Africa Day 2018

Conversations in Conservation

This Africa Day we encouraged our African Climate Reality Leaders to take climate action for Africa now.  Climate Reality Leader, Janet Bezuidenhout, attended Conversations in Conservation as her Africa Day action, and also showcased how art plays a role in safeguarding our environment.

Read Janet’s overview of her Africa Day action experience below.

Event Details

I utilized an existing platform for my Africa Day action, in the form of the second annual Conversations in Conservation event on 26 May 2018, the day after Africa Day. Hosted by the Touw River Conservancy, at the Fairy Knowe Hotel in Wilderness, George, South Africa, this event is a free public event focused on bringing people together to discuss local conservation and environmental issues, opportunities and projects.  The event was structured as follows:

  • From about 9h30 to 12h30 talks were given about fire risk management, the control of invasive plant species, reforestation, and human-wildlife interaction in the area.
  • At about 12h10 a ‘Soapbox’ session was held where we were invited to take the stage to introduce our projects.
  • From about 12h30 to 14h00 people had the opportunity to have one-on-one discussions, visit the market stalls of the organisations, and interact with the content on display.

Conversations in Conservation included talks about fire risk management, the control of invasive plant species, reforestation, and human-wildlife interaction in the area

My Contribution

During the ‘Soapbox’ opportunity I gave a short introduction to what people can find at the WESSA stall, and talked shortly about some of the main objectives of the African Climate Reality Project – (1) connecting organisations to support dialogues around solutions for climate change and (2) creating resources for engaging with decision-makers as pro-active citizens – like the guides for public participation in legislature. I struggled to pronounce ‘legislature’ and was quite nervous, but it went well.

As a WESSA member I joined their stall. I displayed a whale tail sculpture made from ocean trash as an ‘eye-catcher’ to draw people in, as a starting point for conversations. People were also invited to add a little message card (a wish or thought about the ocean or pollution) to the tail as an interactive element.

Outcomes & Looking Ahead

The event was attended by about 60 local residents, environmentalists as well as government officials. Most, if not all, of them have not yet heard about the African Climate Reality Project, and thus my short introduction on stage was a first point of entry for them.

Most of the visitors to the WESSA stall were more interested in the Layman’s guide to local Invasive Plant Species that WESSA Eden compiled, or the eco-bricks that Bio-wise Knysna is initiating as a local project. However, I was able to make two important connections.  First I connected with a Knysna municipality representative who is interested in working together with us in the development of the Climate Change Adaptation Plan for Knysna, which is planned for development during the next year.  I also met a community manager of Cape Nature’s George office, and we’re discussing a joint youth event or eco-art workshop for World Environment Day.

Janet poses with her incredibly crafted plastic whale tail sculpture, raising awareness for plastic pollution

For the 3rd annual Conversations in Conservation event I plan to do one or more of the following:

  • Have a stall solely focused on Climate Change and the African Climate Reality Project, making sure to focus on impacts and solutions specifically relevant to the Garden Route.
  • Create an artwork that focuses on the threats or impacts of climate change.
  • Present a talk on Climate Change and its relevance to other problems, especially how it relates to increased risk of fires and invasive species proliferation.