Environmental Services

GreenMatter Education Day

GreenMatter Education Day

On the 5th December 2014, Nandi Gumede, Environmental Manager and GreenMatter fellow, was asked to be a part of an environmental education day at Betty's Bay in the Western Cape, with the intention to give back and inspire the youth to consider careers in Biodiversity.

Back in 2012, Nandi Gumede was chosen to be a GreenMatter Fellow, along with two other NCC colleagues. Since then Nandi has grown from strength to strength in NCC, has a number of successful projects under her belt and continues to add value to our clients and organisation. 2014 saw her win the Environment Award at our annual function, an award which she earned from her hard work in both her daily job and giving back to the local community. Two months later Nandi was involved in an Educational Day in Betty’s Bay for school learners and wrote this report back on the experience.

Background to the event

As one of the Green Matter PengWin Trax prizes for the top scoring school, Beacon Hill Secondary School won a Marine education as a collaboration between Green Matter, the Department of Environmental Affairs and Cape Nature. The event took place on the 5th of December 2014 at Stony Point in Betty’s Bay in the Western Cape and was aligned with the Betty’s Bay Hope Spots Launch with Dr Sylvia Earle.

The Green Matter Fellows were invited to participate in the event as a part of their role in giving back to the environment and society at large, principles which are encouraged by the fellowship. There were approximately 15 learners from the school and the topics of discussion included the role of youth in biodiversity conservation, careers in the biodiversity sector, working in biodiversity related careers and current environmental challenges. The fellows also joined the learners in some outdoor activities.

The Hope Spots Initiative

Mission Blue is a non-profit organisation and pioneer for the global Hope Spots Initiative spearheaded by world renowned Marine Biologist Dr Sylvia E. Earle. The statement below from Mission Blue describes the main idea behind the initiative:

'Hope Spots are special places that are critical to the health of the ocean — Earth’s blue heart. Some of these Hope Spots are already formally protected, while others still need defined protection. About 12% of the land around the world is now under some form of protection under national parks, world heritage sites, monuments etc, while less than three percent of the ocean is protected. Mission Blue is committed to changing this. Networks of marine protected areas maintain healthy biodiversity, provide a carbon sink, generate life-giving oxygen, preserve critical habitat and allow low-impact activities like ecotourism to thrive. They are good for the ocean, which means they are good for us.’

Their vision is to increase public awareness on critical issues pertaining to global ocean systems and encourage public support for the development of a global network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). 

Dr Sylvia E. Earle

Dr. Sylvia Earle is an oceanographer, author, explorer and lecturer. She is the Founder of Deep Ocean Exploration and Research Inc, Mission Blue and The Sylvia Earle Alliance; she is also Chair of the Advisory Council of the Harte Research Institute, the Ocean in Google Earth and leader of the NGS Sustainable Seas Expeditions which are all strongly influential in marine conservation.

Cape Whale Coast Hope Spots

The Cape Whale Coast Hope Spots falls under the Agulhas Front Hope Spot which is one of the 50 Hope Spots identified by Mission Blue. The 200 km long Cape Whale Coast was identified as a Hope Spot based on its unique combination of rich and abundant biodiversity, mainly caused by the two major ocean currents and where the temperate south coast currents meet the cold west coast upwellings. Other factors making the area important for marine conservation is the breeding of Red Data listed endemic African Penguin (Spheniscus demersus), four critically endangered Albatross, Blue Whale and Tuna.

Betty's Bay Marine Protected Area

The Marine Protected Area is managed by Cape Nature and forms an important protection of the Stony Point African Penguin colony, Abalone, West Coast Rock Lobsters, and various linefish species found in the area. There is a proposed expansion plan for the MPA from Steenbras River mouth along the coast to Bot River Mouth with boundaries and zones for specified activities. The most notable aspect of the African Penguin (Spheniscus demersus) at Stony Point is that there has been an increase in the breeding population in comparison to other breeding sites monitored in the Western Cape.

The breeding colony of African Penguins at Stony Point

The Event Programme

In preparation for the Education Day programme, it was requested by Green Matter that the fellows prepare an age-specific presentation for the group of learners. The presentations were varied and informative for both the fellows and the learners.

Pierre de Villiers from Cape Nature presented a session on the importance of the Southern Oceans and hosted a guided trip to the African Penguin population at Stony Point with a discussion on historic and current issues surrounding the conservation of the species.

Discussions around African Penguin conservation at Stony Point with the learners from Beacon Hill Secondary School

The Green Matter Fellows each hosted sessions around the theme of “Youth’s Role in conserving Biodiversity”, focusing on different sub themes:

 

Speaker: Hayley

  • Introduction and definition of biodiversity
  • Why it is important (ecosystem services in simple terms)
  • Why conservation is important (biodiversity on the decline)

Speaker: John

How people are impacting on biodiversity issues such as habitat destruction driven by

  • Population growth
    • Increased standard of living
    • Inherent selfishness
    • Ever increasing human - nature divide
  • What can you do?
    • Human population
    • Increasing standard of living; selfishness, new goal or measure of economic growth other than the GDP, participatory video of two solutions related to recycling and waste management.
    • Increasing divides between nature and humans

Speaker: Nandi

  • Why youth is important in conserving biodiversity
  • Ways in which youth can be involved in the sector
  • Case study: World Youth Rhino Summit
  • Starting of own initiatives and examples

A presentation and discussion around the involvement of youth in conservation

Pierre de Villiers also presented on the importance of Marine Protected Areas.

This day also had a focus on career development in the biodiversity sector, so it was important for the GreenMatter fellows to share their career stories and how they have got to where they are now. They discussed the background to their studies and their passion for the environment, what they considered important skills for the area of study, what role they currently play in biodiversity and important skills for that role and their career aspirations.

In addition to the above, Nandi Gumede presented on the priority skills as identified by Green Matter during their extensive research into the critical and priority skills needed for the conservation sector such as taxonomists, ecologists and environmental economists specialisations; as well the video by Care Takers called Keeping the Balance, showcasing the need to maintain a balance when it comes to conserving biodiversity, highlighting the role of an Environmental Control Officer (ECO), Alastair Campbell, on the Ingula Pumped Storage Scheme project in KwaZulu-Natal.

The learners were given the opportunity to use their creative skills in making a banner on the day’s events and their commitment to conserving biodiversity.

Learners taking part in creating a banner summarising their commitment to conserving biodiversity

 

Towards the end of the day Cape Nature presented the current state of the Marine Protected Area and the African Penguin population to the general public. Dr Sylvia E. Earle officially launched Stony Point as a part of the Hope Spots Initiative. The Mayor of Overstrand was present for this ceremony.

Dr Sylvia E. Earle speaking on the importance of marine conservation and Hope Spots

Summary and Conclusion of the Day's Event

The events of the day highlighted the importance of youth in the conservation of biodiversity as part of future leaders. It was a rewarding experience to inform the learners of different careers within the sector, even to those learners who have a passion for fields that are not solely biodiversity-focussed such as civil engineering, economics, accounting, etc. The learners found the day to be helpful in finding ways to be involved in conservation. Teachers involved in the sessions found that the information gathered could be integrated practically in their respective schools. 

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