Africa: Wide, Long, Beautiful, and Terrible.
Africa owns so many folds of stunning nature, indescribable history, heroic humanity, and, presently, unique fears of climate change that come from assaults on the environment from mining.
The stripping of mineral resources and the toxic means to this end have cultivated the need for someone capable of fearless activism, and a protectress is rising to the occasion. She is working to address a national need, working to STOP more damage to the poorest land and people in South Africa. The potential flooding caused by climate change, which could spread massive toxic pollution from the mining areas of Johannesburg, has brought out the strength of one inspired Grandma, activist, and once preacher — Mariette Lieferink.
She claims, “I am not a greenie; I just want to see justice done. I want to see the areas cleaned up.”
We greenies need more forces of nature like this woman. 40,000 tonnes of gold have been mined from the Witwatersrand Basin in 120 years, as well as cadmium, uranium, cobalt, copper, zinc, manganese, titanium, and other heavy metals.
Time Bomb of Climate Change
South Africa – where climate change may trigger a toxic time bomb, a recent Guardian article on Lieferink’s work, informs:
“Acid mine waste,” is, along with climate change, the most dangerous issue facing South Africa, according to Lieferink. She is the head of the Federation for a Sustainable Environment. Her work is to clean up heartbreaking polluted mining areas of Johannesburg. And climate change provides a unique problem for Johannesburg and South Africa, as it is “liable to trigger the toxic timebomb left by 120 years of mining,” as the Guardian put it.
As seems all too typical, the effects on the natural world caused by greed are most likely to harm the innocent and poor. Perhaps it is a spiritual force that moves Lieferink, as it is with all true environmentalists [whether they see themselves as greenies or not]. People such as Lieferink are propelled, as David, to oppose Goliath.
Lieferink’s “toxic tour” starts on the main A28 road. “Climate change, she says, increases the volume of rainwater, allowing the mines to flood more frequently, and the water courses and rivers to become even more polluted.” This land she works to rectify, to somehow clean, is bright yellow and white, a deep crust of toxic waste from an old copper mine. Meanwhile, a brickworks makes radioactive building blocks from the waste of another mine. In the distance are giant waste heaps from gold mines and, below, the shafts and tunnels of more than 120 deep mines, mostly brim full of millions of liters of some of the most toxic and hazardous waste in the world.
Unravelling, Rectifying a Web of Damage
What is really interesting about this woman’s story is something that reveals the complexity of our society on this small planet today. Sitting on South Africa’s nuclear regulation board, and she is paid by two of the mining companies “to warn local communities of the dangers of pollution.” However, “she swears it does not stop her condemning them vociferously, in public, every week.”
The Guardian quotes her will to prevail and her strength more here: “I got involved through Shell,” she says. “They wanted to build two petrol stations opposite my home. It was narrow self-interest that prompted me. People became tired opposing them, which left me to battle alone against them. They offered to bribe me, but eventually they gave up. It showed me what one old woman could beat a huge company. My activism was at great cost, personal and financial. Industry and government have tried to discredit me. They have tried to sue me; they lambast me if I make mistakes. I am sure my emails are monitored but I am not suspicious. I am just obnoxious.”
Activism, Grandma Warriors of the Heart and Mind: The Wise Woman Years
If only every grandma could become as rightfully cantankerous in their wise woman years as Lieferink. Her personality and willpower may appear in such a different form, but it is a form she harnesses with a similar prowess and spiritual strength of another champion Grandma Environmentalist working for the health of our planet, Helen Caldecott.
- Ore Mine of Sishen via rogiro
- Impala Platinum mine via bbcworldservice
- Three Wise Women via Dale Gillard