The Blame Game

OK. Here goes. I rarely do “opinion” posts on the blog any more because there’s rarely anything I feel strongly enough about to be bothered to wade through mentions on Twitter, comments on here, insults flung at me on my journey to and from work and hate mail delivered to my home address three months later via the SAPO.

But I feel I need to say something.

I’ve been  watching the Cape Town water crisis with interest for a long while now. I’ve blogged about it an awful lot. And while “crisis” seemed a strong word 25 months ago when water restrictions were first introduced, we’re now staring down the barrel of a rather terrifying gun, with fewer than 100 days left until Day Zero – the day the taps will be turned off.

An entire city of 4 MILLION residents is going to run out of water in just 3 months time. And yet, a quick glance at the City’s Water Dashboard gives us this picture:

What, if I may be so bold, the actual fandango?

Just 39% of residents are using fewer than 87l water per person per day. That’s frankly appalling, and it shows a huge disregard and/or misunderstanding for the gravity of the situation.

You think that showering with a bucket is inconvenient? (It can be, I agree.)

But when Day Zero arrives:
There will be no water in your home. None.
Literally nothing will come out of your taps.

Want water? Go to one of the ±200 city-wide collection points and queue for it. 25 litres per person per day.
25 litres of water weighs 25kg, by the way. Transport that, mate. Every single day.

Businesses will be forced to close.
Closed business = no income = staff being laid off.
Schools won’t be able to open, creating a childcare nightmare for parents, and an educational nightmare for schools and students.

And Day Zero won’t last a day. The biggest misnomer since Pussy Galore, right there. Day Zero is when it starts.
Brace yourself for 3-6 months of no water supply.

Sadly, if scare tactics – or “the truth” as most people call it – worked, we’d already be doing a lot better than we are.

But I digress. This paragraph from David Olivier’s independent report on the current crisis has stuck with me:

Blame shifting, fault finding and panic are usual reactions to water crises all over the world. Some anxiety is good, as it motivates water saving, but blame shifting actually pushes responsibility away, and causes water wastage. The best attitude Cape Town’s people can adopt is for every person to do their best, together.

(emphasis by me)

This isn’t a political post. Absolutely not. I have no party axe to grind. But it does seem to me that there is a blame culture which has flourished in recent weeks. People saying that this water crisis has been poorly-managed by the City.

My personal feeling is that they’ve done ok considering the lack of any precedent here and the 20/20 hindsight that their detractors are blessed with. I think any city, any government, any party would have struggled with the challenge of a 1 in 1000 climatic event:

And I’m always intrigued to hear what the critics would have done differently.

But those are just my thoughts. Other opinions are available.
And, as I’m about to point out, none of that actually matters anyway.

I think David is absolutely right: this blame game has given people a convenient scapegoat which in turn has led to them choosing to ignore what, in this situation, are very clearly their social responsibilities.

So here’s my plan.

Blame and anger don’t contribute to our water supply. That’s not how the water supply works.

You can’t drink outrage.

If you want to stick it to Patricia de Lille, the City, the DA, the Provincial Government, the National Government or whomsoever, then next time your opportunity to vote comes around, you must do just that.
That’s how democracy works. Literally, the power of the people.

(Remember to choose wisely, just in case this happens again.)

But attempting to spite any or all of those individuals or bodies by refusing to cut down on your water usage is misguided and isn’t going to help anyone. Even yourself.

Spoiler alert:
Your political affiliations and opinions are not an excuse to not save water.

It’s time (it was time a long while back, actually) to put on your big boy panties, take a step back (and up) and choose to overlook the petty politics right now.
Deal with stuff that later.

Right now, collectively, we need to reach out to that missing two-thirds of residents who are still using too much water – the Day Zero denialists, the monied individuals in Bishopscourt, the Observatory anarchists, the tannies in Pinelands with their precious lawns, that oke in Durbanville that just doesn’t care – and rein them in. And if they want to moan all over the newspapers and social media and and and… about us doing it, well they must knock themselves out.
Just as long as they’re saving water while they’re doing it. Because if they don’t come to the party, we’re very definitely doomed.

I’m aware that this is pie in the sky thinking. I’m aware that if people actually cared about this situation, they’d be saving already. But just imagine if the residents worked with the City instead of pointlessly fighting the system (“pointlessly” because as I’ve pointed out – using water just because you hate the DA is a recipe for disaster), fiddling as Rome burns.

If you’re one of those individuals I’ve mentioned above, you’ve probably not read this far. But on the off-chance that you have, for the good of everyone: rich, poor, black, white, young and old please can you please start saving some water?

We need to pull together here. Or we’re all massively, massively buggered.

 

(Don’t @ me.)

First!

A quick test.

Who was the first man on the moon? (1969)
Who was the first person to reach the South Pole? (1911)
Who was the first person to receive two Nobel prizes? (1903 & 1911)
Who were the first men to climb Mount Everest? (1953)

I’d guess that you knew most of them. And with good reason, because firsts are important and while someone can always do it Citius, Altius or Fortius-er – they can never take away the honour of being the first from you.
So let’s celebrate the fact that Cape Town stands now on the very brink of being the first major city in the world to run out of water. As recognised by Time magazine, no less:

Other minor places have run out of water before – our near(ish) neighbours in Beaufort West allegedly expired back in November. But Beaufort West is – at best – a town, and is – very definitely – minor. Cape Town is about to make history in the same way that Hiroshima did back in 1945.

Of course, everyone saw the Hiroshima thing coming (but it clearly happened anyway), so what about Cape Town? Aryn Baker (for it is she) goes along with that independent report:

City planners have long pointed out that Cape Town’s water capacity hasn’t kept up with population growth, which has nearly doubled over the past 20 years. Still, a three-year drought on this scale is a “once a millennium” event, say climatologists, and even the best-planned water system would have taken a hit under current conditions.

Indeed.

So while we might not have any water in 3 months; while our sewage systems may be collapsing around our ears (or whatever other parts of our bodies); while the very fabric of our lives is torn from all around us – ain’t no-one that can take away that first place from us. Not ever.

Be proud, Cape Town. Be proud.

How bad is the drought?

I meant to blog this when I saw it, but I needed to go to the beach and relax, so I didn’t get around to it. Still, no harm in sharing it now, because even looking back, I think it’s very telling as to the perilous state of our water supply.

We’re now well into fire season and when they are not fighting fires, our local agencies are working overtime on social media, keeping us informed and trying to stop people from starting fires in the first place. Thank you. Keep up the good work.

Here’s a post from the Overberg Fire Protection Association from the 31st December 2017.

Various reports of smoke have been received from 09:00 this morning. We can confirm that no #wildfires have been reported and area confirmed is safe. #Thanku for your vigilance, Overberg District Municipality Fire and Rescue and the #goFPA members that made sure our area is safe. The phone calls to assist with our efforts (mostly made by members from the beach!), the private plane that could give info and worried officials offering assistance!

All of which seems to be good news, but if no fire, then why the smoke? Because we all know that “there’s no smoke without fire“.

Here’s the image (by devfloat) that accompanied the post:

But that’s not smoke. That’s dust, but not just dust from anywhere:

#Overberg #Theewaterskloof area 31/12/17 11:30
No ongoing #wildfires, dust from the Theewaterskloof dam is the cause of concern.

Yes, people thought there was a fire in the area because there was dust blowing around from the local dam. The one that would usually be full of water and supplying it to Cape Town.
Not only is it not full of water and not supplying it to Cape Town, the dam is so dry that its surface is blowing around and making people think the valley is on fire.

I know that this is not “news”, but if anyone out there needs a sign that we are in a seriously dire situation, then this is surely it.

And yet only a third of us are following the city’s recommendations:

We are utterly buggered. And we only have ourselves the other 66% to blame.

David’s Water Crisis Facts

Mythbusting. It’s a thing. Two middle-aged gentlemen in San Francisco famously made a living out of it. So step forward then David W. Olivier, who – right from the get go – is anxious for us to know that he:

does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

That article being this one, in which he rejects our reality and substitutes his own:

David has gone out on a bit of a limb here by using facts and relevant information to make his case. An approach that the Facebook hordes are unlikely to recognise. And if you read it through rather cynical eyes, it does appear as a bit of a City of Cape Town puff piece, but then you realise that maybe, just maybe, they have also been using facts and relevant information when informing us about the water crisis.

Wow.

David hits us with truth bombs about the much alleged lack of preparedness:

Climate trends over the past 40 years gave no indication of the drought’s timing, intensity or duration. In fact, dams were overflowing in winter 2014. The weather forecasts gave no indication that the 2015 drought would continue over another year. A study by the University of Cape Town came out a few weeks ago, saying that the odds of the drought carrying over again into 2017 were less than one in one thousand.

He then goes in for a combination attack detailing the myths of lack of enforcement and water being lost to leaks, before a killer blow on the “why didn’t we build a big desalination plant?” debate:

A desalination plant large enough to accommodate Cape Town’s needs (450 megalitres per day) would cost 15 billion rand to build and then millions more to maintain.
There is a chance that by the time such a plant is built, the drought would be over. The city would be left with a very expensive white elephant.

And then, after a page or two of cold, hard realities, a single paragraph of reasoned opinion.

Blame shifting, fault finding and panic are usual reactions to water crises all over the world. Some anxiety is good, as it motivates water saving, but blame shifting actually pushes responsibility away, and causes water wastage. The best attitude Cape Town’s people can adopt is for every person to do their best, together. The world is watching, let’s set them an example to follow.

How dare you, David? How very dare you?

Of course, as a Cape Town resident, you might feel that sharing this sort of thing might move some of the responsibility away from the city and onto your shoulders. And, if I may be so bold, that’s probably one very good reason that these myths have conveniently gone unchallenged and been perpetuated on social media, around braais, and on social media around braais.

Why not lead the way by breaking the cycle and when one of these Seven Deadly Myths [Really? – Ed.] gets quoted in your presence, give them a friendly nudge or punch in the face and tell them the truth?

It’s ever so liberating.

Turgid Sausage

Careful now.

On the weekend, I bought some flat plastic tubing from local DIY Superstore Builders Whorehouse (Thanks, H). It cost at R18 a metre. That did seem a bit steep, but Builders isn’t exactly known for its great value.

I attached the flat plastic tubing to the bottom of various drainpipes around the house and positioned the other ends into the garden or the pool.

And, thanks to last night’s brief, thundery downpour, I was rewarded with several (or more) litres of fresh rainwater in a turgid sausage.

All of that (and the contents of the other sausages) would have been lost down the drain. But because of this somewhat serpentine intervention, we’ll now be able to use the pool for an extra 9 minutes this summer.

Awesome.