There’s a saying that ‘people only know what they had, once they no longer have it’. It includes within it a forewarning and a reminder that we hold the power of choice: err just by the slightest of margins and that which you thought you had, is irreplaceably lost. Something about milk spilling comes to mind as well…
Midbrak Conservancy chose well in inviting Wendy Crane from Gouritz Cluster Biosphere Reserve (GCBR) as guest speaker at its annual general meeting. Wendy’s presentation shared some jaw dropping information on how much of ‘Garden of Eden’ we have the temerity to be dropped into.
To begin with, she defined exactly what a biosphere reserve is. In essence it amounts to a region of high scientific and natural value that is declared as such by UNESCO (United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) under their Man and Biosphere program. In June 2015, UNESCO declared the Gouritz Cluster Biosphere Reserve as the 7th such region in South Africa, which brings with it international recognition of our region’s importance for the planet.
But the story of our amazing locality does not end there. Over and above the Gouritz Biosphere being largest biosphere in South Africa (3 187 893 hectares), it contains within it 3 of the 25 global biodiversity hotspots (fynbos, succulent Karoo and subtropical thicket).
To constitute a ‘hotspot’ the area has to have a minimum of 1500 endemic plants species that have lost at least 70% of their primary vegetation. This statement brings with it both a positive and a negative: on the positive side we – and only we – sit with the incredible one time offer of 3 of the world’s 25 hotspots with a high level of endemic plant species (at least 670 of the approximately 5000 that occur here); on the negative and by definition, this biodiversity is under severe threat from our daily actions.
GCBR’s core mandate is to achieve a better balance between man and nature, whilst fostering a realisation that social and economic upliftment needs to occur in the context of a finite natural resource.
February also saw Mossel Bay Municipality deploying the environmental equivalent of the Green Berets in the form of the team from NCC Environmental Services, right here in our Midbrak Conservancy. The topics covered ranged from the legislative framework of environmental laws, to the correct removal of alien vegetation and veld fire control. There was a wealth of experience shared by the NCC presenters and I believe that the conservancies that attended together with S.M.A.R.T., walked away with renewed confidence and determination to improve and extend the natural green and marine belts we inhabit. We thank Mossel Bay Municipality for their continued support and foresight, and trust that this is the first of many such events to provide us with the tools to prosecute our constitutional right to an environment that secures our “health and wellbeing”. It is arguable that the use of the word ‘wellbeing’ in addition to ‘health’ in our Bill of Rights implies something much wider than physical health, such as mental, emotional and spiritual wellbeing and connection.
With this influx of involvement and knowledge sharing, conservancies and environmental groups can achieve the balance that is mandated to the Gouritz Biosphere (and of which we form part) from an international level. We have been Mirandized, now we need to act.
For more information on the Gouritz Cluster Biosphere Reserve visit www.gouritz.com.