Photograph by Clarece Polke
JOHANNESBURG — Green has become a color with versatile meaning and uses in South Africa: it is one of the colors of the national soccer team, Bafana Bafana, and is also color of the well-manicured grass in each of the country’s 10 World Cup stadiums. More recently, however, it has become the color of the government’s efforts to incorporate environmentally friendly practices into everyday World Cup festivities.
The FIFA Green Goal Program is implemented through South Africa’s Department of Environmental Affairs. National environmental volunteer Mabogo Colert is a Johannesburg resident hired by the department to increase public awareness and involvement in reducing energy consumption. Volunteers also encourage citizens to use water more efficiently and practice responsible tourism and environmentally friendly infrastructure during the World Cup.
Examples of responsible tourist practices include carpooling instead of using taxis, not littering after games or concerts, using electricity and water wisely and recycling plastic bottles.
“In some ways, we cannot stop the pollution, but we can minimize it,” Colert said about the goal behind her message. “Sometimes people do things without knowing what they’re doing and that’s a problem. If you make them aware, they can minimize what they’re doing.”
Norman Magame, a 20-year-old resident of Orlando West, Soweto, agreed adding that sustaining the environment has not been a priority for many black South Africans. However, he believes the issue goes beyond lack of knowledge to basic cultural differences.
“Blacks don’t understand the importance of the environment; the only thing we care about is fun,” Magame said. “The kind of culture we have, we believe in cutting down trees and killing animals. If we had something to teach the people there’s more to life than cutting down trees, then maybe it would change the situation.”
Albi Modise, chief director of communications for the national Department of Environmental Affairs, said in an e-mail message that the program allocates a limited number of volunteers to each province. Volunteers are responsible for raising questions around the initiative in addition to conducting surveys addressing social, environmental and economic matters.
Thendo Mkuya, another national environmental volunteer involved in the campaign, said in an e-mail message that there is a gap in effective communication between the younger and older generation.
“When it comes to environmental terms, they are not there in our indigenous languages,” Mkuya said. “To explain it fully to old people is a challenge, but to the young adult it’s very effective because some of them already know about global warming or climate change that we are facing.”
Mkuya, who is fluent in Tshivenda and English, said language is a barrier not just between old and young, but between various tribes. Volunteers, most of whom are from KwaZulu-Natal Province, have to work together to compile language skills to ensure they can effectively communicate with locals in every region they visit. Modise said volunteers were chosen based on their enrollment in environment-related subjects at a postsecondary institution, and that the program is aimed at providing temporary jobs under the government’s broader agenda of poverty alleviation, skills development and temporary job creation.
To participate in South Africa’s green initiative visit The Green Passport where you can calculate your carbon footprint and learn how to offset the footprint against a select project.