Being with nature on World Environment Day

Today is the day I’m launching my new blog project, My Joburg Food Diary, because it coincides with World Environment Day, which is an international event that means something to me.

I guess this comes from years of thinking deeply about our relationship as humankind with the environment and how this drives my desire to tell stories.

When I was working as a full-time reporter the day was an opportunity for to tell important stories about environmental sustainability.

It was a day that made me feel like my work was meaningful.

Exactly a year ago I had just returned from a trip to the United States, supported by the US State Department. It was an incredible experience, spending two weeks reporting on environmental issues.

It was a Sunday morning and I published a feature story about why it was important for South Africa that the United States joined the Paris Climate agreement and committed to reducing carbon emissions.

Watch the 2016 story below:

A year later and we’re facing a situation I never imagined could happen.

The new leader of the United States has different priorities and while we are reacting on social media with outrage there is a small part of me that still feels hopeful. I remember meeting city sustainability managers and community activists in the US who were committed to achieving ambitious sustainability goals regardless of the national agenda. I know that today they are even more motivated than before to make their strategies and plans become a reality.

To me this was incredibly powerful – that we while we may not be able to influence energy policy on a national level we can still do a lot in our own communities.

And so here I am today, drawing from this inspiration – on the first page of an exciting personal storytelling project.

This blog is a platform for me to reflect on my own sustainable living journey in Johannesburg and to tell stories about communities in the city that are working hard to grow their own food.

Along the way I will tell stories about food heritage and travel. I may even post a cooking demo or two – try at your own risk!

If these topics of food, travel and sustainability interest you, then you might enjoy reading this blog.

To mark the day I woke up before sunrise and took a walk in my local park – the Braamfontein Spruit. I walk here regularly but this is the earliest I’ve ever set foot in the park. It’s amazing how experiencing a place at a different time of day can open your eyes to something new.

Here are five  things that surprised me:

  1. People like to walk their dogs before the sun comes up – even at the start of winter.
  2. The sun didn’t rise exactly where I thought it would. This changed my understanding of the geographical location of the park compared to other Joburg landmarks like Hillbrow’s Ponte tower.
  3. It’s a lot warmer when it’s still dark and it actually feels colder when the sun comes up.
  4. As a result of this the frost only appears on the grass once the sun rises.
  5. The birds also make a lot more noise once the sun comes up. This is probably because there are more people around to disturb them 🙂

This is what I love about living in this city, you think you know a place well but you’re always discovering something new.

Here are some photos from my sunrise walk in the Spruit:

A shadow selfie before the sun came up
A fence around the bird hide with the lights of Hillbrow far in the background (on the right)
A footpath and some pylons makes a pretty picture
Silhouettes of willow and pine oak trees on the banks of the Spruit
Early morning dog-walkers
Goodmorning Jozi!

Happy World Environment Day! Let’s celebrate and be grateful for the incredible diversity and beauty of our planet’s natural environment – while we still can!

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