Monday, July 21, 2008

The View from my Bicycle (Column)

The Free State Stadium, like many others around the country, are under construction. During the Cheetah-Sharks Currie Cup game (Cheetahs won 31-9) the stadium was about 20% full. I think even before the stadium extensions, this stadium may have have a capacity crowd...well, you could probably count the number of times on one hand, and probably half of a hand. Is it worth spending millions in order to present one or two games, and for the rest of its history its a giant cauldron that doesn't really scale to the surrounding community. The construction of stadia is a good example of massive investments which are undertaken with a short term view to making money (through once-off big scheme expenditures).

The picture above is Johannesburg's Park Town Bus Station. The way airports are now, bus stations will be in the future. This weekend I drove around 800km to Bloemfontein and back, the only occupant in my car. Probably, within 5 years, that sort of hyper-individual activity will be illegal. It will just be too much of a drain on a country's limited quota of fuel.

Farming in the future will be far more challenging, as diesel becomes more expensive, and with it, the price of fertilizers. Windpower along with Solar may do reasonably well in South Africa, certainly in comparison to many other countries. One of the unintended consequences of both a fuel crisis and climate change is insect pests. Amongst the most dangerous and difficult to predict, will be how malarial mosquitoes spread. The middle classes who have less and less disposable income for non-essential expenses (such as swimming pool chlorine) will see their swimming pools become nationwide breading grounds for bugs. In the same way, concerns will increase about the security of ordinary water supplies.

As consumers, we have a choice each day to influence the market - positively if we choose to. We can affect positive change by not habitually consuming 'food' that is not healthy for us. Think of the wasted resources in buying stuff that is not good for us, that's bad for our teeth, and stomachs, and then the added expense in treating say, tooth decay, obesity or associated health problems. We can save a lot of energy by making common sense choices at the supermarket. Less junk, more nutrition.

Be smart. Should we substitute away from Coke, for example, to healthier, more natural 'juice'. Actually juice is not natural at all, and in many cases contains as much if not more sugar than Coke. If you want fresh juice, it makes far more sense to buy fruit (buy oranges) and squeeze them). We ought to be drinking beverages such as tea (without milk or sugar), and obviously water, and when it's cold, try Horlicks. Eat less meat, chicken and pork, and more fish. Fish is healthier, but inland it creates a problem, because we need to get into the habit of buying stuff that doesn't have to be trucked more than 200 kilometres. The same goes for fruit out of season. You shouldn't be eating strawberries out of season or grapes. Doing so encourages not only demand, but thousand mile shipping supply lines.

The View From my Bicycle is that there is still very little consensus that we're facing trouble and disorder ahead. As such, there is unlikely to be adequate response in anticipation of tighter economic conditions. Which naturally means the trouble and disorder, when it happens, will be so much worse. Even so, we can begin to change our own habits and encourage those closest to us to begin to do the same. Even a mindset that is prepared for these changes is a significant step ahead of a mindset that is unprepared, and thus more susceptible to breakdown (as our collective apparatus suffers the same fate.

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