Light Pollution and Star-gazing
Date: Sunday 19 July
Allen Versfeld says excessive or badly-designed lighting not only hides the stars from view, it disrupts the behaviour of nocturnal animals, blinds passing motorists, harms human health and paradoxically can even make us more vulnerable to crime.
On the 19th many bright planets will be up, with the Moon only the thinnest of crescents.
Time: Talk: 15:30 for 15:00, followed by a Bring & Braai and star-gazing
Venue: The Sheds@ Birdsong, off Gemstone Road
Cost: R60 pp; R30 for kids under 12.
If you want to stay for the stargazing, bring your own braai/picnic, telescope (if you have one) and warm clothing.
Date: Sunday 16 August
Dolomite and granite. Dr Adam Bumby of the University of Pretoria unlocks the secrets of the rocks.
Ride the Rhenoster
Date: Sunday 13 September
Date: Sunday 18 October
Grasses and Veld Flowers
Date: Sunday 15 November
Professor Pink of TV3’s Knock Knock series fame had an array of eggs, balloons, bottles, wrecking balls, rods and even a baby’s nappy ready for his presentation at The Sheds@Birdsong on 17 May.
“Is the Professor going to bake something?” whispered a girl to her mother.
Where was a decision hatched to apply to mine sand on 4.5 ha in the middle of a conservation area? Why does a rural community get to hear of such an application only after the deadline for comment and objections has passed?
Azunite Pty Ltd, registered in 2012 and seeking to mine sand and aggregate on Portion 6 Doornrandje in the Rhenosterspruit Nature Conservancy, has well over 100 local residents baying for its blood over the way the application was sneaked through. It also has its own legal problems. It is facing deregistration by the Companies Intellectual and Properties Commission (CIPC) in Pretoria for non-payment of its registration fees!
Early on 11 June an overloaded truck with two trailers jack-knifed on the R511 in Hennops River, spilling its payload on the road and delaying traffic until early evening. “Although most signs of the crash were gone by the next morning there was a horrible mess left behind on the side of the road,” said Cathrine Versfeld, a local resident.
“There were complaints about the mess from Hennops residents on a local Facebook page, demanding that the responsible parties should clean up the mess. There was also the creeping realisation that this may take too long. Long rolls of plastic packaging were already being blown across the road and into the surrounding veld.”
Two days later Andrew Antonis, his assistant Albert, Bronwen Bartlett, Cathrine and her seven-year-old daughter, Vivienne, tackled the mess. “It took about 45 minutes to do,” says Cathrine, “although Andrew and Albert were the real heroes, getting half the job done even before the rest of us arrived!
Cathrine, Vivienne and Bronwen
The Aloe Valley Meander, launched at the beginning of this year, is gaining momentum. Detailed maps and brochures list all the attractions around the R511 route.
Three Markets - offering a range of local produce and articles - have taken place at Serendipity Art Café on the corner of the R511 and Gemstone Road.
The Market takes place on the last Sunday of each month.
After a decade of hard work by a small committee of dedicated environmentalists, the Magaliesberg was finally declared a World Biosphere Reserve on 9 June.
The announcement was made in Paris by Unesco’s International Coordinating Council of the Programme on Man and the Biosphere.
“We are delighted with this final acknowledgement of the unique nature of the Magaliesberg and the powerful contribution it is making to our country, to the ecosystem services in Gauteng and the North West and the communities it nurtures over an extensive area,” said Paul Fatti, chair of the Magaliesberg Biosphere Initiative Group (MBIG) that has been lobbying authorities since 2007 to support the establishment of the Biosphere.
Vincent Carruthers, past chair of MBIG and renowned author of “The Magaliesberg”, the most authoritative study of the mountain range, said that this announcement was the culmination of a campaign that began in 2006.
Kim Kieser of WET-Africa (Water & Environment Transformation) has devoted her life to healing the Jukskei River. A decade ago, when she rehabilitated parts of the river, her team removed 20 000 tons of solid waste, recycling 10 000 tons of household and industry waste. And the water quality improved dramatically. “E.coli levels plummeted from 22 million parts per 100ml to 240 000 parts per 100ml within two months,” she said.
Now the river is choking again. Each kilometer of the Jukskei in Gauteng contains up to 1 000 tons of garbage in areas such as Alexandra and around 300 tons per km elsewhere.
Our dogs have developed a distinctive “snake bark” to alert us when they encounter a slithering reptile (13 to date in the past two months). We respond with alacrity and have been able to catch most snakes, which we escorted into the veld.
Alerted by a frantic Snake Bark recently, we rushed outside to find a two-metre long monitor that had arrived uninvited at our back door. Getting a photo was my first priority but that turned out to be a bit difficult - I had to keep out of the way of that furiously lashing tail.
Countless tons of plastic spill into the ocean from the world’s rivers and from ships, dumping their rubbish overboard. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch stretches over 70 000 square kilometers and it is killing marine life at an unprecedented scale. And that’s only one garbage patch.
One guy who is determined to make a difference is 20 year-old Boyan Slat from the Netherlands. He is founder and CEO of The Ocean Cleanup. Slat designed the world’s longest floating structure to help with the “largest cleanup in history”.
Dead slow! “It’s the little slow guys like chameleons and tortoises that end up injured or killed on our roads,” says Michael Devereux, a long distance cyclist who is raising money for rehabilitation of the “slow folk”.
He is riding the Race Across South Africa (the Freedom Challenge), a 2 300 km non-stop mountain bike race from Pietermaritzburg, along the Drakensberg and Eastern Cape mountains to Wellington in the Cape.
The Race started on 13 June and competitors have 26 days in which to complete. “I am doing this to raise money for FreeMe for the rehabilitation of tortoises and chameleons,” he said. “As the Race lasts 26 days, my goal is to raise at least R26 000 - R1 000 per day.”
Donations welcome! Please mark them DeadSlow for admin purposes. There is live online tracking so you can follow his journey on trackmybike.co.za or freedomchallenge.org.za. (www.freedomchallenge.org.za)
Frank Fuls, an engineer, and an Australian friend decided to check on the health (or otherwise) of our most hard-working rivers: the Orange and the Vaal. They kayaked 2 500 kms in 89 days - from the eye of the Vaal to Alexander Bay on the Atlantic coast.
“We were mainly checking on water quality but we were shocked to see how little water flowed from the Vaal into the Orange. In some places the river had dried up!”
En route they spoke to school groups, municipal managers and town residents, showing them how to monitor water quality and stressing the need to conserve water. “We found people very willing to get involved and to help but vast volumes of water are wasted on toilets, gardens and leaking taps. We should treat water like gold - a precious asset,” Frank said.
A young eagle has been given a second chance at life, thanks to two alert Eskom employees and the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT).
When Thabang Mosase and Phumzile Nikelo of Eskom were inspecting a power line close to Petrusville , they came across a bird which could not fly and reported it immediately. Ronelle Visagie of the EWT's Birds of Prey Programme identified the bird as a juvenile Verraux’s Eagle Aquila verreauxii and it was first taken to the Kimberley Veterinary Clinic and then to the Western Cape for surgery. "The ultimate objective is for the bird to be released back into the wild where it belongs,” said Ronelle. “Without Thabang and Phumzile’s swift action and knowledge on what to do, the bird would have had no chance of survival.” For more info visit www.ewt.org.za.