1.3 Explain the fundamental issues pertaining to the environment according to specified requirements

According to the Constitution of South Africa:


24. Everyone has the right –

(a) to an environment that is not harmful to their health or wellbeing; and

(b) to have the environment protected, for the benefit of present and future generations, through reasonable legislative and other measures that –

(i) prevent pollution and ecological degradation;

(ii) promote conservation; and

(iii) secure ecologically sustainable development and use of natural resources while promoting justifiable economic and social development.

In the sections to follow, the implications of this right are explained in terms of various fundamental issues such as the following:

  • Applicable legislation
  • Air, water, soil and noise pollution
  • Energy optimisation
  • Waste management
  • Emergency preparedness and response
  • Disaster management
  • Environmental impact assessments, aspects and impacts
  • Social responsibility

Why is the environment important?

Some people believe that we are in the end times, so we may as well burn it up and wear it out, because in a few years or decades it will all be over anyway. Here is not the place to debate the veracity of this worldview, but if there is any doubt at all as to whether it is true, we had best err on the side of caution and hang onto enough resources to last us for the near future.

It is true that there are now 7.1 billion people on the planet, and so it is easy to feel that anything we do is a tiny drop in a very big ocean. But history shows that the impact of an individual can be completely disproportionate.

Pollution is a very serious health threat, not only to animals but to human beings as well!

According to some reports on plastic facts, more than 380 billion plastic bags are used each year in the United States alone. Less than 3% of these bags are ever recycled, the remainder wind up in landfills, streets, and waterways. When bags find their way to the ocean, they contribute to the death of multiple thousands of marine animals and birds every year.

Efforts are now underway by research groups to address the growing plastic pollution epidemic. As scientists formulate theories and try to come up with clean-up solutions, the need to curtail the growth is paramount to the health of our oceans.