Yolan Friedmann, EWT CEO

yolanf@ewt.org.za As I write this, our country has moved to lockdown level one and hopefully, with that, a return to some kind of normal life for millions of South Africans as they struggle to rebuild their lives and businesses from the wreckage of the past 12 months and mourn the loss of what can never be recovered or rebuilt. What the ‘new normal’ will be is anyone’s guess, and no-one seems to want to predict life beyond the next 30 days anymore. What 12 months have done to change our world and ourselves! A year ago, human beings around the world were anxiously debating the possibility of the “Wuhan virus” ever reaching our various shores or alternatively, were bracing for millions of deaths along the lines of the Spanish Flu, whilst just as many were pretending that life would never change so why worry?

But life DID change; let’s recount just some of the ways: In just 12 months, humans the world over have witnessed complete and total economic shutdown; buried family members and friends; lost businesses and jobs, created new ones online; seen corporate giants like MSC Cruises and Victoria Secret crash whilst Zoom shares skyrocketed; learned a new language that included words like “pivot”, “unmute” and “lockdown”; we all learned to wear earphones and masks, some more stylishly than others. And some of us not, just as a political statement. COVID turned us into pandemic denialists, anti/pro-vaxers, statisticians, fake news mongers, PPE tenderpreneuers, homeschoolers, beggars, thieves, heroes, medical experts, ginger horticulturalists, cultural bigots, and social connectors, all online, of course. Essential permits were issued, and homebrew recipes were exchanged. We lambasted rules that made no sense whilst we fed an insatiable black market that grew on the side. Beachgoers became criminals, and the skies became quiet with the absence of air traffic. Our conversations transformed in 12 months from blaming China to blaming Bill Gates. We admired Sweden, and we all know more about herd immunity than our GP does. It’s a crazy world for sure, and I cannot imagine anymore what the next 12 months will bring.

But here’s the thing: all of this has only affected the human species and the crazy, artificial world that we have built for ourselves, under the guise of development and civilisation. For all the madness in our world, Mother Nature continued to pass the passage of time with very little interruption or disorder. Lions continued to hunt their prey, Southern Right Wales went south to Antarctica, and tadpoles grew from eggs into frogs, all in the perfect order of things. Rain fell on the savannahs and prairies and night stars shone (more brightly perhaps) as they have for millennia. Humans believe that our world is tough and robust and built to last, whilst in fact, the more we construct a civilisation that is removed from nature, the more vulnerable we become. We rely on governments to give us food grants and supply us with water, to remove our effluent and educate our children. We rely on businesses to feed our families, and we need strangers who may not even exist to tell us the ‘truth’. We value paper with presidents’ heads printed on it above compassion and equality, and we demean those who tell us otherwise. And all the while, we believe we have dominion over the Earth and must control everything that lives on it – whether they need us or not. It is a strange world, isn’t it, and we are a very strange species.

I hope that some people have at least learned some important things this past year. It may not be the politicians or big business, and it probably won’t even be those we most trust to lead us in times just like these. It will probably be those we write off as weird or different, or perhaps even a vegan or two. But maybe some people took note of how much better and safer and healthier our lives would be, and how more predictable our future could be if we took a few steps backwards and were a little less ‘civilised’ and a little more ‘back to nature’. I, for one, hope that the next 12 months take us back a little if it means creating a healthy planet and an equitable world that values and sustains the diversity of all life. And, as this is the Vison of the Endangered Wildlife Trust, we believe that this is the only future that we should be working towards in the 12 months to come. Either way, we will be with you on this journey as we learn from nature the most important survival lessons we will ever need.

Here’s to the 2021 ride.

Yolan Friedmann

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