years grain was destroyed in some cases, images of Silos bulging with ruined corn were among some of the most stark, dire warnings for us. Resulting in insurance companies saying they cant pay out because they didn’t insure for Silo losses(no one was expecting that severe weather would actually destroy even the Containers storing grain).
Livestock losses: If the picture of Cattle dropping down dead in parts of SA due to thirst, starvation and heat fatigue is not enough to worry us here, learn that we exported millions of live animals to the Middle east(facing severe water and food crises, offset only by their monetary wealth from selling resources to global markets.i.e. they have money to buy food even though they cant produce it themselves. An Israeli company bought Clover Milk company. Hundreds of millions of Cattle died in the US after droughts, flash floods and cyclones. Factory farms, already the cesspools of disease were battered by cyclones and floods, leaving cattle dying in the millions, in heaps of rotting flesh, outbreaks ensued afterwards and killed most of the surviving cattle. Australia experienced a thirty years drought and then got all the rain they didn’t have for thirty years in a few days. 500 million cattle are said to have died there. A cow takes about 5-6 years to raise to adulthood. Are you awake yet? In fact, I (writing this letter) cannot keep up with all the articles dealing with agricultural crisis.
Its like this, each year the equivalent smoke particles of a forest fire the size of the African continent is released into the atmosphere via the Power stations, vehicles, factories, and gas refineries, manufacturing plants, Shipping Containers, aviation, war industries and runaway forest fires on all continents(an increasing phenomenon). It is not hard for even a child to imagine how we are being gassed to death on planet earth.
It is more than just the daily increase in greenhouse gases and a real lack of Oxygen though. Near coal power stations Adults struggle to breath and live shorter lives with accompanying respiratory and other health complications resulting from breathing emissions, but for new born babies developing their lungs, many are dying in the first few weeks of life. This is a child rights issue, reproductive issue. Once again this is not just about Air Quality….lets turn to the ocean now.
Besides the fact that we have produced plastic on earth that is the equivalent of a mountain size, the largest Mountain on earth, yes there is plastic as big as Mount Everest.
The small fish eat the plastic unwittingly, the larger predators eat the fish and slowly their stomachs accumulate plastic till they starve to death. Apart from plastic fishing nets trapping creatures, the trawlers have spent decades throwing fish overboard again to keep the price up. If they trawled 4 times a day they only brought back one catch or they would not make profit. Now the fish stocks are almost collapsed entirely.
Fish eat from the coastal areas, but we have polluted these areas, over extracted and built infrastructure on estuaries that are actually the building blocks of the Ocean food chain. Sewerage washes into the sea, pharmaceuticals end up in the fish and cause more problems. Human settlements on coastlines have caused the coastal ecosystems to collapse.
If this is not enough to empty the sea of life, the next fact should once again have you sitting up to listen. Whales and dolphins, Sharks fertilize the sea. Especially the whales, they have been on Earth for Millions of years, much longer than primates. As they eat, they poo out manures that fertilize the phytoplankton(tiny floating plants responsible for 80% of earth’s oxygen). The go ahead to do seismic testing off our shorelines is another blow, not just here it has been happening all over the earth.
The whales can’t hear their food, the fish, nor can they hear their mates or families properly, because the sea is filled with noise from sonar scanning for resources under the ocean floor. Once they decide to drill, a whale anywhere near the drill site becomes deaf after the blasting. A deaf whale is a dead whale. Not only are they expected to eat plastic instead of fish, they also deaf and being hunted illegally in South African waters, legally from countries like Japan and Norway. Military sonar also kills whales.
The northern Orcas are 400 and they all starving, they have not had a surviving calf for years, the last calf that was born died soon after, the Mother Orca carried the baby for almost three weeks on her head(uncharacteristic behavior of Orcas to carry rotting babies) so much was her grief at the loss of their only baby, her baby and our whole entire future, as she swam around begging us to stop, she knows they are going extinct but yet we do not seem to understand ourselves how close to the verge of extinction we have reached. If the whales all die out forever, we too will not be able to breathe, we are symbiotic with whale, we rely on whales for our oxygen.
Oh I almost forgot the plastic problem…. Or the result of Carbon emissions that is causing the Earth to become unlivable for mammals, the sea is becoming acidic as it was 56 million years ago, before primates were primates. Mammals on land were a small group of rodent like creatures at that time. If the ocean is acidic then coral cant form, shells can’t form and there will be no food for the fish to eat…. This leads us to the other inconvenient reality…. Food security. If the crops fail surely there is fish in the sea to eat? No, if the crops fail and the livestock all die surely we can eat wildlife? No again, Nature reserves and wild ecosystems, they make up only 6% of Biomass on earth now. The Landscape has been so altered that only domestic species are available to eat, the rising demand for produce in the Mega-cities is forcing more wild ecosystems to the brink as we use more and more space to grow crops.
Meanwhile’s, Plastic is washing into rivers, already dead, polluted, over-fished, invasive species suffocate endemic ones, most freshwater species are the first to go extinct. It is a fact that plastic has been linked to cancer and birth defects due to the fact that it damages DNA and living tissues. Of course it is an oil, coal or gas product (made out of fossil fuels).
A planet without Ice is a planet without fresh water to drink, the
melting glaciers of Lesotho will leave the City of Johannesburg dry, all
the mines, production and people will run out of water, Lesotho is
deforested and its people oppressed by our use of their Water, still
another country can we affect Forestry policy to ensure the water
supply(forests preserve rivers and catchments).
We running towards a desert in SA. Farmers in Namaqualand have been to parliament to raise the issue of renewable energy because 2 degrees increase in temps there mean no one can even move or work, let alone grow food.
This is where we turn to the soil biota(responsible for all our crop production) , the little critters that capture carbon and make nutrients available to plants…. Conventional farming completely destroys the soil biota by ploughing, chemicals, exposing the soil to sunlight, leaching from irrigation etc. It is only in growing trees for agriculture that we will survive. We have to start now, five years time is too long we lose the chance, it will be too hot to grow trees one day and we will live on a desert planet.
Lets just look at what scientists call positive feedback loops….. Let’s say the Planet heats up because sunlight is trapped in the atmosphere of smogs and can’t bounce back, easy enough to imagine, so is the fact that without ice the planet will absorb much more heat as the sunlight won’t bounce back into space either but penetrate the dark oceans left where the ice was. That is bad enough but the effects are causing other things to happen, like forest fires and not just in plantations but in Indigenous forests, natural fire cycles have been disrupted, from clearing the forests too much, planting mono cultures(green deserts) and burning for crops, huge colonial logging projects, partly military and partly commerce. Everywhere in the last few hundred years, Forests have been cleared. Hout Bay once had a forest like the great Knysna Indigenous forests but these were all destroyed by settlement practices, not just in SA but all over the world. The result is a much hotter planet, with much less moderating effects.
If the oceans become totally acidic, all the vegetation cover on the land masses will burn up in the heat then we basically left with something like the planet Venus that lost all its water, not habitable to us or our children. Venus a place it rains sulfuric acid all the time and has super storms of dust and sulfurs swirling around violently. Yes we are sending our children to live on a planet they know nothing about. This is a very emotional issue, human extinction has become inevitable on our current trajectory, and almost too late to stop, scientists do not know if we can actually stop it.
Most Carbon reduction plans rest on some kind of technology we will use to adjust the climate, like plans to put big shields up to reflect sunlight off the planet, shooting metal particles into the atmosphere etc, or capturing carbon inside machinery. None of these projects are carbon neutral and we would need the whole world’s resources to build a shield large enough, monomaniacal ideas making the public rest thinking we got this under control. We do not have anything under control actually. There are no scaleable examples of carbon capture technology, we still just have plants and fungi as the best bet. Most real solutions are coming from permaculturists (methods to re-green the deserts), marine biologists (managing the ocean sustainably), global bans on plastic and attempts to clean up the plastic, and activists demanding an end to the burning of Fossil Fuels. As the Trawlers are standing idle because the fish stocks have collapsed, plans to turn them to the plastic cleanup have been suggested.
Oh back to the feedback loops, a scary thing has begun to happen at the end of last year, the leaking of methane gas trapped under the glaciers in Greenland and the arctic. We have never seen the pacific ocean floor leak methane before, scientists say the last time this happened was 56 million years ago. So the Earth just released methane equivalents in a few weeks that are the same as all the power stations greenhouse gases since the beginning of the industrial revolution. Yes all the pollution we made in a few hundred years is the same as what the earth just released in a few weeks. This is shooting Greenhouse gas counts through the roof. In the last twenty years we went from an atmosphere of Oxygen to an atmosphere of smog and the invisible methane is hanging there too. Maps showing the methane are very scary. People are still protesting for 350 parts per million but we up in the 420 parts already. Hence the urgency.
All these prior facts are what led a young girl to occupy her parliament in Sweden for almost two years now every Friday, she is now considering giving up a year of school to focus on the climate campaign. My daughter is on week 24 of her Climate strike. We stand outside parliament every Friday. Every now and again the International and National climate movements arrange mass event days, even though its a futile attempt to halt the destruction, compared to a full shutdown of all services. Industries and activities not inline with essential needs of people on a daily basis should be halted so we can deal with this on a political and economic planning level. Yes we are inviting everyone to take part in the multiple activities and events happening in Cape Town City on 14th of June. Adults are strongly encouraged to take part as much as children.
We at Fridays for Future South Africa take a very sombre stance to picket and strike, each and every Friday. Others have joined in the hype of the international events and are organizing National event days. Most of those Children are coming from affluent families, live in suburbs, and are ‘privileged’ (for want of a better word) children, yes standing up for the earth and our lives seems to be in the realms of the “First world”, those who benefit the most from the poverty that results in the degraded ecosystems.
Yes the Affluent can export their problems as they always have done to poor communities. Companies feel nothing to dump waste on our townships, in the areas our children are struggling to grow up in, or struggling to remain children and just play, such are the hazards all around them, batteries, broken light bulbs, old tires. They are left with toxic fires on the sides of dumps, puddles of heavy metal laden water lay around for toddlers to play in. This is a violence on the poor, a continuous violence. They also the last to be informed of the environmental dangers but the first to feel their effects.
This letter is to invite children to partake in the direct action and learn about their rapidly changing world. To raise the issue of unequal education and the lack of environmental education, our school system is not preparing children for the reality of societal collapse, or ecosystem death etc. The children are being taught to go and work in the corporate sector and go compete for limited jobs, whilst their actual reality of having to survive on planet earth in the future is not being taught to them, neither are the real life skills they need to live off the land, make their own energy, recycle their own wastes, design sane human settlements that catch water and produce nutrition, alternative industrial processes and solutions to bring us what we need to preserve civilisation, or manage a powerful public transport system vital for our future.
The general gestures of Climate Justice and a just transition from the NPO sector is not enough to unpack these issues, no concrete plans are in place about how we adjust society to a zero emissions reality, not just for Coal miners and Plastic workers but each and every single human being. We all in need of a just transition. People are becoming frightened because it seems that things are gonna get worse, limits are going to be placed on “growth”, people may lose their jobs, Climate disasters may end up destroying the Internet and ocean cables, haves and the have nots moving to societies without money(definite in the future) and what that actually means for both, the super rich are building underground facilities, glass domes to live in and increasing their technological security (including off grid electricity control). Where does this leave us?
We can easily imagine, we have access to historical data. The Indigenous people of the Earth’s Last Forests are being flushed out and massacred, their forests chopped down. African countries and many places experience ongoing conflicts sparked by resource wars with people ending up in the deserts, pushed into the least habitable places on earth, all in the ongoing quest for real estate and markets (Shanty Towns and Refugee camps bulging in population size because of their lack of stability and safety). No one is talking about the fact that in just one or two generations people can became reliant on the genocidal system for survival, or that they lived and had livelihoods within the Ecosystem that served just fine before that and they are now soldiers, refugees, factory workers, forced migrants, slaves, servants, orphans, landless, starving and wretched.
What are we leaving our Children? The
longer we leave this to future generations the worse it will be for
them. We are now on the verge of Extinction. We have to be honest with
the children about what they face. We must support them in civil
disobedience and we too must disobey, the only way to wake humanity up
to the severity of the situation is to disrupt business as usual.
Politeness and one day events will not work either, this is for the long
haul. This requires us to act as if there is a war going on, because
extinction is worse than any war.
It requires that kind of focus and effort. Our house is on fire.
THIS IS AN EMERGENCY! THIS IS NOT A DRILL
This is not being televised.