Rethink environmental education

Metro calls for public comment.

Very recently our NGOs (Renewable Energy Centre and Transition Network) and others were asked by the municipality for input and comments for the review of its old environment education (EE) policy.

In our view, it does not make much sense if only this piece of legislation related to sustainable development is tackled on its own.

This is why we sent the following response to the municipality:

1. Can you tell us if evaluations of activities proposed in the 2007 document have been made?

This would help us to figure out what has been working or not working and therefore where we should go from now on to avoid reinventing the wheel;

2. Does NMBM has a larger policy on “sustainable development”, where it is defined and where in this one should fit?

In our view, EE should be considered as only a piece of a large sustainability issue. Our questions in relation to this are: ý Does it make sense to organise EE at schools that mobilises people to recycle and stop damaging the environment through pollution while NMBM allows incredible pollution of our rivers and estuaries; the parks department (or whatever entity) refuse to put recycling bins all around, educate people and organise a home sorting, recycling, reuse system and refuse to bring to book large retailers which continue distributing unrecyclable packaging and snubbing GMO labelling?

ý Does it make sense to do EE while NMBM’s indirect message is “if you drop waste on the ground, you create employment”.

The fact is that this attitude is not sustainable nor educational nor productive;

ý Does it make sense to ask individuals to change if NMBM has no intent to improve and show an example?

Otherwise, money spent on cleaning up people’s mess could instead be used more productively first to set up home recycling systems/educate/monitor and control the issue (in short, zero the wastes going to the dumps as NMBM has been instructed by the National Environmental Management Act).

Then it could be spent to create sustainable jobs in relation to the reuse/recycling of these products.

In that vein, hundreds of jobs could be created if all the organic waste, for example, could be considered as a resource, mixed with sewage sludge and composted at the Driftsands station factory (closed for 20 years now) and sold back to respond to NMBM fertiliser needs.

In that vein, an urgent discussion about localisation of agricultural inputs (to start with) could be initiated to frame and protect any local job creation. In our view, working and improving one piece of legislation without improving the bigger picture will not help.

Hence the municipal sub-directorate could consider (as the one directly responsible for the environment) clarifying its position before spending resources and time on this document that will mean very little on its own.

In that case one could start with the first 2007 document’s recommendation regarding a “working group of internal and external stakeholders to co-ordinate and jointly plan a communication and community engagement programme for the entire municipality”, broaden its scope and discuss the above.

-P L Lemercier, Renewable Energy Centre (REC) and Transition Network (TN), Greenshields Park, Port Elizabeth

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