by Peter Veurmen

Sustain yourself

Johannesburg needs to address environmental sustainability

The environment is a shared responsibility
Become environmentally sustainable

Johannesburg's city managers and citizens need a far more inclusive understanding of environmental sustainability. Once this is in place, the city can reach the same levels of enviro-friendly success as Copenhagen, Mexico City and London, according to the Democratic Alliance’s spokesperson on environmental matters, Laurette van Zijl.

Resources and a lack of support by citizens are impeding the city, however. There are major factors that hold the city back from managing its rivers, energy and other services. These include the lack of finance and the lack of efficient education. 

"People working for the city have good intentions, but they do not appreciate how, if they do a project, it can affect others. I’ve heard of the city educating some 49 000 people about environmental issues over the last few years, but that education needs to be effective," said Van Zijl.

"Many people will plead poverty as a reason for not creating green measures, even though there can be relatively cheap ways to fix many environments. It will take time to educate people, including the less affluent, not to litter and so on – but in the meantime, richer people need to take initiative.

"In Germany, almost every house has a solar panel, so we need to instil that culture here," she added.

Accenture’s energy industry managing director Arthur Hanna said cities were setting the pace in creating sustainability because, on a country-to-country level, too much was held back by bureaucracy.

"At conferences like COP17 held in Durban (in 2011), we saw that even though there is greater commitment to sustainability, when you have 147 economies it is difficult to get them to agree and virtually impossible to manage everyone’s agenda," he noted.

But he was excited by the progress cities were making.

"The model of shrinking one’s energy bill works well for cities, as often mayors are employed on the ticket of sorting out some living problem that can be energy-related," Hanna said.

He added that cities did not need to be very wealthy to fix problems related to water, sanitation and energy delivery.

"Copenhagen and Mexico City are far apart in terms of development, but they have people committed to sustainability in common."

Van Zijl said simple projects such as multi-tier bins in schools and homes would be a good start in getting people to deal with their resources and waste in an environmentally sustainable fashion.

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This edition

Issue 58