Like the world over, both the United States and South Africa face significant hurdles in catching up with the standards the world needs to combat climate control. Though the countries often differ in terms of the most pressing environmental concerns, both nations have a list of matters that must be addressed immediately. However, not all is bad for either country. When looking at the findings from the 2014 Environmental Performance Index of Yale University, both nations ranked in the upper half of the world–with the United States ranked 33 and South Africa at 72 out of 178.
That being said, a major concern–though from different perspectives–of both countries is that of land use. In the United States you are sure to see news stories covering hotly debated subjects like fracking, offshore drilling and additional pipelines running through towns. These issues have justifiable concerns as citizens fear another disaster like the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Additionally, horror stories from residents in fracking towns being able to set fire to their tap water and suspected links in earthquake spikes have caused states to rethink its fracking efforts.
In a similar vein, South Africa faces land use issues of a different kind. Overgrazing, poor water quality, erosion, industrial waste and the effects of chemicals on farmland are some of the pressing issues South Africans face when addressing proper land use. In addition to land threat, poachers threaten the environment via the ivory trade, which can offset an entire ecosystem when a species goes extinct.
Furthermore, South African oceans face troubling days ahead if its fishing measures continue at the status quo. The country has faced issues with “over harvesting” areas of the ocean to the point of extinction–an issue plaguing much of the world.
Like other nations that have gone through industrial and housing revolutions, South Africa’s environment became a victim of the booms.
Much like Americans fear the oil industry for large amounts of its environmental woes, South Africans set their sights on the mining industry for the bulk share of its troubles. Furthering its similarity to the U.S., the residents concern over the industry is polarizing as both sectors account for large portions of each country’s economy.
Though not an issue in the entire United States, California residents can certainly relate to the plight much of South Africa feels in regards to water. While Californians have struggled in recent years for ample supplies of water, South Africans only see 10 percent of its rainwater serves as surface water, making it one of the worst numbers in the world.
A comparison of the two nations reveals how advanced the U.S. is in the issue when considering the nation’s push towards more solar and wind energy while striving for less dependence on natural gas. However, for a nation with a significantly smaller GDP and resources, South Africa has made significant strides in improving the country. Regardless, both nations have a ways to progress if they ever hope to join Switzerland, Luxembourg and Australia as a top-three country in environmental performance.
While we could further scrutinize the efforts, it is refreshing to see increased sustainability efforts on both continents. Hopefully the world will continue to progress so future generations can continue to live on planet Earth.