In the age of ‘alternative facts,’ let’s reflect on some fact-facts

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‘Post-truth era,’ ‘alternative facts,’ ‘misrepresentations.’ These are all colourful synonyms of what the unpolitical types call lies. At a time when truth has been so thoroughly molested, long-respected institutions questioned, the old ways of doing business suffering an ever-more critical gaze, it’s perhaps apt to exhale in relief as we reflect on some undeniable certainties. There really are some ideas that can’t be shaken. If they are, that would require a shift in our thinking so seismic it would be intolerable in the absence of a better, alternative idea. Continue reading

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I am with Orlando

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When my mother called me this morning to check up on me, at some point I brought up the news of the mass shooting that took place at a gay Orlando club called Pulse in Florida, US. Expecting her to match the shock in my voice, she instead said the mowing down of almost 50 people was a good thing and that it reduced the number of gay people in the world. In the same breath of repulsion, she mentioned the transgender bathroom controversy that broke a few weeks earlier in the same country. I hung up. Continue reading

New Wetland to Wise up Kids on Water

A wetland feature was unveiled at the Jewish National Fund Walter Sisulu Environmental Centre last month in May.

An entire ecosystem will flourish around it over the next few years which will include plants, insects and tilapia – indigenous freshwater fish.

“It’s a special day to be opening this wetland,” said Tina de Waal, who manages the gardens in the areas around the centre. “It will grow really well and develop into something amazing.”

The wetland was developed as both an education tool for the 10 000 schoolchildren from more than 70 primary and high schools who visit the centre every year and a natural filter that is integrated into the water drainage flow in the area. Wetlands trap toxins in the water flowing through them, cleaning the water, trap floodwater and replenished ground water and support aquatic life and wildlife.

Water is pumped into the system by four solar panels on the roof. It then runs into other surrounding wetlands throughout the community.

Stream it Forward: The new wetland fixture of the Walter Sisulu Environmental Centre is surrounded by schoolchildren from Mamelodi high schools and Miss Earth South Africa 2012 Tamerine Jardine.
Stream it Forward: The new wetland fixture of the Walter Sisulu Environmental Centre is surrounded by schoolchildren from Mamelodi high schools and Miss Earth South Africa 2012 Tamerin Jardine. Picture: Dikgang Kekana

The new fixture was officially opened by Miss Earth South Africa Tamerin Jardine, manager at the centre Christa van Schalkwyk and landscaper Piet Uys.

“We’re an educational and environmental centre. So for us the whole aim of this wetland is to better our environmental but also [use it] as an education resource for the kids that come to the centre,” said De Waal.

Miss Earth South Africa Tamerin Jardine, speaking to an audience of Mamelodi high school students and members of the Jewish National Fund, which developed the centre in 2005, encouraged all to make a difference in the environment and find their power do so. “That one action by picking up your litter changes your world … We have the power to make our future a greener life,” she said.

Benjamin Shulman, deputy director of local projects at JNF South Africa, said the JNF had been active in community projects such as the Nelson Mandela Park. Walter Sisulu, the namesake of the centre, was also deeply involved and had established a relationship with the Jewish community in South Africa. His mother, Albertina Sisulu, known simply as Ma Sisulu, opened the centre with Helen Suzman and Shaka Sisulu eight years ago.

“There’s a Jewish community in South African … that wanted to contribute to what was around them. We’ve worked for many years in South Africa [on] how can we take this knowledge and give it over in a way that’s useful. All religions basically say all things belong to God. If it belongs to God, we as humans don’t have a right to destroy. So from a religious view you can encourage people to be more environmentally friendly.”

Racer Goes Green for Kids

Racing driver Gennaro Bonafede visited a Mamelodi school to plant trees in a move to encourage children to be green-conscious and prove that the motor racing industry is slowly becoming so, too.

The 23-year-old, who is a third-year industrial engineering student and DJ, planted five trees at Pheladi-Nakene Primary School, after his Miss Earth South Africa girlfriend Tamerin Jardine encouraged him.

“I’m a racing driver for Audi in top-level South Africa racing and she said, ‘It’s time I made your carbon footprint greener because those things are strenuous (sic) on the environment,’ the fuel and pollution… It was good to plant a couple of trees and show that the message is positive from our side.”

Go, Go Green! Racing driver Gennaro Bonafede. Miss Earth South Africa 2012 and schoolchildren of Pheladi-Nakene Primary School.
Go, Go Green! Racing driver Gennaro Bonafede, Miss Earth South Africa 2012 and schoolchildren of Pheladi-Nakene Primary School

The event was aimed at highlighting the importance of trees, which improve air quality by providing oxygen, conserving water and preserving the soil. Last year the school received six peach trees from the Walter Sisulu Environmental Centre to expand the “fixed” diet provided by the government-run feeding scheme at the school. The school is also hoping to raise an orchard and is seeking donations from the community.

“The kids were very happy. They [Bonafede and Jardine] have [a]way of motivating these kids to make them understand the important of trees and making them love and take care of these trees,” said Donald Lekgau, a teacher at the school who also runs a gardening project and maintains the school environment. He added that the children had even named the trees after themselves. “They were asking me, ‘Should we water the plants in the morning?’ I said no, do it in the afternoon. That showed me how much they are interested in that.”

Katlego Lebogo, 12, a seventh-grade learner said he was excited at the tree planting. “I had a lot of fun. I learned how to plant a tree and I [can] plant trees everywhere so that our country can live a healthy country.”

He said he will start picking up rubbish anywhere he sees it and will look after four trees at community teaching centre. “We learned that our world is damaged by gases so we must plants trees for us to breathe… [The] racing driver he said that to us he knows racing cards are the damaging the world so he must do something.”

From left: Mpho Mahlaba, Gennaro Bonafede and Katlego Lebogo. Picture: Supplied
From left: Mpho Mahlaba, Gennaro Bonafede and Katlego Lebogo. Picture: Supplied

Bonafede said motor-sporting South Africa are keeping an eye on how they are impacting the environment. One suggestion he makes is recycling the rubber tyres used in racing to plant vegetable gardens. Last month the Supreme Court of Appeal gave the Recycling and Economic Development Initiative of South Africa (REDISA) the go-ahead to initiate its Integrated Industry Waste Tyre Management Plan after an unsuccessful challenge by the Retail Motor Industry Organisation (RMI). REDISA aims to ensure that waste tyres are disposed of, stored and recycled properly by requiring tyre producer to register.

Bonafede reckoned it was possibly the first time anyone in racing had done something like what he did at Pheladi-Nakene in their personal capacity. “It was my first time but I really enjoyed it. It was nice to the see the kids get involved and helping us. … [it’s] nice to see such a small difference on our side can make such a huge difference in their lives.”

The pupils piqued when Bonafede showed them pictures of the Audi S4 he drove and promised he would get them tickets so they can watch him at the Top Gear Festival in Durban in June. “They would never see things like that. I could see excitement in the kids’ faces.”

Bonafede races nationally for Audi and Ferodo Racing. He competed at the Top Gear Festival in Durban last month (June) and hoping to repeat his 2012 Street Race victory.