This week, the Princess Vlei Forum joins millions of others in mourning the loss of Archbishop Emeritus, Desmond Tutu and in paying tribute to his legacy.
As an empathetic, tireless campaigner for human rights, whose hard hitting messages were always spiced with his irrepressible humour, Tutu recognised the link between environmental justice and social justice. Many know about his campaigns to raise awareness about climate change. Less well known is that in 2013, he found time from his onerous schedule to issue a statement in support of the struggle to save Princess Vlei, saying, “I would like to express my support for the campaign to save the greater Princess Vlei area from the inappropriate development of a shopping mall, and for its protection in perpetuity as a nature and heritage park. Princess Vlei is a valuable place for citizens to come to be close to God and nature, to find peace and to build family and community. God has carefully crafted our universe; let us stop destroying our beautiful world for the sake of short-term profit. Let us use our laws to safeguard our natural and cultural heritage.” Read more
In 2007 he coined the term ‘climate change apartheid’, pointing out not only the vast discrepancy in the carbon footprint of poor and rich nations, but also the vast discrepancy on what climate change would cost these nations. ‘Leaving the world’s poor to sink or swim with their own meagre resources in the face of the threat posed by climate change is morally wrong. Unfortunately, as the Human Development Report 2007/2008 powerfully demonstrates, this is precisely what is happening. We are drifting into a world of ‘adaptation apartheid’.’ (quoted in http://hdr.undp.org/en/content/we-do-not-need-climate-change-apartheid-adaptation)
Over the next 15 years, Tutu actively supported for environmental rights and a just transition to a low carbon economy. His work included:
Desmond Tutu never failed to remind us of our responsibilities to the earth and to each other. As he said in 2014, ‘Who can stop climate change? We can. You and you and you, and me. And it is not just that we can stop it, we have a responsibility to do so that began in the genesis of humanity, when God commanded the earliest human inhabitants of the Garden of Eden, "to till it and keep it". To "keep" it; not to abuse it, not to make as much money as possible from it, not to destroy it.’
( quoted in https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/sep/21/desmond-tutu-climate-change-is-the-global-enemy)
The world has lost a true leader, a man of deep compassion who felt the pain of all fellow humans, and an inspired visionary. let us honour his legacy by taking up the struggle to defend the earth and its people against the destructive greed of the fossil fuel industry and all politicians who have been persuaded (or bribed) to serve it.
‘This was our first time in a canoe and it was a great experience … it teaches teamwork, if there is no team work you’re not paddling, you’re just going round and round… Being on the water was great… I wished we could stay in there because it’s really nice.’
This is what Lindsay Chwerenga, a Grade 11 learner from Heathfield High, had to say about her first experience of canoeing. The Princess Vlei Canoe Club was initiated in 2021 through a partnership between the Princess Vlei Forum, and Gravity Adventures. The Forum organises the learners, while Gravity Adventures supplies the canoes, life jackets and other equipment, and an awesome crew to manage the boats and instruct the learners.
The project was launched in May with 20 learners from Heathfield High. Unfortunately, due to challenges linked to Covid, the weather and availability of teachers, we only managed one more session with Heathfield in the second term
In October, we revived the club with the Fairmount High Eco-club, thanks to the tireless efforts of Ms Rholda Gosain. Five sessions were run between October and December, with a total of 34 learners. Teachers also joined in.
The canoe sessions give the learners a great opportunity to have fun while experiencing the beauty and tranquility of a natural area. They learn many useful skills such as co-ordinating their movements, navigation, and team work. We hope to continue with this project next year, and to include environmental activities such as clean ups and planting.
Speaking of the Fairmount experience, Ms Gosain said, ‘The canoeing experience has brought such a lot of excitement in the lives of most of Fairmount's learners. I used the exercise to enlighten them about environmental concerns and it was such a fun way of highlighting the need to be environmentally aware. They loved it. I managed to get the attention of grades that I don't even teach. Thank you so much for affording us the opportunity.’
Thanks to the teachers who helped to organise the learners; Gravity Adventures; WESSA for sponsoring the Gravity Team; and the Hans Hoheisen Charitable Trust managed by Nedbank Private Wealth for funding our educational work.
Posts by Bridget Pitt unless stated otherwise.