Tag Archives: nature conservation

Wanderings Day 27

Botswana Part 2…

Another set of pics remembering my time in beautiful Botswana.

Today I am thinking about the Botswana rhythm. There is a wonderful rhythm to the seasons and natural cycles. The flooding then drying of the Okavango Delta. The migration of the zebra and the elephant.

A time for marula trees to bear fruit which brings the elephants.

September is amazing…. a deep breath before the rains arrive. Unexpected flowers bloom. Babies abound – impala, lechwe, zebra.

January is prickly hot. But some afternoons turn black on the horizon and then the lightening and thunder and rain arrive. The cuckoos and Woodland Kingfisher call continuously. A good time to venture into the reeds in a mokoro hoping for a glimpse of the elusive sitatunga. At Xigera Lagoon the African Skimmers are nesting.

The people of Botswana have a rhythm too. A time to plant. A time to harvest. A time to move the cattle. A time to gather from the wild.

There is a beautiful kinship that weaves the Ba-Tswana together as a people but also connects them to this land. It was so easy to fall into this rhythm and be mesmerised by its beat.

A Quiet Revolutionary

I want my life and work to be meaningful.  I want to live and breathe my passion and purpose daily.  I want to be a force for change – for a more loving and compassionate world.

But my character is not forceful.  My leadership style is not charismatic or persuasive.  My dedication to my work, my accomplishments and achievements often fly under the radar as I don’t seek to put myself forward.  I am also not competitive which means I mostly defer to more extroverted characters.  Perhaps this is read as weakness.

And so I have been having a little crisis of self… the crisis of the “I’m too small” and the “I’m not enough” kind because I don’t have a “big, out there” personality.

I’ve been here before.  So time to find solitude and sit with this discomfit and then the epiphanies will come…. they always do…

Epiphany – find your Quiet again…

A few years ago I read Susan Cain’s book Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that won’t stop talking. Then I listened to her TED talk.  Both have been life changing for me.  I went back to these again.

Susan’s Quiet Revolution is based on wonderful core values some of which have profoundly resonated with me:

Be kind always
Be soulful – embrace feeling, emotion and the unseen
Be quirky
Be honest
Be aligned with your values
Be a revolutionary – “In a gentle way you can shake the world.” Mahatma Gandhi

I want to be a quiet revolutionary. 

And in my own gentle, authentic way shake the world. 

My most profound experience of quiet and solitude was in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park where I took this photo.

Valuable

Duomo Firenze
Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, Florence, Italy, 2006

I have been privileged enough to stand inside and outside this particular cathedral twice in my life. It is a mind-fumblingly incredible experience – the grandeur, the history, the craftsmanship, the creativity of humankind. And this is just one example. I have had similar thrills in castles in Scotland, exploring the Roman Forum and Colosseum in Rome … and standing outside Notre Dame de Paris.

Over a billion dollars raised for the rebuild after the Notre Dame fire in just two days … I am floored. What does this say about how we place value as a collective? Is it because a rebuild like this is in our control? We can clearly see where the money will go, assured of the outcome?

Morning Light on the Savanna, 2010

My creativity is sparked by Nature. I want Nature, my muse, to stay around for many, many generations to come. Intrinsically valuable and infinitely inspiring just because it is.

I think my concern for the natural world is shared by many other humans including the likes of Sir David Attenborough, Leonardo DiCaprio, Dr Jane Goodall and the delightful Greta Thunberg. It seems even with this calibre of activist we cannot raise $1 billion in two days to put towards restoring Earth?

The conservationist

Very introspective at the moment…. a middle age thing perhaps? Today I have been thinking about the label “conservationist”. I have thought of myself as a wildlife conservationist since I was probably 10 or 11 years old.

At 3 maybe 4 years old, sitting on the back steps by the kitchen door looking out over this part of the Highveld that would one day soon be taken over by the southern suburbs of Johannesburg.  Our house was one of the first in the new subdivision, still surrounded by the grassland and mixed acacia bushveld typical of this area.

It’s May on the Highveld and everything is tinder dry.  A black patchwork shows where the veld fires have been this season in the Klipriviersberg Nature Reserve just across the road from our house.  Walking through one of these patches bits of burnt grass crackling underfoot.  Then the dull thud of footsteps on dry, baked red earth.  But always life – the titter of a group of red-faced mousebirds in the acacia, the screech of the fiscal shrike, the various species of dove cooing, the flash of red from the black collared barbet darting by, a rustle in the grass maybe a snake or the flash of a tail as a mongoose disappears deeper into the bush and, of course, the black-shouldered kite sitting on the powerline surveying all.

As I got older we ventured further afield, driving during family holidays to protected spaces to witness this life, to immerse ourselves in it temporarily.  The most natural thing in the world, where else would you want to just BE? Kruger National Park, the Soutpansberg, the Drakensberg, Umfolozi, Mkuze, Karoo National Park, Tsitsikama National Park to name a few.

By the time I was a teenager being back at home in the big smoggy city felt strained.  I felt cut off from the natural world where I belonged.  Even in a city like Johannesburg where the wildness of Africa still finds its way in to the urban space, I still felt uneasy. And so I came to understand the fragmentation of wild spaces and how I would want to spend the rest of my life speaking for the voiceless.

What a strange journey it has been and continues to be… my conservationist journey.  It certainly hasn’t been a linear career path and there have been many times when I thought I had lost my way completely.  Thinking how could where I am and what I am doing right now possibly be about following my passion.  But what I have realised recently is that every apparent detour I have had along the way has equipped me with a rather unique world view.

It quickly became clear that my work was not going to be that of the traditional conservation ecologist.  I have had to come to terms with the educator within.  To work through the discomfort I feel as an introvert to relate to people of all ages and stages in the course of sharing one all important message – wild lives and wild spaces matter.

The upshot of all this is that the model of conservation I was immersed in as a child is no longer valid, if it ever was.  We cannot hope to make a difference for wildlife and wild spaces by putting fences up and keeping human communities out of the picture.  Wildlife conservation should be an everyday practice for all of us wherever we find ourselves on this planet.  We need to learn to live in harmony with the other living beings we share this planet with.

Sometimes in my more selfish moments I think over the incredible moments I have had in wild spaces and those magical close encounters with elephant, hippo, leopard, and cheetah – wild ones in wild habitat.  Not ones that I had to pay an awful lot of money for in a contrived 5 star luxury safari setting.

But more often I want people to have these sorts of magical encounters with wildlife in their own backyards so to speak.  Let it be a normal, everyday occurrence – reconnecting humanity back with nature.

These days my original passion for wildlife conservation feels closer, my course more true…. My journey as a conservationist continues…

Part of the journey – no entry road, Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, 2007