I took this photo in late October, 2006, when I was traveling throughout South Africa. This view of Table Mountain is considered a “must-see” and while I had been insistent on visiting Robben Island where Nelson Mandela had been imprisoned for over 2 and 1/2 decades, as well as the Slave Lodge Museum, which memorialized and honored those who had passed through Cape Town during its horrific time as a slave-trading port, one does have to take time for the natural sights as well.
Cape Town sits at the southern tip of South Africa and the African continent, where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Indian Ocean and Table Mountain juts off the coast in one of the most magnificent panoramic views one can imagine. Or maybe you can’t imagine – I certainly couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about until I was there and saw this. It is even more breathtaking in person. Awe-inspiring even.
I enjoyed myself in Cape Town and was sad to have to leave but that’s the nature of traveling: we go, we visit and have a good time and hopefully take good memories back with us.
Since then, virtually every time I heard anything at all about Cape Town, I paid attention, curious and interested in this remote metropolitan city which was so geographically unique.
Then in Fall of 2017, news reports started coming in that Cape Town was running out of water.
This was not the kind of news I ever expected to hear about Cape Town – and wondered even if this was true or some kind of sick joke? Had the fake news bots taken their trade a step further in order to put fear in the hearts of those who dared to challenge water conservation? But that made no sense – in fact, nothing did. Except the truth: drought – not unusual in Africa – had been substantial and reservoirs were running low. But look at this classic photo, a typical fog-entrenched shot because, hey, it rains in Capetown – it rained when I was there!
But apparently it hadn’t been raining enough, much as California, and the Southwestern U.S. had also been dry – climate change was here. It was real. And one of the most modern cities in the world, as well as one of the most popular, was in serious trouble.
This is my Earth Day post for Earth Documentary Resistance. I know a lot of people want to wish a “Happy Earth Day” to all and praise efforts in conservation. That is all fine and good, of course. But somewhere, right now, there are residents of a modern, sophisticated and well-educated city that are deeply and profoundly concerned about their future. Their water is being rationed and their lives are changing dramatically, many in permanent ways that can be hard to imagine for anyone, let alone an urban dweller.
This is also hard to grasp when one looks at a photo like this and sees so much water surrounding Cape Town – how on Earth could there be so much water and the city is running dry? Indeed, one might ask the same of Los Angeles, San Francisco, and others who sit on the ocean’s edge.
During the Standing Rock saga in North Dakota, the term “Water is Life” or “Mni Wiconi” was repeated over and over again by Water Protectors. They have been paying attention and the rest of the world is now starting to wake up. Water is life – without it, there is no life. We need to appreciate water, take care of it and treasure it, because water gives all of us life.
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This article has been presented as a part of the mission of Earth Documentary Resistance, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to documentary storytelling: Because Humanity is Changing Our Planet.
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