Pastor Sadiki puts the following questions to Ernst-Günther Brunke:
Q: What experience have you made during your career as air chemist in the Global Atmosphere Watch Program regarding the health condition of our planet in general, but more specifically the quality of land in South Africa?
A: Firstly, it is important to note that our Earth and what we call land cannot be viewed in isolation, but is part and parcel of a broader picture. There is a very strong interdependence between the biosphere (plants, animals, insects and humans), the land areas where we live, the oceans and the atmosphere. It is a wonderful, interconnected life-supporting system which has over millennia maintained a delicate balance. Unfortunately, this system is under increasing threat since the onset of the industrial revolution. The rising world population, growing energy and food requirements coupled with the emission of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide has led to global warming which in turn impacts negatively on the world’s climate systems. Over the past 25 years an increase in the frequency of extreme climatic events (floods, droughts and fires) have been recorded. These man-induced occurrences reduce biodiversity, but also threaten agriculture and hence the world’s food resources.
According to model predictions, Africa – including our own country – will be more severely affected by climate change than other parts of the world. With the high level of poverty, land and housing shortages, reduced water supplies, increased urbanization, overgrazing in rural areas coupled to erosion of valuable topsoil, South Africa currently faces many socio-economic challenges which need to be addressed to avoid public unrest as have been seen in countries north of the Limpopo.
Q: Where do we as individual citizens imperil our environment our land by the way in which we conduct our daily lives?
A: Whenever we drive by car or take a plane flight or switch on heating or lights in our homes, we contribute towards the carbon burden of the atmosphere. Hence, we are all part of this process which impacts harmfully on the well-being of our planet. When we strip vegetation to make way for housing, we affect the albedo (energy exchange between space and land surface). When we eat meat from livestock, for instance, we encourage the maintenance of large tracts of land where these cattle, sheep and goats are kept. These livestock occupy great tracks of land and use a great deal of water. They often destroy indigenous vegetation and above all emit methane which is the second-most important greenhouse gas after carbon dioxide heating up our atmosphere and oceans.
Q: What are your personal wishes as to how you and I can live more in harmony with the environment and protect our land for the generations to come?
A: Firstly, it is my wish that the public be made more aware of the negative influences we exert on the environment. Informative educational programs should start at school level. Littering should be a no-no. Furthermore, we should focus on recycling paper, glass, metal and plastic. We should join public forums to speak out against the excessive production of plastic and plastic wrappings. Use canvas bags when doing your shopping. Try and use public transport (where possible) and do not drive alone in your car. Use energy sparingly and make use of LED lighting. If you have some capital, invest in solar heating. It will be a money saver on the long-run and be environmentally friendly. Walk or cycle, if it is safe and possible. Reduce your intake of red meat. Perhaps you would like to maintain a small vegetable garden. The list goes on!
Yes, it remains a great challenge for every one of us to strive towards a low carbon footprint. However, if everyone does his or her bit, it will have a measurable effect in the end. After all, we are all God’s stewards looking after the sustainability and well-being of our land. Our amazing Earth is unique but fragile – we have no other home in the universe. Let’s be responsible custodians.
Dear Ernst-Günther I think this is for me a closer understanding of Genesis 1: 26-29. Accepting that all the plants, all creatures, all the treasures of the Earth are God‘s creation and we are the stewards of these treasures. I believe we all have a calling as