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Extra Virgin -  March 2010

Environment
EnvironmentDespite the chaps over in the environment ministry bleating about saving water and planting trees, the World Cup’s going to be about as green as the squad’s rather hot-looking spray on yellow jerseys, writes Leonie Joubert.

How to survive the World Cup if you’re an environment minister? Change your portfolio. Because trying to put a green spin on the 2.8 million tons of carbon emissions expected to be spewed out during the über-footie-fest is about as transparent as the bottom of the pint glass we’ll be peering through to celebrate (or not) another laduuuuuuuuuma moment.

I swore blind I wouldn’t get all uppity about the World Cup. It’s too obvious a target.

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But then our deputy environment minister Rejoice Mabudafhasi (bless her heart) got up on a podium with Dannie Jordaan late last year to launch the “green” programme for the World Cup. So, at the risk of sounding like the mother of all grundies, I have to have a bit of a go.

She promised lots of water savings – waterless urinals (can you imagine the smell); biodegradable accoutrements for all the junk food we’ll be gobbling; and different bins for separating out the rubbish (recyclable and non-recyclable).

Seriously? The Danes had bins for organic, plastic and glass in the convention centre where they hosted the climate summit last December. It was astonishing to see how these bins all filled up with the same rubbish, particularly in the press room. Whether it was the stress of deadlines, or bewilderment at which bin to throw the plastic sandwich wrapper into, when it had a paper label stuck to its flank, I don’t know.

You’d think that a bunch of green writers covering a climate summit would get it – and if they can’t, how on earth does the dear Ms Mabudafhasi think we’re going to get thousands of football fans to separate out their Budweiser cans from their paper plates? Ambitious is one word for it; idiotic is another.

But the best bit of green spin of all is about the “thousands” of trees that are going to be planted all around the country to offset the vast amounts of carbon we’ll shunt up into the skies as we fly around the planet to get to the various games.

Working out exactly how many trees we’ll need to plant to offset 2.8 million tons of carbon emissions is tricky. We need to know what tree we’re talking about (different trees capture different amounts of carbon) and how long it’s going to stand (it may need to be alive for 40 years to absorb enough carbon to make a difference, but if it dies after 5 years, it’s work isn’t done).

Again - if you want to survive the World Cup and you’re an environment minister, change your portfolio. Because there’s just no spin good enough to make this event look green.