Energy & Environment

Sunday, 24 July 2011 22:27

Shell puts the future of the planet in local hands

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While Africa has been to some extent protected from the worst manifestations of acid rain, lead pollution and smog, it is by no means problem-free. In one of the quests for solutions, Shell SA is investing in today’s children by increasing their awareness and knowledge of environmental issues through its significant sponsorship of the largest environmental education centre in the country – Delta Park.
One of Shell SA’s top CSI projects, Delta has an august local history and a critical role to play in a much larger future. Once a state-of-the-art Art Deco sewage works, the Delta facility is now a busy Environmental Education Centre at the heart of South Africa’s biggest city – employing 32 staff and catering for some 4,000 pupils and teachers per month. This throughput - 200 a day - all learn a little more about nature conservation (the centre’s original focus) and environmental protection (the wider and more urgent, more recent mission).

As conservation, climate change and sustainable development have become the new buzzwords, so the Centre has adapted to the globally warmer times with both teacher and student initiatives encouraging the sustainable use of resources. Projects cover issues such as recycling, peace gardens, water testing and air pollution - and channels such as environmental drama or art competitions are encouraged. With the advent of digital cameras, the scope for real live “before and after” conservation projects has increased as well. And each initiative must meet defined criteria such as sustainability, community participation, positive environmental messaging, educational benefit and creativity.

So it is that these kids, who already run rings round their elders when it comes to technology and fresh ideas, could be the source of solutions their forebears and elders simply couldn’t and can’t imagine. Ncedo Ntamnani, Shell SA’s CSI Manager confirms this. “Today’s kids are already a lot more media savvy and issue-aware than previous generations - and a lot more cynical of politicians: we think, in some ways, they are our only hope. And, indeed, if they want a planet where their children’s children can thrive, they are their own only hope as well.” And that’s where the youth and places like the Delta Environmental Centre in Victory Park in Johannesburg come in.

The reality is that global warming is no longer a fad but a fact, even if some commentators tell us that there are some countries who will benefit (Sweden, for instance, will apparently get a longer summer and therefore a longer tourist season). But debatable benefits aside, the seriousness of the environmental damage that fossil fuels has done to the atmosphere is not really in doubt. Add to that the fact that we consume three times as much energy as we did just 30 years ago , and the size of the problem becomes apparent. Delta seeks, in its small but significant way, to tackle it head on by encouraging not just conservation but creative thinking.

As Ntamnani concludes: “Fuelling growth without inflicting environmental degradation is a very hard balance to achieve, despite our making considerable efforts in that direction. Our opinion is that we need less control and more free thinking. We have always been committed to minimising the social and environmental impacts of our operations. Community involvement is part of that - and youth projects like Delta’s, in particular - because if we can harness the spontaneous creativity of youngsters, we can make a difference not only to our lives in the present, but to theirs in the future as well.”

NOTE TO THE EDITOR: Delta Environmental Centre is a private, independent Section 21 company that aims, through innovative education and training programmes, to enable people to become more aware of, understand the impact on and improve the quality of their environment by positively and widely promoting the management and sustainable use of resources.

“In search of a new Kyoto” by Fareed Zakaria, Newsweek, April 16-23 2007, p.21.

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