Dr Mamphela Ramphele. Picture: David Ritchie
Dr Mamphela Ramphele. Picture: David Ritchie

Stopping climate change requires new thinking on how people relate - Mamphela Ramphele

By Rapula Moatshe Time of article published Dec 10, 2020

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Pretoria - Climate change can not be fixed by technological means, but it requires people to cultivate new ways of thinking about how they relate to one another and to the earth system.

This was said by renowned scholar and businesswoman Dr Mamphela Ramphele during a virtual discussion at this year's installation of the South Africa Science Forum.

She was part of a panel that deliberated on the topic titled “The future of trans-disciplinary: How do we relearn to be human in new ways”.

She painted a bleak picture about how the earth system was likely to be negatively impacted by human behaviour, which tended to be destructive to the earth’s resources.

"Evidence from those working across the globe suggest that this coronavirus pandemic may just be a dress rehearsal. Major disruptions are likely to continue due to the cumulative impact of our relentless behaviour," Ramphele said.

She pleaded with people to harvest lessons from Covid-19 experiences and learn to find new ways of being human.

"The beginning of wisdom is acknowledgement. Humanity is yet to fully acknowledge the dire situation we are in," she said.

Ramphele mentioned that the world has already reached tipping points in as far as climate change is concerned.

"We have passed significant multiple tipping points already. The cascade is not far away. Antarctica is collapsing, coral reefs are eroded, the arctic pole has seen the hottest summer in history. The climate system will run away from any human capacity to stop accelerating warming; this is referred to as the hot house earth scenario," she said.

She said the reality was that short-term action must be undertaken before 2030.

"Mobilising for zero emissions before 2030 and not before 2050 is critical," she said.

She described climate change as one of the wicked problems created by human beings because of their disrespect to the planet.

"Climate change can not be fixed by technological means; it requires a new way of thinking about who we are; what we do and what we value most in life. How we do in terms of relating to one another and to all of life in the living earth system. The fundamental change that is required is acknowledgement that we are part of nature and inextricably linked to all living beings in an existential interdependence," Ramphele said.

She said it was remarkable how scientists across the globe were now turning to Africa for answers to the complexity of life.

"African wisdom has been carried to many parts of the world by the ancient of indigenous people who migrated to Asia, America, Australia and the Island states. Ironically this turning to African wisdom is often done without acknowledgement that Africa is not only the cradle of humanity, but also the cradle of human civilisation," she said.

Climatologist Professor Coleen Vogel added that finding answers about problems related to climate change and Covid-19 must not only rely on indigenous knowledge.

She said that knowledge acquisition was forever open and was not a linear model.

"We are not just taking indigenous knowledge to science because, I think, that would be almost immoral. It is not just indigenous knowledge. Instead it is about enhancing the creation of knowledge and understanding a co-existing, which takes years," Vogel said.

Cape Town University's Professor Daya Reddy suggested that it was important for scientists to find ways of ensuring that communities have a good grip of what science was about so that they can also contribute to the integrated approach used to produce knowledge.

The three-day conference concludes today under the theme 'Igniting conversations about science'.

Pretoria News

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