You might think global warming is something happening elsewhere in the world and that we’re just having a drier/wetter summer than usual, depending on where you live in southern Africa. Then ‘Scorched’ is the book you’ll need to read, and soon. Because climate change is here already and Leonie Joubert (pictured) is helping South African’s put things into perspective.
The fynbos we Capetonians have known and loved and taken for granted is disappearing from under our feet. Maybe we are too busy, caught up in our technology, to notice. We need to shut down our computers, switch off the cell phone, put on our walking shoes and go out and find it, before it’s too late.
Wherever you live in South Africa, Joubert has a real life scenario to bring climate change to your attention by showing you something, however small, in your region that’s about to disappear. Here are some facts I was not aware of:
• Frogs and toads are struggling to survive in the drier Amatola mountains.
• Lobsters are dying in their thousands along the west coast whenever the changing climate conditions plays havoc with red tides.
• The Knersvlakte is one of the environments on the planet that’s going to be hardest hit by climate change.
• The desert on the western side of the continent is creeping eastwards and southwards quite fast.
Dr Anton Pauw, a specialist in evolution of plant-animal interactions, has been studying a unique orchid in the Darling Renosterveld. This flower doesn’t secrete nectar but oil, alongside a uniquely evolved bee which specialises in using this oil to feed its young. No-one has ever witnessed this oil collection and we may never see it as the Renosterveld is disappearing rapidly.
Another semi-permanent resident of the west coast, the Curlew Sandpiper from Langebaan, is also experiencing tough times. This bird flies a round trip of 28 000kms to the Arctic Tundra every year just to mate and see the female settled into her nest, before he flies back to our shores again, 2 weeks later. All this just to catch the start of the snow melt and ensuing higher temperatures of the Tundra which brings a flush of invertebrates for the birds to feed on. Birds are near the top of the food chain and a good indicator of climate change. Warmer temperatures mean more summer visitors and less food to go around. Our Curlew Sandpiper numbers are declining as a result.
The final chapter which debates the question ‘why should we care?’, made me ponder this book long after I had finished reading it. I asked myself what I could do and I found that the solution is not an easy one and there’s no quick fix. This book made me realise what we humans are doing to our country and that I am part of all that. I started looking at the choices I had been making .
Since reading the book for the first time in 2006 I have started a journey on which I have changed every area of my life. From turning my garden over to purely organic, to downsizing my car, to changing my diet and saving electricity. I have recently switched all cleaning, body and cosmetic products to biodegradable, organic where possible, and local. The good news is, this is so much more doable today in South Africa than it was, say 10 years ago.
This is the kind of book you can dip into over and over again – just to refresh your memory and clear up any questions you may have. You won’t remember all the information and facts because there are just too many of them sometimes. Yet you will surely come away from its reading with a renewed respect for our beautiful country and indeed the earth.
The easy and personal style of writing makes it accessible to all and this book should be compulsory reading at least in the upper school grades. I loved this book and will definitely add it to my list of favourites. I look forward to Joubert’s future offerings.