Restoration is a value-enhancing activity.
As is the case for cars, horses and houses, so it is for social and ecological systems. Restoration of these systems enhances their value. Restoration is thus not a non-interest or yield bearing cost-item or expense, but a dividend-carrying investment in an asset.
For such restoration to take place one must first acknowledge that something is broken and that it can be repaired and improved. Such restoration will not only enhance value in the short term, but also prolong the lifespan of the restored asset. The result is that services which can be enjoyed by many in years to come, are generated.
Heal the land; heal the people
Economic development requires:
- the balanced or harmonious investment in or broadening of the economic asset base, where the economic asset base comprises financial, human, social, manufactured and natural capital; and, simultaneously
- the stopping of leaks, i.e. the restoration of the economic asset base and/or the systems and processes that link these assets.
This economic development recipe is analogous to:
- harmoniously increasing the size of one’s piggy bank while making sure that nothing leaks from it by becoming either redundant or being lost.
What does it help a household to labour and earn money, but to keep spending more on the water bill because of serious and increasing problems with the plumbing? Investing in the restoration of the plumbing is an investment in stopping the leaks.
What are the leaks in our modern-day society? Some examples are:
- soil erosion
- municipal solid waste
- water pollution
- weeds invading arable land, pastures and grazing areas, reducing their productive capacity
- abandoned and derelict warehouses, factories and infrastructure in general
- rise of ghost towns and non-functioning (rural) towns
- chronic diseases
On a national and/or system-wide level these leaky problems are people-made problems and an only be rectified by people. Restoration thus commences with the acknowledgement that something is wrong, seriously wrong, and that it requires healing. Nobody is as blind to healing and deaf to caring as the affected person in denial. Restoration is much more than just the deed of fixing that which is broken; restoration is the realisation that the current pathway, the ongoing trajectory, is leading to death and decimation.
Restoration is therefore, per definition, reconciliatory. It reconciles us with our past. It reconciles us with our future. It reconciles us with our neighbours and fellow countrymen. It reconciles us with our actions of healing and the desire to bring the same to others. That is why restoration is not an event, but a process. It commences with an acknowledgement, followed by the desire and will to change, and then taking the steps to make those required changes – firstly just small steps, progressively forward onto recovery.
The restoration battlefield is about the “soul” of the nation – it is about land. Does it therefore come as a surprise that land and land-related matters are at the heart of many conflicts? These conflicts are but a reflection of our inner struggles. They reflect our insecurities around and obsession with identity, consequently laying bare our ruthless short-sightedness – and the painful consequences thereof. The conflicts depict a people at odds with itself, with others, and with the land on and in which we live. The longer this conflict prevails, the more ruthless and short-sighted we become. This leads to more knee-jerk reactions, more revolutionary responses which are followed by counter-revolutionary reactions. In the end, as the old African proverb goes: When elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers. It is the caring and loving, the vulnerable and marginalised citizen on the one hand, and the quality and ability of the land to support the fighting people on the other, that pay the price. The result is a deterioration in the quality of life for all parties.
Restoring the relationships among people must start with restoring the soil of our beloved country – that which connects us historically, both now and in the future.
Heal the land; heal the people!
Dr James N. Blignaut
School of Public Leadership, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, South Africa.