Severe drought in KZN. pic: THINKSTOCK
Who and what are the drivers of change?
What is happening?
What can be done?
- El Nino
- A lack of dams being built
- A lack of maintenance on infrastructure causing pipes to break and leak
- A growing population
- A lack of conservation of water in the agricultural sector
- Global warming and climate change
- Pollution of dams and rivers
- The population in South Africa has grown and the available water for the people has not grown with it
- The water department has not made the proper preparations for drought and El Nino
- Water departments and municipalities have not spent their full budgets they are given for development
- Crops and livestock are dying due to the lack of water leading to food shortages and rapidly increasing food prices
- Dams and rivers are dry
- Five of South Africa’s provinces declared disaster zones
- Putting water restrictions in place to conserve water
- Developing infrastructure and preparing for droughts
- Fixing leaks in infrastructure to save water
- Stopping pollution in rivers and dams to increase amount of clean water
The majority of the earth’s surface is water and 75% of the human body is water. Therefore, one can see that water is one of the most important resources needed to ensure the survival of mankind. Yet, it is becoming one of the scarcest sources. Without it, one is not able to grow healthy crops and livestock resulting in a serious lack of food. South Africa has been facing the worst drought seen since 1982 with temperatures reaching new highs (Allison 2015). Rivers and dams have dried up, crops and livestock are dead and now the South African people are desperate for solutions.
This blog aims to discuss the growing environmental issue of drought by using the theories of Poul Holm et al. seen in the article ‘Humanities for the Environment- A manifesto for research and action’ (2015) as well as the theories of Shelby Grant and Mary Lawhon in the article, ‘Reporting on rhinos: analysis of the newspaper coverage of rhino poaching’ (2014). These theories will be used to provide an environmental analysis and critique of three media articles that address the subject of drought in South Africa. These articles are ‘Farmers bear brunt of South Africa’s severe drought’ by Simon Allison from The Guardian (2015), ‘Too late to avert water disaster’ by Sipho Kings from the Mail & Guardian (2015) and ‘In South Africa, volunteer water delivers bring relief to drought areas’ by Robyn Dixon from Los Angeles Times (2016). A brief overview of the issue will be provided and various questions regarding drought will be answered by making reference to these media articles.
A brief overview of the drought in South Africa
One of the main factors of water shortages in South Africa is a very strong El Nino, intensified as a result of climate change. The increased temperatures of El Nino cause a reduction in rainfall therefore bringing drought to Southern Africa (Allison 2015). As a result, dams and rivers are dry, farmers’ crops and livestock are dying and food shortages are on the rise. People who rely on the food they grow on their plots have been forced to use their monthly grants to buy food. Communities have been left desperate for drinking water (Dixon 2016).
According to Sipho Kings (2015), the lack of dams being built and lack of maintenance on existing infrastructure are other factors that have contributed to the drought. This is due to the growing South African population needing more water than is available. Therefore the water department and municipalities have not put the proper plans and preparations into place for droughts like this (Kings 2015). Water restrictions were put into place in various provinces to help with the water shortages.
Do the drivers for change relate to the “Great Acceleration” of human technologies, powers and consumption?
According to the three media articles, the drivers of the change and the drought in South Africa are primarily related to political and societal factors. The “Great Acceleration” refers to human technologies and consumption which act as one of the main drivers of Global Warming. These human advances have changed the nitrogen and carbon cycles of the planet and as a result it has caused an increase in endangered and extinct animals and greenhouse gases. This has caused weather patterns to change and an increased acidification of the ocean, destroying the planet in such a way that it will never be able to recover (Holm 2015:980).
Therefore, one can link the drivers of the drought in South Africa to the “Great Acceleration”. The growing population of society contributes to climate change due to the increasing amount of greenhouse gases being released given the protein humans eat and the increasing air pollution from the cars and factories humans operate. This all plays a part in intensifying the strength of El Nino, resulting in the temperatures getting hotter and rainfall getting scarce. Humans’ greed makes them constantly want more and therefore consume more, driving this change. Increasing demands for clean water are not met due to water municipality’s lack of preparation and planning as well as the pollution going into the dams, rivers and oceans (Kings 2015).
How does the absence or presence of solutions relate to “The New Human Condition”?
“The New Human Condition” refers to how humans react to the consequences and responsibilities of environmental issues. Often humans will have no charge to action and ignore the situations. Humans may respond with denial or despair. However, there are those that chose to contribute solutions to the problem. Humans often focus on the short term rather than the long term (Holm 2015:983). The three media articles all provide solutions to the problem of drought by suggesting ways in which people can start to help the situation. This involves things such as implementing water restrictions and transporting water to communities that need it by taking part in voluntary water trucking efforts. The Los Angeles Times (2016) mentions Caroline van Saasen who set up a Facebook page to arrange donated water deliveries to communities in need and was very successful, getting many volunteers signing up (Dixon 2016). This solution may inspire a response particularly from companies that already have delivery trucks running to the areas in need. However, it may cause a lack of action from the general public as not everyone is able to travel with water to the communities in need. Some people may also feel that they have access to clean water and therefore they do not have to worry about the situation. However, The Guardian (2015) mentions water restrictions being implemented involving the reduction of water used for watering the garden and limiting showers to three minutes (Allison 2015). The Mail and Guardian (2016) mentions Jacob Zuma’s plea to the public to close running taps and report leaking pipes to the authorities (Kings 2015). These solutions can easily be implemented and call to action the general public as it is little things people can start to do to save water.
Do the proposed solutions engage with the business / corporate sector?
The solution proposed in the article from the Los Angeles Times by Robyn Dixon (2016) can definitely be directed to the corporate/ business sector. This solution involves volunteers trucking water in bottles or tanks across the country to various communities that are in desperate need for water. This solution can easily be carried out by business that are travelling in the direction of the communities, as they can stop off to deliver water on their way. Companies can also sponsor delivery trucks to carry water to these communities as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility. Large food companies such as Spar, Checkers and Pick n’ Pay could be interested in taking part with the community to help ease the effects of the drought as they have large trucks constantly travelling all over South Africa with food. They could easily make a little bit of space in their trucks for bottles of water, which could be delivered to the communities as they travel through them.
Do the proposed solutions and means to do it stem from collaborative processes of research, stakeholder engagement and public participation?
The Los Angeles Times (2016) provides a solution that was proposed by an individual, Caroline van Saasen, who promoted her idea on Facebook. She is a member of the public that wanted to help those suffering badly from the drought. The general public then reacted to her proposed idea, making it become a collaborative effort where volunteers work together to fight the drought.
The solutions provided by the Mail & Guardian however, stem from a collaborative process of research and public participation as everyone needed to implement water restrictions.
Are the solutions translated into practical means that can easily be achieved by the public?
The Guardian’s (2015) solution of water restrictions being implemented by the public and limiting showers to three minutes is an easily achievable solution (Allison 2015). If everyone limited the amount of water they used, there would then be enough water to go around, ensuring more people have clean drinking water and possibly saving the crops and livestock. The Mail and Guardian (2015) solution of closing running taps and reporting leaking pipes to the authorities can also be easily achieved by the public (Kings 2015). All the public has to do is just be more aware of their surroundings and take a little bit of extra effort to start saving water.
The solutions provided by the Los Angeles Times (2016) are directed more at corporations than the general public. However, people could try to encourage the businesses they work at to take part in the delivery of water to communities. This could then increase the businesses that participate.
The solutions mentioned in the three media articles all focus on how the public can solve the problem of the drought in the short-term. However, there is no mention of what the public can do to prevent drought in the long term. The coverage in the media of this specific drought and the absence of how the public can solve the long lasting problem of drought is an issue (Grant & Lawhon, 2014: 41).
Human beings tend to forget how important water is to ensure our survival. This blog post aims to create an awareness of the growing problem of climate change, El Nino and drought in South Africa by providing an environmental analysis on three media articles. It is hoped that he awareness created through this blog post will encourage the reader to take further steps to slow the rate of climate change and save water.
For more environmental analyses similar to this one on different topics, search the hashtag #DigEcoAction. Please share this blog post to start creating awareness so mankind can save the environment before it is too late.
Allison, S. 2015. [O]. Available:
Accessed 2 April 2016
Dixon, R. 2016. In South Africa, volunteer water deliveries bring relief to drought areas. [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.
Holm, P et al. 2015. Humanities for the Environment- A manifesto for research and action. Humanities 4:977-992.
Kings, S. 2015. Too late to avert water disaster. [O]. Available:
Accessed 2 April 2016
Severe Drought in KZN. Sa. [O]. Available:
Accessed 2 April 2016