Growing up in Cape Town, South Africa, in the 1980's and early 1990's, was a blessed experience. I was surrounded by nature, pristine and beautiful, on all sides. Since moving to the USA in 1993, I have returned regularly to Cape Town, always enjoying and relishing the return to that beautiful environment. Yet, something started bothering me over the past five years. Since the end of Apartheid the economy has been growing, the cities have been booming and more and more trash is appearing on the beaches and in the ocean. My daytime strolls along the beaches of Cape Town increasingly began to involve picking up multiple bags of trash – plastic bottles, lids, bags, and other random flotilla.
As a trained political-economist, with a deep interest in questions of sustainability and development, I couldn't help but be concerned by this destruction of value and wealth. I was puzzled by the fact that almost all of this "trash" had at one point represented valuable goods. These goods had cost many, many dollars to produce and purchase - yet the end result was that they had become worthless. This worthlessness didn't make sense to me. Why would something that had cost someone good money, like the container that holds a drink of Coca-Cola, become worthless? And, even more so, how could we prevent it destroying something else of huge and infinite value – a clean and pristine environment that is healthy and resilient?
It is the protection of this beauty and the need to find a way in which our society can operate while protecting and recognizing this infinite wealth, which we are surrounded by and dependent upon for our survival, that became the central focus of my MA research. I am deeply passionate about bringing to the fore the need to recognize this value, the value of the things that our economy and our financial system fail to recognize.
My childhood was built off the very visceral experience of nature. It is something that I deeply desire for my own children, and yet, I understand the need for economic development and an improved standard of living. The challenge of negotiating these different working elements is something that I devote my life to. I want to be part of helping to drive pro-active solutions, solutions that center on the recognition of the environment and the infinite wealth and value that it represents. For me, there is more value in abundance then in anything else. Having an abundant environment - abundant ocean life, abundant forests and abundant clean air - is all more valuable to me and I believe to us as a society, then any scarce commodity or high-priced good.