Boy a force against global warming

Published Jan 25, 2020

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An 11-year-old boy with autism has become an international voice in the fight against climate change.

Chris-Tiaan Nortjé, also known as C-T, started an initiative which has seen him plant 4918 spekboom plants since last year.

Chris-Tiaan’s interest in global warming began when his grandmother told him about a scientific article on spekboom she had read. Now, the Grade 4 pupil from the South Coast in KwaZulu-Natal aims to plant 240 of the plants a week.

He has handed out 1015 cuttings to people and 4000 pamphlets to promote the planting of spekboom.

He believes he can make a difference in the fight against global warming with his initiative. “Nothing and no one will ever stop me from reaching my dream,” said Chris-Tiaan.

Despite his many challenges, his positivity and bravery have inspired around 100 000 people on Facebook.

They have vowed to plant 10 spekboom plants each in the year to come.

Chris-Tiaan lost his mother two years ago to an illness and he now lives with his grandparents.

“Our grandson has a dream to fight global warming and to make South Africa a healthier place to live in and if there is one person who can do it, it is most certainly him. He is a force to reckon with,” said his grandmother, Charlotte Coetzee.

Chris-Tiaan NortjÉ’s interest in global warming began when his grandmother told him about an article on spekboom. supplied

Chris-Tiaan NortjÉ’s interest in global warming began when his grandmother told him about an article on spekboom. supplied

Chris-Tiaan NortjÉ’s interest in global warming began when his grandmother told him about an article on spekboom. supplied

Portulacaria afra, commonly known as spekboom, is a drought-resistant, indigenous succulent native to our country and it helps reduce air pollution. It has the ability to capture four to ten tons of carbon per hectare. It acts as a carbon sponge, absorbing carbon from the atmosphere and turning it into plant matter.

Chris-Tiaan has set a goal of seeing everyone in the country plant at least 10 spekboom plants a year. He aims to educate people about the power of the plant through social media, demonstrations and pop-up exhibitions.

He also plans to create a spekboom nursery within the next two years.

He sees his autism as a “superpower” that drives his interest in the initiative.

In a video on Facebook, Chris-Tiaan said: “I want to raise awareness about global warming and tell people about the spekboom plant.

“It can save our planet and stop global warming.”

Coetzee said: “We have totally accepted that he has special needs and have taught him to work with it (autism) and not against it. Autism is a gift, not a curse.”

She said her grandchild decided on the spekboom initiative because of the plant’s efficiency as a carbon sequester. “I am so proud of him for what he has become. He is absolutely true to himself; such a kind-hearted child. He shares and cares.”

When Chris-Tiaan is not busy with his spekboom project he winds down by engaging in outdoor activities with his friends.

He also enjoys listening to music and dancing. His grandmother said he loved reading, spelling and maths.

To help him continue with his initiative against global warming, go to: https://www.backabuddy.co.za/chris-tiaan-coetzee or https://www.facebook.com/CTSpekboomInitiative/

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