it’s not just a tree.

it’s not just a tree.

A photo-elicitation is a tool which one can use to create the right atmosphere for an interview to take place. When an interviewee is confronted with an image it could evoke some emotions which then leads to their story similar to the image. Tinkler describes it well when he says that a photograph takes away the pressure on the interviewee because the photograph can be easier related to than a bunch of questions (Tinkler 2013:174).

Narrative of service
I have a huge, deciduous tree in front of my room which is quite a servant to me (if I can say it like that). This tree is the reason why my room does not overheat during the summer as it gives nice shade to my room, and then also causes for the lovely sun to stream into my room in the winter when it has no leaves.


Narrative of power
It is a fact that people are constantly trying and succeeding to perfect nature. And since “your neighbour is doing it, you should too”. In this instance, I am referring to the wonderful lollipop trees as we refer to them. Where a small tree is shaped so that it is more pleasant to the eye and that our gardens look neater.


Narrative of heritage
I am always intrigued when I visit the woods in Knysna. The woods, known as the Tsitsikamma woods have been the core of numerous stories of Dalene Matthee. She is a very well-known Afrikaans writer and she wrote four novels namely, Kringe in ‘n bos, Fiela se kind, Moerbeibos en Toorbos. The woods therefore has a beautiful heritage linked to these stories which are mostly also based on true happenings in the woods.


Counter-narrative of the unruly tree
The tree in front of my room is not your perfect “symmetrical” tree and we had to trim some of its branches quite a couple of times or the one branch would be growing into my room or possibly destroying the roof. My mom even once suggested that we take the tree out as it is not such a “pretty” tree but I fought the good fight…and won.


Interviewee 1_Liné Grobler (Peer)

Narrative of service
To maximise planting space on our farm we planted Bloekom trees to absorb excess water from the ground which then provides us with suitable land to plant mealies. The Bloekom trees are therefore at our service for making it possible to plant.

Narrative of power
I have a whole collection of bonsais which I had for 8 years already. “I have been trimming and shaping these small trees to my own personal preference and therefore, it is seen as a form of art.” I am therefore perfecting nature and its unruly forms.

Narrative of heritage
My grandmother has a banana farm and when driving towards the house, the driveway has two rows of opposing banana trees. This symbolises the core of our farm and has been there for many years.

Counter-narrative of the unruly tree
When walking on the sidewalk of our street, I always trip over the roots that cause the paving to lift. These trees have obviously been there for quite a while and was planted for the aesthetic purpose thereof. These trees are not usually meant to be planted between pavement blocks and will obviously This is an example of the unruly tree as one cannot even cut the roots. It is just there to stay.

Interviewee 2_Riaan Smit (Uncle)

Narrative of service
At our lodge, we have several trees planted for the use of hammocks for our guests. These trees create wonderful shade for a resting area.

Narrative of power
A lot of palm trees are planted to create a tropical paradise vibe for guests. These trees are therefore not indigenous to our environment but they have an aesthetic purpose. These trees are also planted in rows to create a perfect rhythm in nature.

Narrative of heritage
There is one old tree at the entrance of our lodge that could not be removed as this tree survived several civil wars (in Mozambique) and tells a great story of the events that took place. The tree serves as a landmark for a specific time period and is therefore treasured.

The heritage tree blocks the aesthetical look of my lodge but because it has such a rich history to it, it cannot be removed.

Interviewee 3_Johan Stander (Dad)

Narrative of service
There was an apple tree in our backyard where I grew up and we always had some use for the apples either for just eating them or my mother using them to make her delicious apple tart. My friends and I also had a big tree in the one park in Potchefstroom that we would climb and explore. This was the ultimate jungle gym.

Narrative of power
We had a tree at my school which the caretakers started to bend the one branch with a strong iron rope to cause it to grow parallel toe the ground. This tree became a local lover’s spot where you could sit and watch the sunset. This tree had a plan of growing tall but the humans had another plan with it.

Narrative of heritage
The Akker trees on the “bult” are very much known to Potchefstroom and its history. These trees form part of the beautiful landscape and are always the main attraction for photographers. I can remember how small (even though big) the trees were and then each time I go back to my hometown I realise how these trees are still growing bigger.

This tree was just next to the one wall surrounding the house and when the tree started leaning in towards the wall we had to make a circular hole in the wall so that the one branch could grow through the wall. Even though we could just cut the unruly branch off we decided to make it part of the aesthetic of our house.

It is clear that from my interviews I obtained information which I would not have the right questions to, but because I started telling my story and showing the photograph, the interviewees could relate better and feel more at ease.



Tinkler, P. 2013. Using photographs in social and historical research. London: SAGE.



Floating golf courses.

Floating golf courses.

When I first heard the term ‘slow violence’, the image of someone being slowly strangled or smothered popped into my head, because that is violence in a slow speed and then you get a gunshot, which is fast? Well, that is what I, superficially, thought.

According to Nixon (2011) slow violence is “a violence that occurs gradually and out of sight, a violence of delayed destruction that is dispersed across time and space, an attritional violence that is typically not viewed as violence at all.” It is therefore a change that takes place in the environment where the result of change will only be noticed in the future by another generation.  Nixon (2011) places great emphasis of how the human brain works and that when something is out of sight, it is out of mind. It is thus clear that when one cannot literally see how pollution or violence to the environment is affecting other ecosystems and living organisms,  one would not react to a problem that “is not there”.

Then I started racking my brain for slow violence in my community, and it was more difficult than I thought. But then it hit me. The game that could be rated as most boring to the audience is killing the environment one hectare at a time and no one bats an eye. Yes, you guessed right; it is golf. Golf and more specific, golf courses are destroying ecosystems and living organisms at a slow pace and without clear signs of violence or pollution.

This image may be confusing. For the golf course at the back is indeed not a golf course. It is a dam filled with algae floating on the water surface, making it impossible for sunlight to reach the organisms in the water, which then ultimately leads to their death. I took this photo two weeks ago at the Irene Farm. This algal bloom can release dangerous toxins into the environment which is harmful to humans and animals alike. The reason for algal bloom can be due to the release of nutrients and fertilizers (for agricultural use) contaminating the water and then causing for algae to feed on and cause this green paint like surface on the water.

When one just skim over this image, everything could look quite normal and healthy. Green has always been associated with healthy (specifically in nature terms). Don’t you just want to play with your dog on this green grass? or maybe you studied the image a bit closer and then noticed that there is a blue water bottle floating on the “grass”?
IT’S A FLOATING GOLF COURSE! And then you realise that it is impossible, but that it would actually make the game more exciting than it is.

These two swans are ‘stranded’ as they are not willing to risk going into the dam which actually is their home. The swans could get very sick if they came in contact with the contaminated water.  Even so, a golf course can be compared to a dam filled with algae. Golf courses are very bad for the environment as they are actually human-created environments where the actual environment is left behind or destroyed. A lot of ecosystems and organisms become extint due to the immense overtaking of golf courses. The special grass also needs tons of water and fertilizers to stay beautiful and when this fertilized contaminated water come in contact with other fresh water sources people and animals can get sick.

And just to enforce my statement, this is the exact same dam, only two months before the previous photos. Those are the exact same swans who are enjoying their habitat as they should be able to.

But to get the dam, from how it is looking now with its greenish appearance back to its normal state, a lot needs to be done.

Then I read an article, The Case against Golf on The Guardian website where Ben Adler wrote a very true statement about golf and how it affects the environment.

” So if you turn on the TV and stumble on the US Open, pause before changing the channel. No, not to watch with bated breath as a guy in a sun-visor named Tiger or Phil swings a mallet every couple of minutes in an intense effort to poke a ball towards a tiny hole, but rather to consider whether the country could do with about 15,000 fewer places to play the silly game. After all, when you talk to someone who just came back from seeing the Grand Canyon or Yellowstone National Park you never hear them say: “Yeah, that was nice, but you know what it really needs? A golf course.”

After reading the article, I actualy realised how immense this problem is and how it truly is a slow violence in our environment. We are slowly killing organisms and their habitats to create just another place to play a boring game where you can win mega bucks. And those mega bucks will not even help to bring the extint organisms and natural environment back to life. Just like the algae is smothering the life in that dam, the golf courses are smothering our environment with the abundant organisms true to it. We should start focusing on what is important.

Playing a boring, money-making game?

Or breathing?



Adler, B. 2007. The case against golf. [O]. Available:

Nixon, R. 2011.Slow violence and the environmentalism of the poor. Cambridge: Harvard University Press


My dog understands Afrikaans.

My dog understands Afrikaans.

Yes, you read correctly. My dog, well our dogs, understand Afrikaans. And this is not just a random statement, because when a random statement is supported by a theory or proof it becomes more than just a random statement. The companionship we have with our animals is coined by Donna Haraway as “companion species” where she states it as a kinship claim (Haraway 2007:8-9). She further writes that not all people realise the essence of a companionship between a dog or other species and its owner.

Stories are filled with life and life is a story. When one shares a story with an animal it becomes far more emotional as we cannot communicate phonetically with animals but with feelings, signs, and sounds. And a beautiful story is never complete without a photograph. So the following photo essays are about my own pets as well as friends’ and families’.


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This is me and my ‘baba’, Lila.











She came as a birthday present to simply steal my heart. She was my ‘baba’ and still is my ‘baba’ even though she is now almost 7 years old (in human years). We had a very close relationship from the beginning as she slept on my lap when I had to practice piano for three hours straight. When she grew a little bigger and could not fit on my lap anymore she would lie under the piano stool until I was done practising. Yes, my dog is intrigued with music just as I am. And I solidly believe in the statement that owners and their dogs become the same or have the same habits. For instance, I love tomatoes. Have you ever met a dog who loves tomatoes? Yup, my dog. She is not fussy at all, just like I am when it comes to food. Nowadays, she patiently waits for me to wake up in the morning and then observe how I do my makeup or whatsoever.


OOm Hoender.jpg
My dad, Johan and his friend, Hoender with Jackson, the cuckatiel. 

This photography is a photo of my dad (left) and one of his varsity friends, whom they called “Hoender”, as in chicken. His cockatiel, Jackson was with him all the time and even went to the grocery store with him. Jackson was a great party-animal as well and never stayed at home when there was a braai. This is such a beautiful example of how a bird can become attached to a human being and be loyal to them.


My sister, Suné and her dog, Daisy.


Daisy, a dachshund-greyhound mix, is Suné’s baba. Daisy is a very extraordinary dog who has the ability to melt anyone’s heart. She loves going for a walk or rather as my sister explained that “We love walking. Daisy just tends to walk me, rather than I am walking her.” This can be understood as she is a mix with a greyhound and has longer legs and a thinner, muscular body which causes her to be really fast. It is really is a workout when you go and have a run with Daisy. Then, as I mentioned earlier about my dog, Lila and how her likings are much similar to mine, Daisy is also exactly the same as my sister. My sister does not eat any sauces (like tomato sauce, chutney, mayonnaise). Neither does she mix her food like stir-fry is a no-go. She is basically very picky when it comes to food, and so is Daisy, who will simply take a sniff at the pumpkin and green beans mixed in her bowl and then retreat. Then Lila, my dog, is all smiles, as she loves anything food related, and then steps in to clear Daisy’s bowl. And then they wonder why Lila is a bit more chubby…

Anike pietskiet.jpg
Pietskiet, the lovebird.


This is me again, about 4 years old. The lovebird is Pietskiet. Pietskiet was my dad’s lovebird and then he also became attached to me. He would sit on my shoulder while I was watching television and he loved to sing or try to imitate the sounds in the house. He also loved nibbling on my ears while sitting on my shoulder. Pietskiet would sometimes hop around on the floor and even the dog did not dare to go after him. He was most of the time not in his cage simply because he never wanted to fly away. Well, that is what we thought (tear). But after two days, he returned home. He probably just went on a road trip.

When looking at all of these photos, I cannot help but smile because even though all of these pets are not with us anymore, they made a lasting emotional impression on me as well as their owners. They teach us that the little things in life matter and that sometimes we should really stop at every lamp pole with the dog, to maybe notice the beautiful wild flowers next to it.














The Anthropo…what?

The Anthropo…what?

The Anthropocene is an epoch (like a time period) of specific environmental changes, with the human being as the main drivers of the epoch. Before this huge word was dropped in class, I did not know what it meant to be living in the Anthropocene until I realised that almost everything we as humans do these days, IS exactly what the Anthropocene is.

Osborn Jr. wrote that “it is man’s earth now. One wonders what obligations may accompany this infinite possession”(1948: 66). Humans have the responsibility to take care of the earth and its resources but due to the “Great Acceleration” and technology improving daily, natural resources started decreasing drastically. Waters
(2016: 137) refers to “combinations of plastics, fly ash, radionuclides, metals, pesticides, reactive nitrogen, and consequences of increasing greenhouse gas concentrations”, as being distinctive to the Anthropocene epoch. I also experienced this personally when I paid a visit to Irene Village Farm and noting how the Hennopsriver is polluted with chemicals that are used to treat raw sewage, which then causes big masses of foam to fill the Hennopsriver. This river flows through an estate which can also be harmful to people and animals alike.

The Hennopsriver.

Steffen (2011) describes the Anthropocene as an epoch completely driven by the “civilized Man”. In other words, it is a time period where we as humans are in control of nature in terms of conserving it for the future generations, but we tend to develop even more while leaving nature behind or destroying it. George P. Marsh writes in his book Man and Nature that “the earth is fast becoming an unfit home for its noblest inhabitant”. The noblest inhabitant is referring to the human being. We are indeed changing the world for our good but in contrary creating problems for our own future.

I live in an area where trees are still quite prominent. My room is on the second level and close to a couple of trees, which is home to a lot of birds. The task here was to simply listen to the surroundings and then also take a sound recording to document. The first sound recording was taken at 6:30 a.m. and it is clear that there is still a lot of bird life (especially Hadedas and pigeons) in the area but the sound of cars also became constant in the era of the Anthropocene.

However, just an hour later, at the same spot, I took another sound recording where one of the most hated (definitely my most hated) sound dominates the environment and also a poor pigeon’s call. I call it “the-thing-that-always-starts-when-I-have-to-study”. Yes, you guessed correctly: the weed eater. The one thing that is designed for the environment by people who want the environment to be more perfect. This clearly links with the statement by Sorlin and Warde (2009) where they claim that “the environment is the result of human ‘environing ’activities that form the environment”. So basically, we are changing the environment to a better environment while destroying the environment. And like any student would say after that statement: “My brain just broke.”

When listening to birds in the Anthropocene it is quite a difficult task as you should ‘search’ for the good spot where you ‘think’ you will be able to hear some birds. Whitehouse (2015) describes this very well when stating that “the Anthropocene has ambiguity and anxiety at its heart”. This rings true because we actually need to focus intensely to hear the birds and to filter the human-made noises out. When doing this, we actually realise what affect we have on nature. I realised that this IS the Anthropocene, where we are busy silencing the songs of birds by creating our own machine-made sounds or deciding to deforest an area because we want a new shopping centre. I then also realised that there are also only a couple of species birds left in our area. This can be a direct cause of global warming and birds moving to different areas with better living circumstances for them.

Some people get a bit of nostalgia when they actually hear a bird sing again, because that is the environment that they grew up in. An environment where they could listen to the birds without needing to ‘search’ for it. My parents definitely are nostalgic when they hear a beautiful bird’s song. I then asked them whether they can remember some bird songs that they seem to not here anymore. My dad gave it some thought and then replied, ” I think I became more deaf, so the birds may be singing but my ears don’t hear them anymore”. This was the stage where I felt like “thanks Dad, that helped me so much”. Despite of my dad’s dry humour he did help me by pointing out that the human-made noises are so prevalent in the environment that older people, who can’t hear that well anymore, seem to not hear the bird softly in the background that is overpowered by the weed eater.

Then my mom mentioned some more concrete facts (other than my dad who thought that he is hilarious). She told me that she can remember that as a child she would see a lot more swallows than she would see today. The Piet-my-vrou (red-chested cuckoo) is also not heard a lot anymore. And even when I become quiet and listen intensively to hear these birds songs, it is very difficult to filter away all the human-made sounds which is known to the Anthropocene.

All these human-made sounds, like the weed eater, cars, trucks, hooters, lawnmowers, construction mega machines and even that irritating alarm that went off at the house while the people are away on holiday, are all elements and hints of the Anthropocene. We are living in a world ruled by the human being, while degrading nature as being nothing. But we tend to forget that we are so dependant on nature, that it is not even funny. We are responsible for the future of the earth and we just keep on developing for our own good and not taking nature’s future into account. But then you realise that while you are busy planning on how to build your new shopping centre and deforesting a whole area, you are busy breathing oxygen in to get your brain going. You are breathing in the oxygen that is produced by those trees that you are removing to build something better. But how can anything be better than taking away the source of being able to breathe?

Just breathe.








Sources consulted

Gisli, P et al. 2013. Reconceptualizing the ‘Anthropos’ in the Anthropocene: integrating the social sciences and humanities in global environmental change research. Environmental Science & Policy 28:3-13.

Steffen, W et al. 2011. The Anthropocene: conceptual and historical perspectives. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society 369:842-867.

Waters, CN et al. 2016. The Anthropocene is functionally and stratigraphically distinct from the Holocene. Science 351(6269):[sp].

Whitehouse, A. 2015. Listening to birds in the Anthropocene: the anxious semiotics of sound in a human-dominated world. Environmental Humanities 6:53-71.

Sensational environmental concerns.

Sensational environmental concerns.

I am no environmentalist or zoologist or anything that has to do with nature, animals or living things. I am just a 20-year old studying Information Design at the University of Pretoria and up to now, did not really pay much attention to the environment so intensively. I don’t see myself as a funny person, nor a very serious person. Even when the situation is quite serious I will always try to see the humorous side to it to try to enlighten the mood. But sometimes we, as South Africans (people actually living in South Africa and not the ones who have forsaken us), tend to do this just because we know that it does not even help complaining anymore. You just make a joke about it and try to cope with the problem.

“Humans use language, narrative, imagination and cognitive models to understand, cope and take action” (Holm, 2015: 981). This actually means that people tend to only react to a situation when they can understand it in simpler form or when it is more relatable to them. The solid facts of a situation do not necessarily urge the reader to act immediately. Some tend to just brush it off, trying to let the facts not get to them but as soon as there is a photo or a cartoon about a serious problem people tend to let their minds go and realise that there is actually a bigger problem behind the joke of it.

The media act as a shaper of public opinion, but also represents the opinion of the public. The crucial part is that the media decides on how they will shape the public opinion and/or facts. They decide which facts should be emphasised for a bigger response or whether they should brush some facts off for being too mundane for the reader might not be interested enough to read the paper (Grant & Lawhon, 2014:41). This is the reality we are living in. People want sensational stories and the ‘environment’ and ‘sensational’ does not really fit together. But how can we alter this?

This blog discusses three different articles on the same environmental concern of sewage polluting the environment. The structure of analysis is according to the reading, Humanities for the Environment- A Manifesto for Research and Action, which is written by Poul Holm et al (Holm, 2015). When it comes to the basic human right of sanitation there cannot be any compromises allowed.

Article 1
(Bothma, 2016)
Article 2
(Kings, 2015)
Article 3
(Kempton Express, 2014)
Who/what are the drivers of change? Heavy rainfall. An increase in the population of this specific area, Deneysville caused for two sewerage pumps to break down as they were working 100% above their capacity limit (Kings, 2015). Water pipes too old to handle the water pressure.
What is happening? A temporary retaining wall at the end of the Menlo Park storm water canal collapsed due to the heavy rains, ripping open a sewage pipe. The raw sewage then started contaminating the exit of the canal which lead to the Bird Sanctuary. Raw sewage had been pouring into a bird sanctuary in Menlo Park for five days before any action was taken. The two sewerage pumping stations of the town are not working. This causes an overflow of sewage into the town and its communal areas. According to Kings (2015), people are getting sick due to the polluted water. The stench is also horrifying and makes living environments unbearable. The pollutants in the dam can lead to cancer, birth defect, skin problems and brain damage in the long term. Diarrhoea is one of the indications of infection among the people. A stormwater pipe burst on the corner of Essendon and Eldorado streets and has been left unattended to, for months. This caused for sewage being pushed back into water pipes creating a major health hazard for residents.
What can be done? The Menlo Park storm water canal has been under construction for more than six years and progress is very slow. According to DA Councillor Siobhan Muller, they also started working upstream which now caused the flow of water to increase. Whereas if they started working downstream the process would be much easier and this type of disaster, where temporary walls collapse, could be prevented. The sewerage pumping stations need to be upgraded to be able to serve the whole community and take the pressure. Liquid chlorine was used as an emergency treatment when spillages occurred, but the municipality could not afford it anymore. Emergency funds need to be implemented to treat the polluted water while the plant is being upgraded. The storm water pipe needs to get fixed. The whole area’s pipe system is old and damaged and a whole upgrade would solve problems in the future as well.
How to get it done? Funding is needed to speed up the construction process. The final funding for the 2016/7 year has been withdrawn (Bothma, 2016). The municipality must act upon the sewage problems as people are getting sick and it is not good for the environment. People need to work together to make sure that the municipality reacts to the problem. That is the million dollar question. The residents are sending their complaints to the municipality, but the problem is clearly not attended to. Funding for repairing is much needed. Money that Zuma is apparently going to pay back.
What are the means to do it? The article does not give a structured plan for solving the problem. The article does not give a structured plan of how they are going to solve the problem. It is clear that the municipality is not attending to their complaints. The article doesn’t give any measures that can be taken to solve the problem. The residents are counting on the municipality to do their job, but we all realise that it is almost the same as waiting for rain in the desert.


The three articles discussed in the table above shows the different drivers of change in each situation. The drivers of change definitely relate to the “Great Acceleration” as it is described by Holm (2015). The Great Acceleration consists of the immense development of human technologies, powers, and consumption. In the first article, the driver of change is the heavy rainfall, a consequence of global warming, which is ultimately caused by human activity. “These human advances have come with an alteration of the planet’s carbon and nitrogen cycles…catalysts for adverse weather patterns…” (Holm, 2015: 980). The second article’s driver of change is the increase of population and this can be seen as a societal factor. The political factor is also driving the change as the municipality is not equipped to solve the problem. The third article’s driver of change is also a political factor which consists of a municipality who does not look after the water pipes to prevent leaks or bursts, in this case.

The solutions that are given in the articles does relate to “The New Human Condition” as stated in Holm (2015). “The New Human Condition” is described as a crisis of “how we as a species will cope with the consequences…of being the major driver of planetary change” (Holm 2015:983). This is, therefore, a term used for how we react to changes in the world. Do we retreat or do we react to it? We are used to be able to fix everything with the click of a button, but environmental changes, that we as humans are responsible for, cannot be fixed in such an instant. It needs time and patience; qualities that only a few humans still have. This reaction, which is most common, leads to an ignorant attitude in saying that the problem is impossible to solve.

The proposed solutions also do engage with the business sector. For this specific environmental concern, engineers, plumbers, quantity surveyors and architects will be needed to complete the construction. A lot of different fields will, therefore, need to work together to save the environment and solve the problem. Aurecon, an engineering company, could be suitable to assist with the given concern and construction thereof. This company specialises in construction for the building environment.

This specific environmental concern is not an easy concern to be handled by the public themselves as it has to be managed by professionals. The society can only do their part up to a stage where they don’t have the knowledge of what to do further. Sewage needs to go through a lot of processes before it can be released back into the environment and that is not something you can just do in your own backyard. The only possible thing that can be done to get the public involved is to teach them about what you can or cannot flush down the drain. But the proposed solutions are not practical for the public. It is a basic right for people to have a working sanitation system. The solutions, which require a lot of money, cannot always be invested by the public or residents themselves as they might not be in the financial position to do so. People are paying taxes for these services but the money is clearly sent to the wrong account.

I love being in nature and although I did not pay much attention to any articles about environmental concerns in the past, I will most definitely do so now. I realised that the public tends  to shy away from the problems as they believe they cannot solve it and also if the story is not sensational enough. Yes, some of the problems need to be handled by professionals but that does not allow us to accept the problem and just move on. At the end of the day, it is still your environment where you should be able to live life to the fullest. Nature is so much more than we can imagine; it is part of us and all you need to do is: Just breathe.

Nature is within us-01.jpg



Bothma, S. 2016. Raw sewage disaster in Menlo Park. Rekord 1 April: 1

Holm, P et al. 2015. Humanities for the Environment- A manifesto for research and action. Humanities 4: 977-992

Residents hope it is the end of sewage spills. 2014. [O]. Available:
Accessed 2 April 2016.

Kings, S. 2015. Sewage in Gauteng’s drinking water. [O]. Available:
Accessed 2 April 2016

Grant, S. & Lawhon, M. 2014. Reporting on Rhinos: Analysis of the Newspaper Coverage of Rhino Poaching. Southern African Journal of Environmental Education 30: 39-52.