THE SPINNING WHEEL & THE SPEED OF LIGHT
Take paradise and put up a parking lot
© WOLF AVNI
“If you build it big enough and make it loud enough no-one will even see it” #1.
“Some take the bible for what it is worth when it says that the meek shall inherit the earth... but I heard that some sheik bought New Jersey last week... and you suckers ain’t getting nothing”, sang a sardonic Frank Zappa back about thirty five years ago. At the time petrol sold for around twenty-three cents a litre and everybody knew he was just crazy. Now, almost half a century later with the world’s economy deep into a process of ‘globalization’, and with the puissance of the big petro-economies making itself felt around the planet, the sentiment no longer seems so entirely deranged.
So too, many of the dire and doom-filled predictions of those first environmentalists, the hippies, they who the establishment was so quick to dismiss as cranks back then, labelling them tree-and-bunny huggers - are now revealing themselves to have been more than just a little prophetic. They pointed to the atmosphere; that thin and fragile envelope of air and of water which surrounds our world. They refused to accept the conventions and scruples of a society which was in complete denial of the obvious; the mountains of evidence that were beginning to point to the fact that man-made toxins and human stewardship were at the core of the unravelling of ecological integrity. They pled a case for preservation of the world’s unspoiled places and for lifestyles that affirmed rather than consumed the natural resource of the planet.
Not much has changed. Society is still in denial that the by-products of Global industrialisation and first-world lifestyles are for the most part the base ingredient in the contaminant which is rapidly destroying living immune systems of the planet, where the demise of the creatures that populate it is by and large relegated to a file marked ‘collateral damage’.
Apropos of absolutely nothing, when I was a boy, we used to catch trout in the Liesbeek river where it flows off of Devil’s Peak and though the southern suburbs of Cape Town - Newlands, Rondebosch and Claremont - on its short path to the sea. An earlier generation told of sea-run trout, fish that used to run to the sea until Paarden Island was developed into an industrial area. The river was canalised and slowly turned so vitriolic with the effluvia flowing from the factories that sprung up around its banks, that by the time I was a boy you could develop photographic film in it. I kid you not!
Some time later, around the time of my twentieth birthday, adrift in the currents of life with little more than youthful enthusiasm for a rudder, I washed up on the shores of Tenerife in the Canary Islands, where, driven by fate, I became a partner in a scuba-diving school. In the few short years that I lived there, I watched the tidal zone and the benthos beyond it deteriorate and die under encumbrance of the societal waste that was flushed into it. The Canaries are a unique geographic anomaly, rising abruptly as they do from the oceanic floor of the deep Atlantic, far from any continental shelf, volcanic fingers soaring like a vast sieve in the path of mid-ocean currents. The differences between the cerulean waters offshore teeming with life and the turbid, septic filth that washed the city beaches and inshore zones around dense human habitation were entirely unequivocal. Urban development was matched by scum-creep as it inched along the shoreline.
The curtain rises upon the present and finds me living in another Eden here in the southern Drakensberg, on the thresh hold of an unspeakably beautiful wilderness area; the newly declared Ukahlamba World-heritage Drakensberg Park. When the park was declared a world heritage site we rejoiced, seeing it as a step towards preservation of a unique and inspirational natural environment. But it seems as if the celebrations were premature. Recent developments in the Kwa-Sani municipal area give rise to alarming disquiet. Along with an inevitable pattern of development it seems we are stuck with a mind set that pays scant regard to anything other than its own self-important prominence. We are realistic enough to understand that economic development cannot be avoided. We are even supportive of it and would be first to argue that rational and properly structured economic activity is to be encouraged.
We would contend that growth and development of the district as a recreational gateway into the Drakensberg is deserving of every support. What we fail to comprehend is why it is necessary to do so in a way that is completely insensitive to the “special-case” status of the region. After all, the development guidelines for the Drakensberg approaches quite specifically recognise this special-case status. Yet many of the commercial stakeholders seem oblivious to the fact that they are altering the fundamental aesthetic of the natural resource. The most visible manifestation of this is in the burgeoning of inappropriate signage. There seems to be a competition out there to see who can conceive, design and erect the most gauche and tasteless product- branding possible. It as if there is no confidence in the intrinsic value of the services or amenities which are being offered to the lucrative traffic that passes through. It is as if there is a belief out there that to be noticed at all by the passing trade, one must gob-smack them with all the subtlety of a half-brick through a car windscreen. Everything must be painted in the most tasteless fluorescent colours imaginable and constructed to larger-than-life, gargantuan scale.
Hey don’t shoot me... I’m just a messenger.
#1. Ken Keasey (The merry pranksters).
THE PAST. Once there was a wilderness - the headwaters of the Umzimkulu river
THE PRESENT. Illogical, illegal and ill-thought - Gateway to a world Heritage
A view of the future? - Current trendsr taken to a logical conclusion
1. Take paradise and put up a parking lot.
2. Day-glow, Candy-coloured, Stream-line Crazy.