CAPE TOWN: An educated public is one that demands more of its politicians, is more discerning in who it votes for, and can push for service delivery that is sustainable in the long term, the Environmental Monitoring Group’s (EMG’s) water and climate change seminar heard this week.

This emerged after a community member from Makhaza, Khayelitsha, testified to how she had been empowered as an activist, simply by receiving education on the water cycle through various civil society-organised workshops. The result of this capacity building was a groundswell of activism within the community which has pushed the City of Cape Town to be more equitable in its water service delivery, community involvement in clearing up a nearby wetland, and food gardening.

The seminar, hosted by EMG, brought Khayelitsha residents together with researchers and Cape Town-based civil society organisations to discuss some of the concepts and terminology emerging from within the climate change ‘community’.

‘Academics are fluent with terms like ‘vulnerability’, ‘resilience’, ‘adaptive capacity’, ‘resourcefulness’, et cetera. Meanwhile these terms are alien and inaccessible to many of the communities that must deal with the practicalities of a society responding to climatic change,’ explains EMG’s seminar host, Taryn Pereira.

‘How do people and the environment respond to this change, both now and in the future? These are some of the concepts we wanted to look at in the seminar.’

Reframing the issue of adaptation as one of responding to ‘climate’ rather than to ‘climate change’ might help society to view its climate response strategies to ones which grapple with more immediate impacts of climate rather than just keeping the eye on a post-2050 climate change horizon. The Western Cape government has adopted this phrase, in response to the shift in thinking amongst climate scientists here in the Cape.

Calling for more education, however, the Khayelitsha community asked what government’s role was in providing environmental capacity building for communities. Some agreed that the community had an important role to play in educating government about climate impacts on the ground, meanwhile pushing for sustainable service delivery.

For more information:

Taryn Pereira

Researcher: Climate Change & Water

Tel: 021 448 2881

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Follow EMG on Twitter: @EnvMonGroup