In Cape Town we have been adapting during the past few years to a severe shortage of water, and how with our public supplier of electricity Eskom, going through major supply problems we are having to cope with regular electricity outages lasting a couple of hours, twice a day.

It is Valentine’s Day, 14th February 2019, and I have just returned from a game of early morning tennis and a swim. On reaching my home, I find there is no electricity and this situation will only be rectified in about two hours time. Under normal circumstances, my computer would be my next port of call, but due to the lack of electricity that activity is no longer viable.  Alternative occupations need to be found. No cooking, because the stove is similarly out of action. So I have decided to write this blog with pen and paper and transfer it to a digital format later when power is restored.

February is the middle of our summer, and we have a Mediterranean climate which means rain falls in the winter. Last year our dams were 30% full, this year is better as they currently stand at 66% full. In the good old days when local rainfall had not been influenced by the new hazards of climate change, dams were frequently reported as 101% full.   The only watering allowed in gardens is with the use of a bucket.   This can be done on only two days a week and only within a two-hour time frame. Washing up the dishes happens once a day. Showers are a rare luxury and ablutions in the summer most often consist of a swim at the gym or in the pool at the residential village where I live. Toilets are flushed, only when needed.

Capetownians have adapted to using about 25% of the daily water consumption when compared to the days when no concerns existed about saving water. This is the ‘new normal’. I will never use water from the tap without being conscious of the fact that I am utilising a scarce resource which needs to be consumed carefully and with circumspection.  This new respect for a commodity which had been taken for granted until recently now feels deeply embedded in my current lifestyle.

Having adapted to minimising the use of household water, we now need to cope with daily outages of electricity. The political conundrums behind this most unsatisfactory state of affairs, I will not attempt to analyse, as that I do not see as my role. However my interest as an observer of human behaviour requires means I wish to comment on the capacity of the man in the street to alter daily habits which may have been practised for many decades previously.   In the past commodities like water and electricity were consumed without any consideration for their finiteness.   Necessity has dictated that we are now constantly aware of saving water. In addition, we need how to adapt to having no electricity for extended periods.  Many businesses have had to invest in private generators to ensure they have a constant energy supply.

The present situation brings back a memory of a conversation I overheard some forty years ago. This was between my children at play with the offspring of some American visitors. These children from abroad were talking about pollution and environmental degradation,  concepts which were new to me.   It was the first time I had become aware that one should not throw foreign objects out of the windows of your car.

Again, in those days there were few cars on the roads, and traffic jams were unknown in this country. Today I am aware on a daily basis that more and more vehicles are on the road and I must budget for more and more time to reach my destination. Time, electricity and water are all in short supply!

My grand-daughter who is in her 20’s is doing her bit for the preservation of the environment. Whilst she has a post-graduate degree in the History of Art, she has decided to put her energy and idealistic tendencies into doing her bit for diminishing the amount of plastic that pollutes the environment. She is manufacturing re-usable cotton bags for shoppers for use when they go about their regular purchases of fruit and vegetables. By providing these bags for the temporary storage of their purchases, she is helping to eliminate the use of plastic bags.  Her range of products is sold at local markets and she is making her mark as a young person who is not only environmentally aware, but actively doing her bit to preserve the balance of nature and the natural ecology.

3 replies
  1. Leonard
    Leonard says:

    Good reporting. Just listening to a talk by Dr Attali saying in 20-30 yrs we will not own cars. Netherlands, which I lived in, where my daughter is will sink. We will all be vegetarians. Leonard

  2. Nikki Viljoen
    Nikki Viljoen says:

    Oh well done to your grand daughter! I’m loving your posts Grace and look forward to getting them.

    Having grown up on a farm in the 1950 & 60’s, I have always been conscious of how precious water is – we often had ‘drought’ years and were lucky enough to have boreholes on the farm. Electricity was something that we generated ourselves and therefore only had at night, from sun down to about 9pm when that was switched off and I am lucky enough to have a solar generator at home which is completely silent and odorless! No smell of fuel fumes thank goodness. so I can watch TV and work on my computer if I need to. I also have several gas appliances so am able to cook or sort myself out with a cuppa something if need be.

  3. Dr. Hazel Gaito
    Dr. Hazel Gaito says:

    Grace your blog reminds me of the days when we used to visit my aunt Millie and Uncle Cyril in Moravia – a trading station near Piketberg. Water was collected in a barrel by Aapie a local Hottentot whom we adored and accompanied down to the Berg River with the donkey. Electricity was created by the wind-charger and if there was wind we had lights and could dance to Hendrik Suzann’s Koffiehuiskonsert on the radio. Those were beautiful, happy days.

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