“Footprints on the Ocean beach” represents the anthropogenic activities by people that affect planet earth. The Footprint on the Ocean beach is an allegory for you having been to a place. The fundamental question is what is the cost of your footprint? Many of us are making footprints in the sand, in our unsustainable life styles creating pollution, vegetation or biodiversity loss, contributing to carbon dioxide and other gasses that pollute the environment and subsequently a rise in temperature that will cause Climate Change that will impact us for generations.
The Footprints in the Ocean beach were produced at the Indian Ocean coastline of Durban, Kwa Zulu Natal, South Africa as a wakeup call to reflect on the impact of our actions on the environment. It is a call for transformation towards a more sustainable lifestyle that will ensure the preservation of marine life for present and future generations. The image is a reflection of our human activities. It is also a path to one’s destiny. It raises the question of the cost of the activities and mainly about how sustainable they are.
Oceans cover almost three quarters of the earth’s surface and contain 97 percent of the earth’s water (https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/oceans/). The footprint in the Ocean sand beach, is story of self-examination: what kind of foot prints are you leaving on earth? Are you replenishing the earth per your original mandate or are you polluting it? What can you do personally to create sustainable lifestyles that will ensure resources for future generations?
Have you ever realized that you leave a footprint everywhere you go? It may not be visible like the one in the sand but every human activity has a print (consequence). How did it all start? The Book of Genesis 1:1-31 describes how the earth was created. “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1:1, NKJ, 1984). The fourth day God said, let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that has life (Genesis 1:20). God created man in his image, “in the image of God created him, male and female created he them (Genesis 1:26). He blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth” (Genesis 1:28). Having all the authority and dominion over the earth in Genesis 3, we read how man fell and lost his authority to satan.
Living in a fallen world, man has absconded from his original responsibility to replenish the earth and instead has “developed” economies and societies that have taken the resources and created environmental challenges. We see from the story of creation that there is an ecological system that is very intricately linked where man is part of the ecosystem. In Mathew, Mark, Luke and John Gospels, we read about Jesus Christ, the Saviour who redeems the world from sin and destruction and with the help of the Holy Spirit, humankind can live a Prosperous life. Is man able to make sustainable Footprints in the Ocean sand?
Through civilizations in Africa for instance, man settled along the river Nile and utilized resources like water to build and develop his Agricultural economies. Ancient Civilizations in Africa such as Egypt, Axum, Nubia and Kingdoms like the Kingdom of Zimbabwe, the Empire of Mali, the Empire of Ashanti, the Kingdom of Kongo and the Buganda Kingdom all used resources and lived in harmony with nature; at times they fought over the resources leading to migrations. This was before colonization of the African continent. The period 1870s-1900 was a difficult one for Africa because the Europeans invaded Africa with imperialistic aggression, military invasions and colonization. Although African societies resisted in various forms, they fell prey to the colonizers. Except for Liberia and Ethiopia, most of Africa was colonized mainly for three factors: economic, Political and Social. This was following the end of the devastating slave trade. The Imperial capitalistic industrialization required raw materials, new markets and search for territories to re-settle poor people; these forces drove the scramble for Africa. The competition between the political imperialists: Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Portugal and Spain was fierce-all for Africa’s resources. The competition was so ferocious that the then German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, invited all powers to the Berlin Conference, the climax for the Scramble for Africa. Germany, Britain and France looked for Africa’s natural resources and a market for their goods.
From the beginning, Africa got a raw deal with this trade imbalance, Africa’s territory was taken and an unsustainable economic development model established.
A period of extraction of Africa’s raw materials mainly minerals and natural resources has continued to this day. What kind of Footprint is that? The development model Africa has followed emulating her colonial masters has resulted into loss of biodiversity, acidification of the ocean, land degradation and environmental pollution. The footprint in the Ocean sand beach, is story of self-examination: what kind of foot prints are you leaving on earth? Are you replenishing the earth per your original mandate or are you polluting it? What can you do personally to create sustainable lifestyles that will ensure resources for future generations?
The footprint global connection
In the developed nations, a lot of development of infrastructure and industries to fit the lifestyles of the societies has come at a cost to the environment. The emissions this have come at a cost in that the Carbon dioxide produced and other gases cause the erosion of the ozone layers that protect us from damaging rays. The ozone layers also protect us from rising temperatures. The societies and every one of us consumes and produces waste. The ecological footprint we produce leaves a mark. The ecological footprint means the impact of human activity on the earth and the amount of resources necessary to produce the goods and services (Business or economic) growth.
In 1987, the Brundtland commission chaired by a former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland defined sustainable development as, “the kind of development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. There are three dimensions of sustainable development: the economic, Social equality and environmental protection.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable development adopted by the United Nations in 2015 provided a blue print for prosperity and peace for the planet earth. Along with this were 17 Sustainable development goals (SDGs) which are signaling an urgent call for action for developed and developing nations. Taking cognizance of the need to end poverty, improve health and education, the SDGs should be integrated with strategies to drive economic growth, all together tacking climate change and working to preserve oceans and forests.
The impact of the footprints is global and if produced in one part of the world can affect another hence the need for a global action using the SDGs framework. The historical context of the SDGs is well documented. In 1992, the earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil adopted the Agenda 21 to build a global partnership for sustainable development. In 2000, the Millennium Development goals (MDGs) were adopted to reduce poverty by 2015. Back home in Johannesburg, the World summit on sustainable development declaration reaffirmed the commitments to eradicate poverty emphasizing multilateral collaboration. In 2012, in Rio de Janeiro, the UN Conference on Sustainable development adopted, The Future we want” in while in 2013, a working group was established to work on the SDGs. Meanwhile, 2015 was pivotal because the post-2015 developmental agenda negotiation began culminating in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development with the adoption of “Transforming our World” with 17 SDGs at the UN Sustainable Development Summit in New York in September. The famous Paris Agreement on Climate Change was signed in December 2015.Although this agreement has had its fair share of political debates and shunning in some parts of the world, the SDGs are important in transitioning to the future we want. In South Africa the National Development Plan (NDP) whose aspirations encompass the SDGs is implemented together with action plans and policies that incorporate the SDGs.
The Footprint in the Ocean and Links to SDGs
The Footprint in the ocean sand is a mirror for us to perceive the impact of our actions on the ocean in particular. Linking it to SDG Goal 14, “Conserve and sustainably use the Oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development” requires us to understand the effective strategies and management models to combat the adverse effects of Pollution in the oceans, overfishing, ocean acidification, ocean plastic pollution and growing coastal eutrophication. The need for expanding the Biodiversity protected areas is enormous. The Sustainable Development Goals report (2018) showed that the marine fish stocks within sustainable levels declined from 90% in 1974 to 69% in 2013. Trends show that coastal eutrophication will increase in 20% of marine ecosystems by 2050. The good news is that in 2018, the mean coverage of key Biodiversity areas that are protected increased from 30 & in 2000 to 44%.
Human activities that cause danger to marine ecosystems include infrastructure development which result in loss of habitats, land use that results in pollution of rivers and storm water systems which drain into bays, these include also human settlements, industry, agriculture, exploitation of resources for example bait collection, fish harvesting and mining.
The Footprint in the Ocean coastline in Durban is not unique to South Africa. The ecological status of the estuary in Durban Bay is a degraded ecosystem. The impact is that the resilience of the ecosystems its self has been compromised. Human activities have a massive impact on the physical, abiotic and biotic elements of the system.
Footprints in the sand as a metaphor has taken many forms, the most popular being one from a poem whose author is disputed (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Footprints_(poem). Taking a Christian view, the poems describe an experience of a person walking on a beach with Jesus. The notice two sets of footprints in the sand. The prints represent a person’s life path. At one point, only one set of footprints is seen, representing the tough times where Jesus himself lifts up the person and carries them. Jesus gives the explanation, “I carried you” during the times of trial.
Footprints therefore also signify the journeys we take on planet earth, the trials and tribulations we go through and point to the only person who can lift us up- God. Looking back on colonization, What kind of footprints did the colonizers leave in Africa? The languages is one foot print. The economic development is another.
Examples of footprints
Carbon dioxide Footprint
This represents the amount of greenhouse gases produced as a direct or indirect result of human activities, normally expressed as equivalent tons of Carbon dioxide (CO2). Essentially it is the the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere because of the activities of a particular individual, organization, or community. Now Business has developed a Carbon Tax . The Oxford Dictionary defines a person’s Carbon Dioxide Footprint as a measure of the amount of Carbon dioxide that their activities produce.The sand on the beach by the ocean creates a footprint that is real for a moment and washed away by the waves.
What kind of footprint do you leave when you visit a place? How much does it cost to the present and future generations? How can you wipe away your footprint?
AfriMAB, 2013. AfriMAB: Biosphere Reserves in Sub-Saharan Africa: Showcasing Sustainable Development. (Eds.) R. Pool-Stanvliet and M. Clusener-Godt. Published by Department of Environmental Affairs, Directorate: Protected Areas Planning, Legislation, Compliance and Monitoring, Pretoria, South Africa, and UNESCO, Division of Ecological and Earth Sciences, Paris, France.
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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Classical_African_civilization Retrieved 19 Jan 2019
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Footprints_(poem) Retrieved 21 January, 2019.
https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/oceans/ Retrieved 21 January, 2019.
(https://www.onlythebible.com/Poems/Footprints-in-the-Sand-Poem.html) Retrieved 21 Jan 2019.
published January 2020