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Saturday 15th February was a beautiful day in Cape Town for a group of 46 Grade 9 and 10 learners from SAILI. Kindly hosted by Aurecon in their Five Star Green Building in Century City, they were invited to the Intaka Island Trust’s artificial wetland systems as part of getting to grips with the concept and principles of systems thinking.  This includes a specially designed behind-the-scenes look at some of the structural features of the artificial wetland which represents the heart of the circular waterways system and ‘polishing’ sewage effluent to standards that allow for recreational contact and support the aesthetic of a ‘city within a city’ built along 7km of waterways.

SAILI students debating their positions on a range of statements on the nature of the global crisis, at the award-winning Aurecon building at Century City.

Systems thinking is one of the ways in which Routes to Resilience encourages young people to think about the complex nature of the challenges we face and the systems-based solutions that we could explore to address the global sustainability crisis that faces humanity. Sustainability leader Ronel van der Merwe expertly led students through the nature of and evidence for what is called ‘the Great Acceleration’ of the 21st century and climate change.

A rewarding exercise was ‘where do you stand’ which had students debating their understanding and thoughts on some of the trickier questions and dilemmas we face:

  • This is a money problem – there is too little to go around for everybody
  • Education of woman is the best way to manage population growth
  • Climate change is an environmental issue
  • We should sacrifice our lifestyles to ensure a future for our children
  • Economic growth is important for job creation
  • Developed countries should do more to help

These are difficult questions, questions that all of us, young and old, might do well to ponder as we think about the sustainability of our planet in the face of a desire for perpetual and accelerated growth.

Huge thanks to Aurecon and Inthaka Island for hosting our learners for the day and to Sygnia, the Reed Foundation, Milagro Trust, Lockwood Trust, SAILI and all of our joint supporters in the Big Give Challenge who made the SAILI Routes to Resilience Sygnature Programme possible.

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