The Story of Trees


A picture has power. According to Tinkler in Using photographs in social and historical research (2013) using a photograph in an interview opens up a new level of honesty between interviewer and interviewee as the photograph acts as an icebreaker of sorts. A photograph can elicit emotion and a greater personal connection that just verbal words due to the visual impact of a photograph. Photographs can promote conversation and communication and awakens more personal emotions, memories and feelings that accompany the information or data (Tinkler 2013).

The Tree in a Narrative of: Service

The Leopard Tree in my garden

This tree’s purpose for existing was to be a place my cat could climb in when he grew older, it was a way we could create a save little adventure land for him without having to put a cat ‘jungle gym’ in our house, he always thought we’d have this massive beautiful leopard tree by the time our cat was old enough to climb in and get down by himself but the tree seemed dwarfed for years never reaching beyond a meter tall with small spindally branches never strong enough to hold a kitten yet along a fully grown cat. Now, 11 years later the tree has finally started to grow though still small this beautiful tree acts as an aesthetic addition to our garden.

A Tree in the narrative of: Power

A view of all the tree tops I can see from my balcony

This is an example of how trees can impact the way we see the urban world. Trees provide a certain aesthetic that comes with class. Suburban areas with trees look more inviting, safer, friendlier when there are trees around compared to when there are few trees.

A tree in the narrative of: Folklore

The tree of life

The tree of life is the connection between heaven, this plane and the underworld. It appears in many religions. In Christianity it represents humanity in a form of freedom from the original sin.

The Tree in a narrative of: Unruliness

The aftermath of a tree’s disobedience

This tree was my favorite in the garden, It was planted when we first moved it, it was small and twig like. As the years went by its thin little truck grew and soon the tree was as tall as out two story house. It was beautiful, I would grab a blanket and read under the shade it provided. Then, when our new neighbours arrived they complained. “The tree touches our walls….the tree’s roots are disrupting our walls.” Its true the tree’s roots were digging under their house and causing cracks in the walls, we had no idea it would get so big when we bought it. As a result, my dad decided to hire someone to axe the tree literally and so the tree was cut, destroyed. But as you can see in the picture this tree won’t give up and has started to grow again in another ten years it will be right were it left off.

The photo elicitation

Sheritha Mathura’s (my mother) Tree Narratives 


When she was growing up, there was a mango tree that grew outside her house. The tree offered her solace. It provided her and the rest of her family with shade and food (mangoes) which were the closest to desserts she and her siblings would get as they were a poor family. The tree offered my mother with entertainment as the clambered about in its branches, she would also climb the tree and study in it while the sun was out as inside the house was too loud.


She had a bonsai tree when I was younger, the bonsai tree needed to be trimmed regularly in order to keep its shape, it was a symbol of status.


Bamboo trees grow all over Durban where she is from. The bamboo tree is sacred in Hindu culture. During times of prayers, the bamboo trees are cut and used in ‘cleansing ceremonies’ the bamboo is also used as a pole, Hindus tie their ceremony flags to the poles and place them outside their houses as a form of spiritual protection. It is believed that spirits even live in the bamboo.

The Unruly:

When we moved into our new house, we bought two dwarfed, lollipop Jasmine trees for the front of our lawn. The idea behind them was that they would not grow very tall and they would also grow slowly so that we could trim them every month to retain that ‘lollipop’ shape. However these two trees defied their purpose and did not remain small and tidy instead they grew untidy and unruly and were wild. Eventually my dad gave up trying to prune them and now they almost reach the roof in their height. Dwarf, lollipop trees…sure, ok.

Jessica Wohlfarth (The best friend)


There was a tree on her highschool campus that acted as the subject of their ‘science’ experiment. They named the tree ‘Slut’ the reason for this was, they wanted to see if emotional abuse would affect the tree’s growth so they called it names and insulted it on a daily basis. This did not hinder its growth and provided them with shade in the summers.


She remembers a tree at her friend Sam’s house that provided her with the ultimate superiority over her sister and Sam. This large tree in Sam’s yard was the object of a game they would play involving who could climb the highest. Jessica always won. The tree literally elevated her and gave her status .

The Unruly:

Her neighbours large tree hung over their wall. The tree would drop these seeds that were poisonous to her dogs, it also began to uproot their wall. Eventually they asked the neighbours to cut the tree branches for the safety of their dogs but the neighbours cut the whole tree down instead.


Using my 4 images to engage with people enabled them to understand the idea of a ‘tree narrative’ better than if I’d explained it to them verbally (which I did to see if they would get it, but they didn’t until I showed them the photo as a means of visual explanation).

Sources Consulted

Tinkler, P. 2013. Using photographs in social and historical research. London: SAGE.



Slow Violence

In this week’s blog, I will discuss Rob Nixon’s idea of “slow violence” which describes a gradual gradual yet still destructive violence that has not immediate, visible consequences (Nixon 2011:2). The loss of species, deforestation, radioactive effects, pollution and green house gases are examples of slow violence (Nixon 2011:2).  In this blog I will look at ocean pollution as an example of slow violence.



Humans have tirelessly worked to create the perfect habitat for themselves over the last few centuries. Inventions such as the car, indoor plumbing and consumable products have made our lives easier. Humans love to consume; food, goods, the environment. However, the human’s footprint on the world grows larger and deeper when it comes time to discard what we’ve consumed; where do we put it? We’ve created such a pristine, aesthetically pleasing living space, why would we want to taint it with waste? (Kulpinski [sa]).

This is where the problem grows. Where do we put our waste?

The ocean covers nearly 71% of the Earth’s surface, with an average depth of 3,720. 80% of the pollution in the ocean comes from land based activities such as septic tanks, farms, ranches, motor vehicles and other large sources. Ocean dumping occurs daily (Interesting Ocean Facts [sa]). The waste dumped into the ocean will eventually lead to the death of the ocean. The cheapest disposal method for sewage sludge is to dump it into the ocean however little attention is paid to the effects this will have on the marine life. Sewage causes the decomposition of organic matter which will change the biodiversity of the ocean resulting in the ecosystem changing and not necessarily for the better (20 Facts About the Ocean [sa]). Toxins from excess sediment in the ocean cause eutrophication, a process where oxygen-depleting bacteria to flourish and create oxygen poor environments which kills marine life leading to the loss and ultimate extinction of many marine species. My last image in my photo narrative shows a dead ocean reef, devoid of life. Empty. This is one of many already dead reefs and many others are close to being destroyed completely;y too if we do not start conserving the ocean.

Ocean dumping is only one of the many examples of slow violence and the destructive power humans have. Due to this form of violence being a slow, gradual destruction, the effects (which will be far more detrimental and destructive) cannot be seen as a whole yet, the human race takes an “out of sight out of mind” approach to problems that are not ‘immediate’. We must change the way we see our environment. It is not a dumping ground for the waste of the ‘utopian’ cities we’ve created. Change can only be brought if the humans understand the damage they are causing before the our planet dies from being smothered by the pillow that is mankind.


Sources Consulted

Nixon, R. 2011. Slow violence and the environmentalism of the poor. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Kulpinski, D. [Sa]. [O]. Available: Accessed 25 April 2016.

Save The Ocean. [Sa]. [O]. Available:                                                          Accessed 25 April 2016

20 facts about the ocean. [Sa]. [O]. Available:                                              Accessed 25 April 2016.

Ocean Pollution. [Sa]. [O]. Available:                                                                                                                        Accessed 25 April 2016


The Companion Species


In this weeks blog, I will be looking at the topic of Pets and the effects thy have on us. I will briefly look at and discuss Donna Haraway’s Manifesto on the Companion Species and explore four different stories of humans and their pets.

In her manifesto, Donna Haraway concentrates on the relationships between humans and dogs because this relationship is the one that is closest to her, through this exploration of the significance of these relationships, she hopes to  highlight the importance of this companionship. However, this companionship can be applied to any animal or organism that interacts and impacts humans hence the term “companion species” and not “companion animal” (Haraway 2007).

This is my Mother, Sheritha and Sabi

I’d always wanted a cat, since before I could speak or even knew what a cat was exactly, I knew I wanted one every time I saw the strays walking about outside my grandmother’s house. One day, My mother’s uncle shows up late one night after a three hour road trip from Mpumalanga with a small cage – and inside that cage was this black and white fluff ball sitting in a milk bowl and hissing at anything and everything that moved. Eleven years later, he hasn’t changed much. He was part of stray litter that my grand uncle had found and thank goodness for that. Sabi, is a lot like my mom and I. He’s not crazy about people, but he tolerates them. Like us, he’s not to crazy about long hugs (as you can see in the picture) but despite that, he shows us affection in other ways. Whenever I’m sick he just seems to know, and will follow me around the house and guard me when I sleep. We don’t have an owner/pet relationship but more of a ‘sibling’ relationship, in other words we pick on each other. When he walks past I gently shove him over or noogy his head, as payback he steals one of my socks when I’m getting ready for gym. Being an only child, Sabi has taught me what its like to share the affection of parents (my mom loves the cat more than me. She’s given us the same nickname). Sabi is more than a cat to me, he’s part of the family.

This is Tayla Welch and Savanna

Like most owners and pets, Savanna has a special place in Tayla’s heart. But Savanna is a lot more than just a pet to Tayla, Savanna is her best friend, her guardian angel and has been with her through everything. Tayla told me a story about her childhood, she was sent to play therapy with a psychologist and Tayla remembers the psychologist saying, “You’re going to the moon. You can only take one person with you, who will you pick?” And little Tayla doesn’t hesitate, she says “Savanna”. Tayla battled to make friends , but when your best friend’s a cat, goodluck finding human friends with the same qualities! Savanna has about 4 of her 9 lives left, she’s been mauled by dogs and she’s been hit by a car! But she’s always made it through. Whenever Tayla’s sick she can always count on Savanna to make her feel better with hugs and cuddles, she offers warmth and protection without you even needing to ask. She doesn’t judge, she just listens and Tayla reckons Savanna is one of the best things that could have ever and will ever happen to her.

This is Katherine Bauer and Juno

Juno is a chihuahua which means she’s a little dog with a big personality (though Katherine thinks that’s probably what all chihuahua owners say). She and her mother have always adored these tiny creatures and Katherine wanted one of her own. Eventually, she and her mother managed to bully her father into letting them get one and so Juno joined the family. Katherine says Juno’s personality only started to really shine when they took her on holiday with them, Juno was 9 or 10 weeks at the time. She saw monkeys and she was not impressed, so from the safety and comfort of a human lap she let those monkeys know just how she felt about them and since then she’s been as cheeky as ever though slightly weary of strangers. Juno’s cheekiness is important to Katherine because she doesn’t like to sleep alone and while her cats sleep with her its never guaranteed. Having Juno around offers a sense of safety for Katherine as well as peace of mind when she sleeps, because if someone or something unwelcome shows up, Juno will know.

Lila en Anike.jpg
This is Anike Stander and Lila

Lila arrived in Anike’s life as a birthday present and since that day has stolen her heart. She was Anike’s ‘baba’ then and even now, seven years later she is still her ‘little baba’. Anike and Lila have had a very close relationship from the start, she slept on Anike’s lap when she had to practice piano for three hours straight. When she grew a little bigger and could not fit on her lap anymore she would lie under the piano stool until she was done practicing. Lila loves music just as much as Anike does.  Anike is an avid believer that pets develop some of their owner’s traits,  For example, Anike loves tomatoes. Have you ever met a dog who loves tomatoes? Apparently Lila does, just like Anike, Lila is not fussy when it comes to food.

Sources Consulted

Haraway, D. 2007. The Companion Species Manifesto: dogs, people, and significant otherness. Chicago: Prickly Paradigm Press.

Bees Are Bros.


In this blog I will bring to light the current struggle of this small yet extremely significant creature: The Honey Bee. I will look at 3 articles pertaining to the plight of the honey bees, these articles are; IOL’s SA in Race to Save Honey Bees, Mail&Guardian’s Honeybee Crisis Catches SA Off-Guard and Business Day’s Time for SA to take the decline of the honeybee seriously, experts warn. By making reference to Poul Holm’s theories in his article Humanities for the environment A Manifesto for Research and Action I will discuss the articles from an Environmental Humanities perspective and address whether or not the media include solutions to the problems the articles have identified.

Who/What are The Drivers of Change

  • The Department of Agriculture
  • The Economic strain on the Bee Industry
  • Pollution
  • Pesticides and other Chemicals
  • Negligent bee keeping
  • Unfriendly environments
  • Loss of habitat

What is Happening?

  • A decline in the bee population
  • Bees have become less resilient
  • High pollution and chemicals in pesticides negatively impact the bees
  • The bee population directly affects the food industry

What can be done?

  • Surrounding environments can be made more “bee friendly”
  • The Government can enforce stricter bee keeping protocol
  • Intervention through education
  • Antibiotics can be used to cure disease infected bees
  • The use of pesticides can be limited


The South African Honeybee

A Brief Overview of The Honey Bee

The South African honey bee is renowned for their resilience against disease and their general hardiness- rather, the South African honey bees were renowned for their resilience (SA in Race to Save Honey Bees 2015). The Honey Bees are crucial to not only the environment but to the food production industry as they provide cheap pollination to crops (Kings 2015:[sp]) as well as provide honey and beeswax two other large industries. According to Sue Blaine (Blaine 2016) Honeybees’ pollination services in SA are worth between R46m and R1.8bn. Recently, due to the “stresses” placed on the bees by humans, bees have grown weaker, becoming more susceptible to a disease called Foulbrood (SA in Race to Save Honey Bees 2015). Research has been done to determine the effects the chemicals in pesticides have on the bees and has found those chemicals to be detrimental to their general functioning abilities. A bee’s ability to forage and in turn pollinate is determined by their ability to learn, remember, and communicate the location of flowers and nectar, however when exposed to small doses of a commonly used pesticide known as Chlorpyrifos their learning and memory ability is impaired (Williamson & Wright 2013). In the article Time for SA to take the decline of the honeybee seriously, experts warn Blaine warns that the demise of the bee colonies could cripple the stock market- that is how essential bees are to human consumption (Blaine 2016).


Do the drivers for change relate to the “Great Acceleration” of human technologies, powers and consumption?

According to Poul Holm (2015:980), the “Great Acceleration” refers to the human advances that have driven a global change over the past 70 years but as a result, greenhouse gas emissions and species extinction rates have increased.

With this understanding of the “Great Acceleration”, when analyzing the three articles on Honey Bees, a link can be seen between human advancement and the deterioration of the honey bee colonies. Human technology and science has lead to the creation of pesticides and the greenhouse gas emissions polluting the environment the honey bees forage in is  said to be causing the honey bee colonies to become less resilient to the Foulbrood disease.

  • The honey bees are permanently exposed to pollution within their environment
  • The honey bee habitats and foraging grounds are shrinking due to human development and the expansion of residential and city areas.
  • Pesticides such as Chlorpyrifos are inhibiting the bees ability to function naturally.
  • 40% of honey bee colonies in the Western Cape have already been lost to Foulbrood


A colony lost 

How does the absence or presence of solutions relate to “The New Human Condition”?

The “new human condition” mentioned by Holms(2015:983) is defined as being the way in which human beings respond and cope with the consequences and responsibilities of being a driver in planetary change. The ‘new human condition’ raises questions such as will human beings learn and change the way in which they exploit the environment or will they continue to use their intelligence to destroy.

The media is used to inform the public and identify problems but rarely provide possible solutions (Holms 2015:984). When looking at the three articles used, two of the articles provided possible solutions to the Honey Bee problem though they did not elaborate further on how these solutions could be achieved. The Mail & Guardian and IOL articles provided basic information in to what was happening as well as solutions such as treating the bees with antibiotics and making the environment more bee friendly (SA in Race to Save Honey bees 2015) however the articles did not mention how to go about this. How can the public or interested parties make the environment more Bee friendly? How will the bees be exposed to the antibiotics? The absence of solutions does not instill motivation in the public to help or change the situation as there is no information provided into how they could make a difference.


Do the proposed solutions engage with the business / corporate sector?

Solutions to the honey Bee problem engage directly with the Agricultural Department of the government, both the article from IOL (SA in Race to Save Honey bees 2015) and Mail & Guardian (Kings 2015) mention Agricultural department and Government initiative; laws and regulations within beekeeping must be implemented in order to monitor and keep the Foulbrood breakout within bee colonies under control. In IOL’s article (SA in Race to Save Honey bees 2015)  US president, Barack Obama and his plans to “make millions of acres (hectares) of land more bee-friendly” is mentioned early on as a means of not only adding credibility to the cause but to emphasis that it is a world-wide crisis if the president of a country is addressing the issue. Woolworths has a program called ‘Farming for the Future’ that aims to reduce the stress placed on the local bees (Blaine 2016).

An appeal to companies that manufacture Honey as well as companies dealing with crops to become involved can be made, local celebrities chefs such as Reuben Riffel can also be used to create awareness campaigns about the bees and how to make the environment more Bee friendly. Woolworths already have a program aimed schools that teaches the students about creating a sustainable environment.

Do the proposed solutions and means to do it stem from collaborative processes of research, stakeholder engagement and public participation?

Very few solutions were mentioned within the three atricles and a means of achieving the solutions that were mentioned were not elaborated on. For example, the Woolworths program of “Farming for the Future’ (Blaine 2016) was mentioned as well as its purpose but the means of how the program will achieve its goal was not. In the IOL article,  (SA in Race to Save Honey bees 2015)  making the environment more be friendly is mentioned as a way of reducing stress on the bees however it does not mention how this can be done so the reader who perhaps reads the article and now wants to contribute to helping the bees is left with little to no information on how to go about it. It then falls upon the reader to do further research into how to achieve the solutions mentioned.

Are the solutions translated into practical means that can easily be achieved by the public?

While the public can not directly assist in the process of eradicating the Foulbrood disease itself, the public can play a huge role in assisting the bees rebuild their resiliance by doing their part to decrease pollution. One of the best ways the public can help the bees is to make their gardens ‘bee friendly’. This process involves planting indiginous trees, shrubs, flowers and herbs (Montgomery 2014).

Bee Friendy plants you can plan :


  • Sweet Thorn
  • Fuchsia
  • Bush Willows


  • Aloes
  • Cape Violets
  • Honeysuckle




The Honeybee is a small yet significant creature that we as humans take for granted and it is one of many. This blog is aimed at bringing awareness to how humans still rely heavily on the environment as to prevent you as the reader from forgetting it is there.


Sources Consulted

Holms, P. 2015. Humanities. Humanities for the Environment—A Manifesto for Research
and Action  4: 977–992.

SA in Race to Save Honey Bees. 2015. [O].Available: Accessed 1 April 2016.

Kings, S. 2015. Honeybee Crisis Catches SA Off-Guard. [O]. Available:           Accessed 1 April 2016

Blaine, S. 2016. Time for SA to take the decline of the honeybee seriously, experts warn. [O]. Available: Accessed 1 April 2016.

Williamson, SM &Wright, GA. 2013. Exposure to multiple cholinergic pesticides impairs olfactory learning and memory in honeybees. [O]. Available: Accessed 1 April 2016.

Montgomery, K. 2014. Plant beautiful blooms for bees. [O]. Available: Accessed 1 April 2016.