Parched planet

Marie Swanepoel, Somerset West

Emile Shreve’s letter, “Compelling caring” (Bolander March 1) refers:

During July 2012 my daughter and I visited Forth Worth in Texas, a modern American city not far from Dallas.

At the time they experienced not only a devastating drought, but also a heat wave.

We stayed in a modernised motel, and the whole building was nice and cool inside.

When one stepped out of the building, the intense heat hit you in the face.

The motel had beautiful well-cared-for gardens.

Both of us are plant, bird and all living creature lovers. The first morning when we left the motel at 9am, we noticed some wild birds sitting in the nearby trees, their beaks literally hanging open.

During lunch break at our convention, we went to a leafy park with lush plants. To our suprise there was not a single bird bath in sight.

At the motel we realised that the reason for the birds being “out of breath” was not only the heat, but also lack of water.

The next morning after breakfast we got a couple of porridge bowls, filled them with water and some pebbles, to create a mini bird bath the wind wouldn’t blow away, and left them in the shade of some shrubs.

When we returned that afternoon, to our surprise we found even ants drinking water (of course they, too, need water).

Saucers are ideal for “ant baths” ants and all creepy creatures.

We live in an unfenced property in Somerset West, and often during the night I can hear the water meter as some (possilby homeless person?) takes a sip of water.

In our front garden is quite a large round cement bowl embedded in the soil, and the guinea fowl and pheasants (tarentale and bergpatryse) love it.

During December on my way home I spotted an elderly staffie in Irene Avenue, on a very hot day.

The next moment I saw the same staffie heading for my cement water bowl.

He climbed in “pens en pootjies” to have a bath and quench his thirst, and we watched our visitor enjoying the oasis.

You are right we have to make people aware of the need of our fellow planet inhabitants.

Emile Shreve replies:

Has man ever not discussed the weather?

As a five-year-old I remember my great merriment when an uncle said his lucerne crops were successful because he always sowed the seed when his leg itched. I didn’t of course realise that he meant it predicted rain the next day.

At UCT summer school this year I attended, among others, weather-related lectures: “Human Origins” (Associate Professor John Compton, UCT) and “Understanding Climate Change in Cape Town” (Professor Mark New).

There are as many opinions/solutions about the water problem as there are “experts”. Big on the agenda is the need for the City to make money and that throws a mighty spanner in the works.

James Lovelock in his planetary medicine books Gaia” moots that the earth will heal itself, if we give it a chance.

Saving water isn’t just about water, it’s a way of life. So it’s up to us.

Why can’t each of us just do things less selfishly? Design homes that don’t gobble energy, have smaller swimming pools and invent a way to re-use swimming pool backwash – I lose my varkies when I see the “river” of wasted water run down the road.

Plant indigenous, plant water-wise, stop heating up the planet with miles of brick-paving, let leaves fall and feed/shield the soil, harvest water (stop putting down private boreholes) – place plastic basins in bathroom sinks and pour that around trees or into a reed bed, also basins in our kitchen sinks can capture and re-use veggie rinsing water directly onto plants.

Investigate the Bokashi method of waste composting.

We discovered that our washing machine outlet was the only pipe not buried in the bowels of the earth, and this has been re-routed to an area in the nearby garden; we use Bloublommetjieskloof laundry liquid, or laundry salts from The Apothecary, and the Rhus Prinoides flourishes there. We also collect roof run-off, for garden, trees and animals.

My attitude to water has been one of reverence and gratitude. Money can’t help when the water has gone.