Established in 1991, the Umgeni Estuary Conservancy is a body of individuals who through a shared passion for the uMngeni River work to generate an interest and active participation in others to conserve and restore the river and its riparian zones; and its indigenous fauna and flora from Connaught to the estuarine area at the Beachwood Mangroves.
(The following information is part of my
own view, and not necessarily of the Umgeni Estuary Conservancy)
is a privilege which entails obligations”, from ‘Justice not Vengeance’, Simon
I write like this, for I come from four
generations of mining engineers, from Scotland and Norway, across to Germany,
then to Canada and the United States, then to Zimbabwe. This is just about a
380 degree turn.How much environmental
management did my ancestors do, I do not know, but I can only guess, probably
little, as the awareness was not around. There were only jobs and families and
profit. They did not have to worry about EIAs’. Eventhough the impacts of
mining sometimes can be seen only over the long term. But, my grandfather was
an extremely clever person and had he been alive today, he would be at the
forefront of any conservation measure, to do with mining.
In Native American or 1st Nation
tradition, there is a link between people and nature.All are interconnected. It is a natural
bio-diversity pattern. The stones and trees can hear, see and act. Animals
possess consciousness. I suppose one could call this an animistic tradition.
When most of the European immigrants to the
‘New World’ arrived (these were also some of my ancestors too! and my family
went from Virginia, to Tennessee (Good ole Southerners), to Texas, after the
Civil War and then to California, where one side met up with the other. They
saw much economic opportunities. Many of them came from situations of hardship.
The efforts by the Native Americans to conserve their land were minimized, as
much environmental degradation took place. At the end of the 20th
Century, 98% of the natural ecosystems that these ‘Settlers from the Old World’
had initially seen had either being destroyed or altered. The two cultures
clashed in their use for America’s natural heritage, because both have very
different relationships with their environment. Native Americans say that
nature is synonymous with cultural resources and to degrade one is to destroy
the other. In Ojibwe culture, water has a spiritual component that gives it a
lot of meaning in daily life. One meaning, is that water’s life-force was
symbolized by its’ rush from the mother preceding birth.
Aldo Leopold was born in 1887. He was an
American author and ecologist and he wanted the development of a “Land Ethic”
to go further. Conservation is not an easy solution, but we have made it
trivial, by our conduct. To change how people in general, see the environment,
is to change yourself, change your ethics, your loyalty and convictions. A
“Water Ethic” recognizes the importance of protecting pure water for the health
of the biotic community. It becomes a Native American Ethic when it prioritizes
long-term conservation of water resources over short-term economic benefits.
According to Leopold, an individual’s instincts within a community, prompt him
to compete for a place within that community, but his ethics prompt him to
co-operate. The “Land Ethic” enlarges the boundaries of the community to
include soils, waters, plants and animals or the land.
In 1854, a treaty created reservations for
most of the Ojibwe (Chippewa). In a place called Rice-Lake in Wisconsin, it
took eighty-five years before the Federal Government purchased this land around
the Lake as a permanent home for them. This was to give the ‘Sokaogon’
exclusive control and access to the lake and its resources that were so
important to their identity.In the
case, of a ‘Proposed Crandon Mine’ in the headlands of the Rice-Lake district
wetlands, for extraction of sulphide ore (pyrite), it took the Wisconsin
Tribes, from the 1980s to 2003 to win their battle. In 2002, the United States
Supreme Court granted some Tribes “Treatment as a State” status with the
federal Environmental Protections Agency. This ruling allows Eligible tribes to
set their own regulations in their areas above whatever the state writes into
law. The Sokaogon Chippewa and another tribe bought the Crandon mine site in
2003, therefore ending Development plans. This came about because the Tribes,
Environmental Groups and Downstream Towns banded together and argued that
sulphide mines had an abysmal history and that the State should not risk its
precious water resources to gain a handful of jobs, for only twenty-eight
years. Also, this particular ore contained 50-90% acid-generating sulphides and
heavy metals such as lead, arsenic, copper, chromium and cadmium which are very
toxic. As in Acid Mine drainage, once the process of acidification begins, it
is impossible to stop until all the sulphur is converted to acid. It was
predicted that this process would take 9000 years. In the United States, in the
past 100 years, 19 308 km of rivers have been destroyed, because of the
leaching of the heavy metals. The Sokaogon believe in a responsibility to the
“seventh generation”, which requires the current generations to plan for the
future, for the next seven generations.
In South Africa, there have been and will
still be fallout from mine dumps, slime dams and acid mine drainage. ‘The
Witwatersrand gold-bearing ores contain more uranium, so there is radioactive
In Linden, near Giessen in Germany, where
my great-great grandfather developed the Fernie Mine (manganese ore) During the
1st World War, the mining industry was taken over by the Friedrich
Krupp AG. The most important manganese ore deposits in Germany were from this
area, until the 1960s’.There was a lot
of subsidence here as well, due to mining damage. During the 2nd
World War, the Allies developed many bomb craters. Therefore, some of that area
is now a nature reserve and also used as fish-ponds. It is apparently quite
beautiful. What can be done, with the aid of conflict?
Espousing another great thinker of our
times, is Maimonides and his thoughts in relation to ecology. Rabbi Moshe ben
Maimum was born in 1135. He was a physician, philosopher and theologian. He was
born in Cordoba, Spain and is buried in Tiberias, Israel. He believed that
creation as a whole is the only dimension of being that has intrinsic value.
For him, the practice of science was intertwined with a belief in an organic,
ensouled universe and the practice of theology was intertwined with scientific
fact. He rejected the idea that other creatures exist to serve human pleasure.
Like Spinoza, another great thinker, some of these ideas are compatible with
contemporary interpretations of evolution and with the idea that evolution is
‘directed’ towards diversity and complexity.’ This is the modern Bio-diversity.
He also, explained that the ability to plan, use tools and make machines is not
by itself a mark of human excellence, but merely makes human beings into very