05 June 2010

World Environment Day: ‘many species, one planet, one future'

Human survival and well-being could depend on success in elevating sustainable development to a global ethic

- Our Common Future, Report of the Brundtland Commission, 1987 (World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED))

In 1972, the UniEfforts made to raise awareness of the dangers of asbestos, SAHA Poster Collection, AL2446_0484ted Nations Special Assembly convened its first Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm, marking the first time that the full scope of environmental concerns was discussed at an intergovernmental forum. World Environment Day (WED) was soon established on 5 June as a means of deepening public awareness of the need to protect the environment.

For South Africa, local environmental issues are inextricably linked to the legacy of the apartheid state's collusion with extractive industries such as mining. The environmental fallout of unchecked mining of gold, uranium, diamonds, asbestos, coal and platinum (to name a few) for over one century has created a public health crisis throughout the country.

The first laws related to the environment date back to the 1950s. The Atmospheric Pollution Prevention Act (APPA) of 1965 set a new precedent for protection of natural resources by making provisions for the control of smoke, although little was known of the broader global implications of carbon emissions.

South Africa's history reflects an evolving consciousness of the ‘environment.' By 1990, the Ministry of Environment Affairs and of Water Affairs had revealed a more comprehensive policy to protect and secure South Africa's natural resources. According to environmental consultant, Chris Albertyn, in a paper presented to the Five Freedoms Forum (FFF) conference entitled ‘South Africa at a turning point: negotiations and the future'

We cannot go on as before: globally, society and the environment alike are beginning to break down... ecological balance and peace can never be found without directly addressing the structural forms of poverty that exist throughout the world.

- ‘Environmental policy which addresses the right to a quality environment in the context of resource management and economic development', Chris Albertyn, AL2457_U2.1, SAHA Original Collection

SAHA and the environment

Through SAHA's Freedom of Information Programme, a constructive dialogue has begun between SAHA and environmental justice organisations to assist in furthering the aims of the environmental sector. By working closely with such organisations as groundWork and the Centre for Environmental Rights, it has been noted that as a key strategy to move forward access to information laws in South Africa (as enshrined in the Promotion of Access to Information Act 2 of 2000) will be key for forwarding all forms of environmental activism in the future.

Environmental workers sawing off a sedated rhino's horn in an attempt to prevent poaching, south west of Etosha, Namibia, May 6, 1989, Gille De Vlieg Collection, AL3274_G16.2.1




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SAHA collections and the environment

AL2457 :: The Original SAHA Collection

The Original SAHA Collection includes papers and publications collection from various anti-apartheid movement organisations ranging from between 1980 and 1992. One of the categories in this collection is the environment, and includes original, faxed and photocopied material from environmental bodies such as Earthlife Africa and Koeberg Watch. 

AL2922 :: The Chemical and Biological Warfare (CBW) Project Collection

The Chemical and Biological Warfare (CBW) Project, launched by The Centre for Conflict Resolution (CCR) in April 1999, was aimed at understanding the creation, development and implementation of the apartheid era CBW programme, and at contributing to and strengthening international efforts to prevent the proliferation of chemical and biological weapons, which have had severe implications for the environment.

AL2878 :: The Freedom of Information Programme (FOIP)CollectionChildren playing around burning rubbish in the street,   Soweto, Gauteng, 14 July, 1989, Gille de Vlieg Collection, AL3274_G24.2

The Freedom of Information Programme (FOIP) collection comprises copies of materials released pursuant to the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA). The collection includes apartheid era security establishment records, documents created by the South African government bodies and agencies post- apartheid, and documents from several private bodies. It also contains documentation of the collection process. Special Projects, undertaken by the South African History Archive (SAHA) to test the parameters of freedom of information in South Africa, include materials relating to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in particular sensitive materials; gays in the apartheid military; South African Defence Force (SADF), the apartheid government's nuclear weapon programme; HIV/AIDS policies and implementation thereof of private bodies and parastatals; the health and environmental impacts of the nuclear energy industry, and documents relating to migration to and within RSA.