Should we save nature while people go hungry? : an analysis of nature preservation and poverty within the South African context

Russol, Mahomed Raffee (2003-04)

Thesis (MPhil)--University of Stellenbosch, 2003.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: South Africa is a land of stunning beauty and scenic wonder, with contrasts ranging from arid semi-desert areas to lush green forests; from flat plains to towering mountains. Socially and economically it is likewise a country of extreme contrasts (MacDonald 2002: 13). The South African Constitution, as adopted on 8 May 1996, grants every citizen basic, inalienable human rights. Under certain circumstances, however, some of these rights can come to stand in direct opposition to one another leaving us with a dilemma to choose between two compelling actions. In this context, the right to a secure, ecologically sustainable environment and the right to food and water is in conflict. The greatest challenge to face South Africa is to eradicate poverty and develop its people while ensuring that the natural environment is not destroyed in the process. There must be development for this generation, but not at the price of destroying the natural environment for the next generation. We have ample examples from the apartheid era of damage done both to people and to the environment through the "homeland policy". Millions of people were forced to eke out an existence on land that could not carry the number of people consigned to these remote areas. Erosion, deforestation and poverty are the heritage. There are increasing demands for development, but these demands are infinite while the resources of the world are finite. The question now arises whether the right to a safe environment or the right to sufficient food and water, both enshrined in the Constitution should be given preference. I aim to show that Holmes Rolston III's article "Feeding People versus Saving Nature?" and the points made in Hardin's "Tragedy of the Commons" fail to satisfy public norms and therefore fall short to help us in solving this dilemma. l propose the bioregional management approach that focuses upon the political means to promote restoration and maintenance of the natural systems that ultimately support the people and nature in each area. I believe that this strategy could succeed in solving the impasse that the South African society has reached in solving this very complex dilemma.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Suid-Afrika is 'n land van ongelooflike skoonheid met kontraste wat wissel van droe semi-woestyne tot geil groen woude; van gelyk vlaktes tot hoe berge. Sosiaal en ekonomies is dit tegelyk 'n land van ekstreme kontraste (MacDonald 2002: 13). Die Suid-Afrikaanse Konstitusie, soos aanvaar op 8 Mei 1996, verseker elke burger van basiese, onvervreembare regte. Onder sekere omstandighede, egter, kan sommige van hierdie regte met mekaar in direkte konflik wees, en die dilemma bring mee dat ons tussen twee belangrike maar konflikterende optredes moet kies. In hierdie konteks is die reg op 'n veilige, ekologies volhoubare omgewing, en die reg tot voedsel en water, in konflik met mekaar. Die grootste uitdaging waardeur Suid-Afrika in die gesig gestaar word, is die gelyktydige uitwissing van armoede en die ontwikkeling van sy mense, terwyl verseker word dat die natuurlike omgewing nie in die proses vernietig word nie. Daar moet ontwikkeling wees vir die huidige generasie, maar nie teen die prys van die vernietiging van die natuurlike omgewing vir die volgende generasie nie. Ons het talle voorbeelde uit die apartheid-era van die skade wat aangerig is aan mense en hul omgewing deur die tuisland-beleid. Miljoene mense is geforseer om 'n bestaan te maak in gebiede wat nie die groot getalle wat na hierdie verafgelee areas gedwing is, kon akkomodeer nie. Die nalatenskap hiervan is erosie, ontbossing en armoede. Daar is toenemende eise vir ontwikkeling, maar hierdie eise is oneindig terwyl die bronne van die wereld eindig is. Die vraag wat nou ontstaan, is of daar voorkeur gegee moet word aan die reg tot 'n veilige omgewing of die reg op voldoende voedsel en water, soos wat beide hiervan beklemtoon word in die Konstitusie. Ek poog om aan te toon dat Holmes Rolston III se artikel "Feeding People versus Saving Nature?" en die punte gemaak in Hardin se "Tragedy of the Commons" nie daarin slaag om openbare norme te bevredig nie en dus nie daarin slaag om die dilemma te oorkom nie. Ek stel voor dat die dilemma benader moet word vanuit 'n bio-regionale perspektief waarin daar gefokus word op die politieke middele om die restorasie en voortbestaan van natuurlike sisteme te bevorder waardeur die mense en natuur in elke area uiteindelik ondersteun word. Ek glo dat hierdie strategie daarin sal slaag om die impasse op te hef waarin die Suid-Afrikaanse samelewing verval het in hul poging om hierdie komplekse probleem op te los.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/53588
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