In today’s world, it often feels that economic advancement trumps the environment and that sustainable growth actually just means sustained growth, driven by an economic world order that demands endless expansion in order to keep ticking.
In the Overberg, dependent as we are on tourism and agriculture for our own economic survival, we face this reality every day. We love our coastal waters. We breathe in our “champagne” air. We marvel at rolling farms dotted with bright yellow canola that stretch out as far as your eyes can see. We enjoy the solitude of walking in the mountains alone.
But, at the same time, we are conscious of remaining an attractive destination for visitors who come predominantly to enjoy our natural beauty but also want to have a full range of activities on offer. We watch dam levels and pray for rain, fully aware of the importance to our farmers and wine industry, and ultimately to tourism growth.
We walk a slippery slope. On one hand, we want more people to visit but yet, on the other, we want to protect and preserve the extraordinary beauty our eyes feast on every day. We want visitors to spend more days in the Overberg but we are also aware that we need to keep them busy.
The application by Lamloch Game Farm to introduce eight elephants and other wildlife in Kleinmond again shines the spotlight on this slippery slope, just as the debate last year on what to do at Fernkloof Nature Reserve raised passions.
Taking guidance from the United Nations World Tourism Organisation, we need to ask ourselves, “Does this investment take into full account the current and future economic, social and environmental impact? Does the investment address the needs of visitors, the tourism industry, the environment and host communities?”
If the answers tick most of the boxes then, as they say, it’s a no-brainer. But be mindful that no investment will ever fully meet all the criteria. In the end, let us hope that common sense and calm minds will prevail.