Ruth Mthembu – As I sat down to start writing this blog, my town was experiencing load-shedding.
If you aren’t familiar with load-shedding, simply put, it’s when a town goes without electricity for a scheduled period – a measure of last resort to prevent the collapse of the power system in South Africa. Despite the load-shedding, there is a lot to celebrate about my country! It’s one of the most diverse in the world, with regards to people, culture and… marine life.
Recently, marine protection has been high on the global priority list, with scientists sharing that 30 per cent ocean protection by 2030 is needed for the ocean to thrive. When focusing on South Africa, how does marine protection fare?
In 2018, South Africa had only 0.4 per cent of national waters protected, whereas now five per cent of its ocean space is within Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). WILDOCEANS, a programme of the WILDTRUST and an organisation I am proudly part of, is part of the movement pushing for the expansion of protection and highlighting the need to do so. I’m involved with a lot of campaign and advocacy work within marine conservation and I often wonder if South Africans are becoming complacent about the need for everyone to do their bit in protecting the environment.
A big believer in social justice, I understand that the protection of human beings and the environment cannot exist outside of each other. I often ask myself, is the human environment conducive for human beings to protect the natural environment i.e. our ocean? Simply put, no.
I reflected on this during a recent visit to Cape Town whilst filming with environmental advocate and actor, Shailene Woodley. The focus of the shoot was the WILDOCEANS’ MPA campaign ‘Ocean iMPAct’. The clip featured the voices of multiple people including divers, surfers, paddlers, fisherman, marine scientists, Shailene and myself – all profiling that there is to love about the ocean and highlighting why it needs to be preserved and protected.