South African ingenuity with sustainable farming practices will be on display next month when members from one of the world’s most distinguished international think-tanks, the Club of Rome (CoR), will be hosted by Spier Wine Farm in Stellenbosch.
The Club of Rome’s annual summit is to be held at Spier on 6 November in collaboration with Stellenbosch University’s Institute for Futures Research (IFR), Africa’s first and only academic-industry futures research institute.
In its seminal 1972 report The Limits to Growth, the CoR alerted the world to future environmental and demographic challenges. The central message was that the quest for unlimited growth in population, material goods and resources, on a finite planet, would eventually result in the collapse of its economic and environmental systems.
This prediction has now clearly manifested in the climate change crisis confronting us today.
The Climate Emergency Plan of the CoR was launched at the European Parliament on 4 December 2018. It constituted an urgent world wake-up call and set out ten priority actions for all sectors and governments to:
- Halt fossil fuel expansion and fossil fuel subsidies by 2020
- Continue to double wind and solar capacity every four years, and triple annual investment in renewable energy, energy efficiency and low-carbon technologies for high-emitting sectors before 2025
- Introduce realistic pricing and taxation to reflect the true cost of fossil fuel use and embedded carbon by 2020
- Replace GDP growth as the main objective for societal progress
- Improve refrigerant management by 2020
- Encourage exponential technology development by 2020
- Ensure greater materials efficiency and circularity by 2025
- Accelerate regenerative land use policies
- Ensure that population growth is kept under control by giving priority to education and health services for girls and women; promote reproductive health and rights, including family planning programmes
- Provide for a just transition in all affected communities.
Sandrine Dixson-Declève, Co-President of the Club of Rome, says: “The ravages of a rapidly warming climate are happening every day and will only get worse, especially for the world’s most vulnerable. Immediate and transformational climate action must set in motion a redesign of our social and economic systems, enabling us to emerge from emergency to a world which benefits all people, within planetary boundaries. Regenerative land-use practices, as exhibited at Spier, are a critical piece of the puzzle both in tackling the climate breakdown and in protecting and restoring nature on which we so fundamentally depend. We simply have no time to waste. Time will not be forgiving.”
These noble actions begs the question of how it can be applied. IFR Director Dr Morne Mostert said Spier Wine Farm provides a glimpse into the future of how climate-conscious measures may be implemented in practice.
Established in 1692, Spier was bought by the Enthoven family in 1993. In the subsequent journey, business and farming practices were transformed with a belief based not on land ownership but rather custodianship.
Art as a medium was also embraced, as artists have access to various platforms that enable them to broach difficult subject matters. Artists are therefore often seen as the true leaders of change in society.
Of special significance at Spier is the practice of regenerative agriculture. This is a system of farming principles and practices that increases biodiversity, enriches soils, improves watersheds and enhances ecosystem services.
The aim with regenerative agriculture is to capture carbon in the soil and aboveground biomass, reversing current global trends of atmospheric accumulation. At the same time, it offers increased yields, resilience to climate instability, and higher health and vitality for farming and ranching communities.
In this way the solution to global warming and the climate crisis (as well as poverty and deteriorating public health) actually lies right under our feet, and at the end of our knives and forks.
Heidi Newton-King, Spier's Sustainability and HR director, says: “Through regenerative practices used in its chicken, pig, cattle and wine farming activities and through collaborating with communities, Spier is proof that sustainable practices in business is possible. It requires a long-term view and a sincere commitment to changing old business practices.”