In a few years’ time, the infestation of pompom weed in the Highveld’s grasslands has become so severe that there is no more grazing left?
And if you doubt that this is possible take a drive to the City of Tshwane-run Rietvlei Nature Reserve near Irene. Much of its open grassland, home to populations of zebra, wildebeest, eland, waterbuck and rhino, among other species, is now a sea of delicate pink blooms. Which, by the time you read this will have gone to seed, spreading millions upon millions of windborne seeds far and wide.
Heaven knows what the managers of Rietvlei will do when their grazing land is so severely degraded that there is insufficient fodder for their animals, but what will happen in a normal agricultural context is that farmers will be forced to plough up their pastures annually, and reseed every year with fresh fodder and grazing grasses.
This will add hugely to their costs which in turn will drive up the price of beef and mutton, not to mention the cost of keeping horses.
And such ploughing and planting is not possible on a significant proportion of grazing land, for example on land on the sides of hills, or land which has many rocky outcrops, trees etc.
And what will happen when South Africa’s rivers, on which waters a significant number of farmers and riparian residents depend, are so heavily polluted that the water is dangerously unsuitable for use?
If you doubt that this is possible take a drive down to Parys and try to enjoy an al fresco lunch near the Vaal River. You may as well take a picnic next to a sewerage works, such is the miasma that wafts up from the river, courtesy of the wholesale dumping of untreated sewage and chemical effluent that takes place upstream between Three Rivers and the Barrage.
Despite efforts (much too late, anyway) by SA National Defence Force teams to get broken sewerage plants in the Vaal Triangle operating again (and you know you’ve sunk to a special new low when your national fighting force is reduced to fighting poo) the rot, so to speak, is so widespread that NONE of Gauteng’s rivers flow clean and clear.
The outcome is that the oceans will be choked, and will die. Already we have the spectre of “gyres” of floating plastic garbage, some thousands of square kilometres in extent, that slowly revolve in the centres of our oceans, shedding little bits occasionally as their plastics slowly degrade, thence to sink gently to the bottom of the ocean, sometimes being snapped up by marine species as food.
A corollary would be to ask: what will happen when all the fish die out, not through over-exploitation (which has already happened in many fisheries) but because of pollution?
And what will happen when, in a few generations’ time, the last of the earth’s oil has been sucked out of oil wells, or fracked out of places like the Karroo, or scraped out of the tar sands of northern Canada?
Hopefully, mankind will have come to its senses and embraced the rapidly-developing science of solar power, to drive everything from ships to trucks and cars, homes and businesses.
One thing is for certain, at this stage, is that the pace of life will be very much slower and more insular for unless some new form of long-distance transportation can be devised, such as teleportation, the only way your offspring will be able to take long-distance overseas trips, is by sea, like in the days before the modern jet airliner.
And what will happen when the last of the world’s honeybees die off through disease, willful destruction, starvation and poisoning?
Although it is true that bees are not the only insects that pollenate plants, they are by far the most proficient and prolific, and their demise will make it impossible for a vast range of crops to reproduce and form the fruits that humans enjoy ~ everything from beans in the vegetable patch to peaches in the orchard.
Will we be reduced to pollenating these crops by hand, as they have to do in parts of China where bees are already extinct? Without wishing to be flippant hand pollenation would be a sure-fire remedy for South Africa’s unemployment crisis, as armies of workers would be required to move slowly from plant to plant or tree to tree dabbing blossoms with little silk brushes. But imagine the cost of such an exercise!