By Pumza P Tuswa, Co-ordinator, St Paul’s Environment Action Team

No one could have known that in this period of LENT in 2020 the whole human race  (irrespective of class, religion ,age, race, gender, region, language, ideology) ,would be facing catastrophic COVID 19.  We send our condolences to the families of the individuals who have passed on from contracting COVID 19.  Sithi Ngxe. Akwehlanga lungehlanga!

The epidemic has seen many people (there are of course exceptions!) radically altering or making adjustments to their way of life. Many businesses have established technology systems and resources for staff to work from homes, travel less, do teleconferencing, etc. The religious community has also made various adjustments to worship and other processes.

We have also pleasantly witnessed the intensive cleaning and sanitization of taxi ranks and passengers’ hands!  (Coincidentally the previous week we had talk with rank management of the taxi rank next to our church regarding the cleaning and upkeep of the area we share!!) The message from the authorities has been consistently clear on the small steps to take as individuals to fight the virus. “Wash your hands regularly for 20 seconds, with soap and water or alcohol-based hand rub! Cover your nose and mouth with a disposable tissue or flexed elbow when you cough or sneeze!

Avoid Close Contact

Avoid close contact (1 meter) with people who are unwell!  Stay home and self-isolate from others in the household if you feel unwell! ” As we settle into the lockdown and prepare for the rest, we need to continue to listen to the guidelines we are being given.

I concur with the view that one significant  takeaway from this COVID19 crisis is that YES human beings can adjust their behavior in the face of eminent crisis /threat to human life, if mobilized to do so from all angles  and sectors in the society.  But isn’t the destruction of earth eco-systems and climate change a threat to human life!?  We have, on many platforms and media, been reminded of the need to protect the environment, reduce our carbon footprint and develop and practice sustainable living habits….

However,   our actions (and perhaps inactions) continue to destroy the earth’s ecosystems on which all our lives depend for support. The earth’s ecosystems  are destroyed on a daily basis by our individual, corporate , community,  farming, transportation and industrial practices  that add  filth, dirt, plastics, fumes, paints, harmful oils and greases, spills,  wastage, chemicals  etc  and over-consumption/exploitation of earth’s resources. We have already experienced the consequences (usually very sporadic) of these actions e.g… Floods, wildfires, droughts! Ewe, izikhukhula; imililo egqugqisayo; imbalela kwindawo ezininzi!

Response to Covid 19

The response to Covid 19  gives  one hope that  government, business, civic society, religious community, and  all,  may actively  mobilise  people to take  small steps wherever they are, to make a difference in protecting mother earth !!. We can start where we are … just like we do with frequent washing of our hands with water and soap, social distancing etc!

There are many small steps we can take in our church and homes. These may include consciously switching off energy consuming machinery, office equipment and devices when not in use e.g. computers, electronic gates, air conditioners and heaters.

Yes we can do this! Whilst we continue to encourage hand washing we can consciously avoid wasting water. We should, for example, regularly check for those leaks and fix them immediately! We can reduce Co2 emissions and commute less with our cars and encourage lift sharing/car pool, or use public transport when coming to church and other events!!

Yes we can try our best to internalise and practise the waste management motto “reduce, reuse, recycle.” This motto reminds us of actions we can take to minimize the burden on our environment that is created by waste.   Yes we can start using recycled paper and use less paper to print our pew leaflets! We can reduce the use of throw away paper and plastic plates, cups and other utensils!

We can sort and send our waste for recycling, especially plastics (these, in a very horrifying way, continue to clog our drainage systems and destroy sea life…)  We can join hands with our neighboring taxi rank and mobilise the municipality to improve waste management and cleanliness of our neighbourhood. … There are many “low hanging fruits” that don’t require extra resources or big sacrifices or huge adjustments!

We need to develop a stronger sense that we are one community that requires same things —- clean air, clean water, clean environment,  and  our FOUR seasons!!  Together we can actively work towards achieving this! Kuninzi esingakwenza sonke xa sibambene!!