15 ways to take action today-2

The news is full of overwhelmingly bad news, forests are burning, ice is melting, the wellbeing of all people is not being prioritised and we are not feeling heard. Let’s not get anxious, but active, each in our own way, starting today.

Here are 15 ways to take action and play a positive part in our living systems and the wellbeing of all. After all, we are all interconnected, the butterfly, the rainstorm, the child, the forest, the food we eat…the stranger, the starfish, the soil…we are one thriving, diverse, beautiful web of life.


1. Become part of your food cycle, grow some food, even if its herbs on the windowsill, grow to eat. Then return all kitchen organic waste to the nutrient cycle by composting, bokashi bin, chickens, giving to a community garden or simply dig a hole in the ground.

2. Harvest rainwater, and if you can’t then save the water you have access to and try re-use all filtered waste water for gardens

3. Be kind to all life, to a spider, a neighbour, a stranger, a bee

4. Plant trees, lots, or fund someone to do it for you, keep it indigenous to your area

5. Buy local, in-season food, healthier for you and lower impact, support local agroforestry methods of growing food

6. If you eat meat let it be a once a week treat, realistically we won’t all be vegans by tomorrow, but we can reduce our meat consumption and its impacts. Cut out seafood if it is not your subsistence staple, the oceans need to recover

7. Buy second hand clothes, have clothes swops or know where your clothes are made and by whom

8. Divest from any investments/banks linked to fossil fuel, let’s keep the carbon in the ground

9. Speak up, follow Extinction Rebellion and march/speak up when you can, sign up to make ecocide illegal, make informed votes for local and national politicians. Speak for those who have no voice

10. Love who we are, humans are amazing and innovative, share the good news and solutions

11. Stop all poisons, in your home and garden and also ask questions about the food you buy

12. Plant indigenous to your area, let your garden be a haven for bees, birds, all insects and small wildlife. Let the wildflowers and dandelions grow. Protect local indigenous, wild areas and nature corridors.

13. Reduce your plastic impact, refuse single-use plastics, go for reusable or packaging-free wherever you can, reduce or stop eating seafood as ghost fishing tackle causes the most plastic ocean pollution

14. Vote with your wallet, make informed choices about the places and products you regularly support, make sure they have practices good for people and planet

15. Lower your carbon impact, use public transport, carpool, bike, walk whenever you have the option. Reduce the amount you fly, if at all. If renewable energy is an option for you, go for it!

Do you have any other priorities to action? Please add them in the comments…

We can shift to a regenerative culture and economies of wellbeing, the action starts with us, today.


Photo credit to Julie Ann Photography

My hometown has been a war zone for the last few days, my heart is sore and the adrenaline  has been bubbling just below the surface with everyone in fight or flight mode. Normal everyday tasks seemed meaningless and irrelevant with the dull thud of tear gas explosions and distant screams in the background. And how lucky am I that I had a safe haven for my family, away from the violent riots, my privilege makes me ache. My heart is sore for the children and families whose homes have been in the midst of the tear gas and the noise of the rubber bullet fire, for the hard working local business people whose businesses were looted, vandalised and wrecked, for the people with valid grievances about being long time shack dwellers with untenable living conditions and shocking services whose voices are now drowned out by the violence and focus on the criminals who took advantage of the situation, for the people who were threatened and intimidated and not able to go to work and who will not be paid for this time lost, for the 5 families who lost their homes to a shack fire in the early hours of the morning (rumors are that it was a threat followed through…you go to work, your home will be burnt), for the families of the people who lost their lives in the bus accident that happened on the detour road in wet and rainy weather as the national highway was closed by the rioters for 3 whole days, for the woman who is lying in ICU because a brick was thrown through her car window at the start of the riots, for all those who lost much needed income in the chaos and will still lose income due to the ripple effects of riots and bad press, for all those who suffered under the racist hate speech and anger directed at ‘them’ and ‘they’ on social media groups despite doing all in their power to protect themselves and their families and of course keep their jobs. For all this and more my heart is sore.

The hate speech, anger and blame make me almost as afraid as the violence, it is so divisive and will destroy us in the long term. Who is this ‘they’ you speak of, the woman raising your children? The people working hard to build up your business? The local school leaver struggling to find work?  Criminals taking advantage of the protest is absolutely unacceptable with devastating effect on familiy owned businesses, but so is painting everyone as a criminal, just based on the colour of their skin or the area they live in. Walk a day in the life of someone living in a ntyontyombe, a backyard shack. People say, ‘what does the violence and looting achieve, it just makes it worse.’ And I agree. But I ask, what does the hate speech, the anger, the negativity achieve? It just makes it worse. We need to find what it is we have in common that we can stand for, together.  And also what it is we, the majority, have in common that we won’t stand for, that which we won’t tolerate. Would I be wrong in saying that the majority of us simply want wellbeing for our families as our top priority? Shelter from the elements in a strong and resilient home, good education for our children, good nourishment and food, a healthy living environment, fresh water, clean air, a stable income and freedom from fear. Do we all have that in common? But does everyone in my hometown have that? No, not at all. So many are living in homes that are not strong enough to withstand the elements, the wind, the rain, the fire, the floods. Living environments are far from healthy and there are the social injustices of unemployment, unfair wages, high transport costs, crime, drug abuse and domestic violence. Can we come together to ensure that the basic wellbeing of families in our town is met?

We all suffer under the mismanagement and corruptive use of government funds both locally and nationally. Is this not also something the majority of us have in common? While for some the corruption is more  of an inconvenience as it does not impact much on the wellbeing of their families, yet for others the suffering is real as their families are robbed of any wellbeing at all. If we cannot expect those in power locally to place the wellbeing of all people as their core focus, then perhaps it is time for us to create a citizen’s assembly and make it happen. Because if we can’t get this right in our small town, if we can’t come together and stand strong for what we all wish for in common (the wellbeing of our families) and simultaneously stand strong and peacefully against the crime, corruption and violence then how are we going to get it right as a country?

And if we don’t pull together now how are we going to face the challenges of climate and ecological breakdown, which is already beginning to  unravel around us, we will all be in the same sinking boat and we will have to keep it afloat together. It reminds me of when I heard the birds calling their alarm call in a tree outside my home and I knew the call was probably for a snake. It was, there was the boomslang heading for a nest with baby birds, but what I found amazing was that all the different kinds of birds were swooping in and attacking the snake and yet the snake was only heading for the little white-eyes nest. But there was the robin, the fiscal shrike, the sunbird putting their own lives at risk to protect the white-eyes young. It made me think about how in times of crisis when there is a common threat people also put aside their differences and band together for the greater good of all. Climate breakdown is the snake in the tree, we have unleashed it and it will effect us all at some point, it is a threat we all have in common and we are going to have to band together to overcome it.

In other countries people are peacefully protesting in their millions to wake up governments, corporates and policy makers to change their ways and save human civilization as we know it. But here we still have the hurdle of social justice to overcome before we can come together and stand together for our common future as humans. So we better get onto it, there is certainly no time to waste. Empathy, compassion, strength in unity and our common vision will get us there, we all need to be asking the question… is what I’m saying, what I’m doing building bridges of community or creating more division? We are much weaker divided. This we know. Ask the white-eye birds.



Photo credit: Julie Ann Photography




I met Buyi at Dwesa Nature Reserve in the Eastern Cape where she was working as an intern for her nature conservation studies and receiving a basic stipend for her time. It was a short contract though and she had no further prospects for permanent, gainful employment when it finished and this was the biggest milestone that hung round her neck as a single mother, her greatest goal being an excellent education for her daughter. We chatted about her challenges and joys, her greatest wishes and what changes she as a young woman living in rural South Africa would bring about if she were president of the country. What changes would you bring about if you were president for a day?

What are your greatest challenges? 

My greatest challenge is that I am unemployed because I’m a single parent. There is an overpopulation of the unemployed youth and yet everyone should have the chance to get a job. With no jobs for the youth they are depending on their parents to survive.

Living in a rural area there is no access to newspapers and the internet. Basic service delivery is not happening, they are taking too long to tar the road to our village even though they approved it 3 years ago. We pay the price, the bakkies in our area are badly damaged by the state of the road. The education in our area is also very poor, teachers don’t send their own children to the schools they teach at. They don’t identify the children with special needs that need to go to a special school. The clinic in our area is only open during the week, if there is an emergency on the weekend we have to hire a bake for R1 000 to get the person to hospital.

What are your greatest joys?

To be with my family. To have a chance to work and give my daughter better opportunities. Nature conservation gives me joy because I really care.


If you were president what would you make happen?

I would make sure that every child is well educated. I would create more jobs for youth who are unemployed and that will decrease the crime. I would make sure the rural areas have the same services as the urban areas – libraries, soccer fields, internet cafes. I would encourage South Africans to farm on a small scale, if you are farming you will not be suffering. I would educate people about alien invasive plants and their problems and about the importance of saving water.

What is your greatest wish?

My greatest wish is to get a permanent job.

What is stopping you from achieving your wish?

People give jobs to their family members, there is so much nepotism. it is very difficult to get a job, even if you are qualified. and then you find the person who got the job is not qualified at all.


Thank to all the places on Eco Atlas that give gainful, fair and socially just employment with upskilling, training and empowerment as part of their employment mandate. www.ecoatlas.co.za 

The smoke may have cleared, but now the rebuilding of lives begins….


We may have seemed a bit quiet here on the Eco Atlas front lately, but there has been the matter of some firestorms on the Garden Route. It was even on CNN. I think what so many found hard to assimilate is the concept of their holiday paradise burning. How can the Garden of Eden burn? Well actually the Garden of Eden forest didn’t burn because it’s thick indigenous forest which doesn’t naturally burn. But so very much did burn… people’s homes and animal habitats. Having said that about the forest though, we’ve actually been watching a circle of burnt forest grow and grow over the past 6 months as it slow burns underground through the drought dry roots spreading from tree to tree. So indigenous forest can slow burn in these drought conditions. But not like the alien invasive species and exotic plantations of pine, wattle and bluegum, they take burning to a whole other level, literally, quite a few stories higher as anyone who witnessed the flames here will tell you. It’s a wall of fire. And as for the fynbos, well that’s meant to burn every 15 years or so to germinate the seeds and clear the woody old growth. But it burns through fynbos like a flash fire, fast and not too hot so that the creatures who play a part in the life cycle of regeneration after fire can survive.


So we really were the proverbial canaries in the coal mine when our home fell in the path of a firestorm that came out of nowhere on a hot and dry north westerly gusting day 4 months ago. Not quite out of nowhere though, because while there was no smoke when I left home to pick up the children from school, there had been a smouldering fire in the alien stands of trees for weeks which was very tricky for the firefighters to quell due to the density of the trees and the fact that it burns underground. It didn’t matter that we had no alien invasives on our property, once the fire is fuelled by wattle and gum and chooses a path with the wind there is no stopping it.
And now we are joined by so many more climate change refugees here on the Garden Route, statistically it is uncanny how many of my circle of friends have lost their homes to fire, we can literally have a dinner gathering and every single person there will have lost their home. Normal is not part of the equation anymore. And while we plot and plan the rebuild of our home which is soon to begin (and we will document the process for those that need to follow to see how a truly eco, sustainable, efficient and climate resilient home can rise from the blank slate of ashes, watch this space) there are so many who still have a lot to process and a long journey ahead before they have the sanctuary of their own home again.

There were countless questions of how you can help, here is a list of ways to take action:

  • Donate to the following disaster relief, rebuild or animal welfare funds:

knysna donations Plett Fire Donations Final mine

  • Donate to an individual family who needs to rebuild their home, there is a very long list of families to help listed here. You can also have a look at Ana and Gareth, the Reitz family, Erez and Louisa, Peter and Gabriella, James Wolfaardt, Paul and Magic, Gilan and Jos, The Heartland School of Self Sufficiency to mention just a few that I know of or have helped set up. There are many many more families needing support, especially those without insurance, so have a look on the BackaBuddy site.
  • Donate to a group fund for Plett that will focus on the rehabilitation of injured firemen and ensuring the firefighters are properly equipped to fight more fires and any overflow will go to those who have lost their homes.
  • Donate to a group fund for Knysna that will focus on the rebuilding of homes.
  • Read up on the effects of runaway pines and other invasive aliens on water catchment and fires in the future. Then make your voice heard to your local and national leaders to ensure that this problem is nipped in the bud. Literally.
  • Remove alien invasives from your own properties especially those with a high fire risk such as pine, eucalyptus and wattle and replant with trees and shrubs indigenous to your area. Motivate your neighbours and any government or SANRAL owned land to do the same.
  • Get involved with the active reforestation of the area with The Precious Tree Project, email them on 1000precioustrees@gmail.com if you would like to donate trees. The Green Ticket is another organisation that focusses on reforestation of the Garden Route.
  • Donate to other animal welfare groups besides KAWS and PAWS who are also focussing on fire relief for domestic and wild animals. Moya Animal Outreach, Knysna Vet, Bitou Horse Welfare.
  • Or help with your skills, if you have knowledge of insurance then assist those who have it through the quagmire to make sure they are treated fairly, if you have skills in sustainable building or reforestation make yourself known and help rebuild the Garden Route. Contact Knysna Fire page or Plett Fire page to offer up your services.

Losing your home and your sanctuary and seeing the green of the garden blackened is like having the world pulled out from underneath you. And while fires are a natural part of ecosystems we need to recognise that human activities have impacted on their ferocity due to our affect on the climate and the naturally resilient systems. This is our chance to do things differently and to emerge Stronger, Greener and Better for a future in which we need to be resilient to constant change. How will you be taking action?

P.S. Look at how people came together through the fires, imagine what else we are capable of…

flowers from the ashes WhatsApp Image 2017-06-28 at 15.47.58