In my last blog I shared some of my encounters during my travels to South Africa and the environmental impacts I saw in the country. Much of South Africa is a buzzing metropolitan world, fitting our definition of “developed nation,” but an often unseen part of the nation is rural and reminiscent of traditional Africa. I covered my experiences with environmental protection and green awareness in both areas of the country. I used Kosi Bay, a tiny community with few ties to the modern world, as an example regarding green living as the residents of Kosi Bay interact with the environment and control the ecological impacts they have. In this entry, I wanted to expand on this idea with one key addition: to highlight the similarities and differences that we, the American nation, have with the Kosi Bay Zulu people in the way we interact with our environment.
The people of Kosi Bay live in their surrounding environment with a minimal ecological footprint. On the other hand, the United States has one of the largest ecological footprints in the world. Of course, even with the difference of scale, we all have the potential to create the same problems by simply being part of a human society: humans produce waste and supporting any kind of population will cause strain on the surrounding ecosystem. This is simply a natural fact. But here lies the greatest difference I observed; how we approach this problem. Although we face the same core challenges and have the same effects, we go about looking for a solution in different ways. The American habit to focus on the greater picture, or to immediately look for national changes, is opposite from the community-based Zulu approach to addressing environmental issues.
A second similarity is that people from both communities, on both sides of the world, want to make a change. Unfortunately, America has gained a poor reputation for its environmental policy. There is a stereotype that American people are incredibly wasteful and care only for corporate profits, desecrating the global environment in the process. This stereotype certainly has basis in fact. However, this does not apply to all of the American people: I have found that, especially within my generation, these issues are gaining awareness and are taking precedence what we like to see changed in our society. The overwhelming consensus from my generation is that we should be demanding changes and actually making those changes ourselves. And we are not alone in this. The people of Kosi Bay also want to make a change for the better. The scale is different: America is looking not only at a local, but a national scale, while the Kosi Bay community does not have substantial outside influence and their primary interests lie in their effects on their immediate surroundings.
The final similarity, and hopefully the most uplifting one, is the success that we are both having in regards to greener living. Kosi Bay is a small community and is looking at small-scale changes in the overall global picture and is doing very well. The community has managed to live in almost complete harmony with their surroundings. As I touched upon earlier, the United States does not have this positive reputation. But if you adjust your outlook, you may come to a different conclusion. The US green movement is still young, and even younger when you take into consideration it has only been taken seriously in the last two decades. On a national scale it is harder to see the changes because of the size and diversity of America, but these kinds of changes start small and grow larger. All over our nation, small changes are being made by companies and individuals, and these changes are growing at huge rates. These small changes spread; we simply have to give them time to reach the national level. Not only do I see both communities wanting to make a change, but I see them doing it.