SA deserves conservation back-pat

Champion of the Earth. What an honour for our president and our people to be the joint recipients of such a resoundingly worded award from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

Of course there will be those who question what exactly it is that has qualified President Thabo Mbeki for this honour. Indeed, looking around at how we in general treat nature, do we as a nation really merit such lofty recognition?

Conservationists keep being driven to distraction by the continuing destruction of the environment and the inaction of those who are in a position to do something about it. So reports about their cynicism should not be all that surprising.

But let us not lose perspective. Mbeki heads a government and a country which has made a remarkable impression on the world environmental scene these past few years.

It is not so many years ago that we went through our traumatic political transition. Since then we have hosted the World Summit on Sustainable Development, the World Parks Congress and, as further recognition of our global standing, the BirdLife International Congress. We are actively committed to achieving the goals set for nations by these meetings. Our officials have emerged at the forefront of world environmental forums. A fomer environmental minister of ours, Valli Moosa, is president of the world`s most powerful conservation organisation, the IUCN. We are a global pace-setter of transfrontier-park development. The government has been reviewing and tightening up environmental legislation. Our protected areas have been extended, particularly along our coasts, and there is a firm resolve to increase our reserves by two percent over the next few years.

We need to be critical and remain vigilant. But it is nice to get pats on the back, too, sometimes.



Safari to the source of the mighty Luangwa


UNEP names seven 'Champions of the Earth'

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