Informative and interactive: Dr Anthony Turton fields a question from a delegate.

Environmental management and climate change are among the most pressing topics of our time. The EnviroCon Conference aimed to present a positive, tangible platform for environmental decision-makers to tackle them. SHEQ Management was there…

Held at the pleasant Villa Paradiso Country Estate just outside Hartbeespoort Dam, North West Province, the 2011 EnviroCon Conference provided delegates with an experience worth attending. Hosted by environmental consultancy Environmental Assurance (Envass), the two-day event took place on November 17 and 18, 2011 – the third such annual event.

Endorsed by the Ministry of Environmental Affairs, the conference presented its 100 delegates with topics covering a variety of environmental issues. All were enthusiastically presented by speakers with vast and varied experience in their respective fields. There were 21 speakers in all.

Dr Anthony Turton opened the conference in his usual frank manner with a somewhat eye-opening presentation entitled “The role of South Africa in global environmental protection, opportunities and threats”. Some of the other notable speakers and topics included: “Environmental training in South Africa, alignment with the NQF, challenges and a way forward”, by Presha Ramsarup, of Rhodes University; “Compliance to the National Heritage Act, problems encountered and opportunities”, enthusiastically presented by Envass’ own Elize Becker, who holds a BSosSci Hons (Anthropology) and BA Hons (Archaeology); “Poaching and illegal trade in wildlife”, by Dr Cindy Harper, of the University of Pretoria; and “Short- to medium-term climate change and associated environmental impacts”, by Dr Jane Olwoch, also from the University of Pretoria.

It was reassuring to see that EnviroCon wasn’t just another platform to regurgitate challenges with regard to topics delegates already know exist. In many cases, speakers actually put forward solutions to challenges (based on thorough research) and presented initiatives already taken. In her presentation “Environmental education as a strategy towards sustainable living for rural communities“, Mapula Tlhagale, from the Department of Tourism Management at the University of Pretoria, put forward the concept that “we live in an environment that also wants to live”. Through her research, Tlhagale found teachers could – and would like to – teach environmental education and sustainable living if it were part of the school curriculum, something she’s trying to push for.

A topic not often brought up at such conferences was that of waste minimisation, here presented by Pikitup’s Zandile Mpungose. It was reassuring to hear Mpungose relate Pikitup’s view that waste can be a resource and its new mindset towards waste minimisation in Johannesburg, a city that generates 1,6 million tons of waste annually! She was pleased to announce that the City of Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipality is working on amending by-laws and stressed it was up to local government to push citizens to take responsibility in separating waste at source, stopping illegal dumping and changing its mindset.

With those (and most other) presentations, interest was sparked among delegates, with many questions and much interaction taking place. Of course, the undercurrent of events such as EnviroCon is always the opportunity for interaction and networking, and on that front EnviroCon 2011 didn’t disappoint. Delegates were also awarded the opportunity to embark on a complimentary early morning field excursion with Envass’ Henno Engelbrecht.

Envass director Emile van Drüten was exceptionally pleased with the 2011 conference. “EnviroCon 2011 was an enormous success. We’re still receiving compliments from the delegates on the structure of the conference; but more importantly, people are saying the content and information shared during the conference was fantastic and that they won’t miss it again in future.” 

This year’s EnviroCon will again be held in November and will take place in Johannesburg.

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