“The ultimate test of man’s conscience may be his willingness to sacrifice something today for future generations whose words of thanks will not be heard.”Gaylord Nelson, former governor of Wisconsin, founder of Earth Day,1984
In the 21st century, there is a strong focus – of necessity – on the sustainability of our natural resources. In this respect oil and coal are of primary concern: being our (current) chief sources of power, these are resources that, once depleted, will take around another three billion years to replenish themselves. That’s assuming, of course, that human beings aren’t around to cover the earth with an impermeable layer of plastic. Wait a second – we’ve done that already, haven’t we? But you, and scientists, entrepreneurs (and an unhealthy dose of con-artists, sadly) get the idea, and replacement technologies and power sources are being focussed on with increasing alarm.
But it’s not only power that we should be thinking about. Here’s another thought to occupy the minds of those who eschew recycling: despite being the most abundant element on earth, iron is actually not particularly well represented in the earth’s crust. The Worldwatch Institute, a globally focused environmental research organization based in Washington, D.C., estimates that the earth’s available iron ore resources will run out by 2070, based on a conservative 2% annual increase in demand. And that estimate included utilising recycled metal, making it an even more scary prospect. It’s a sobering thought that based on current proven oil reserves, there is another 71 years of oil left on earth: we will run out of iron ore before we tap out the oil. The 21st century looks to be a watershed in the future of mankind: never was a truer thought expressed than: “We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.” The original source of that wisdom is disputed, but it is absolutely true, and 2070 is only a generation or so away. What are we going to do about it?
These thoughts arise – this is Waterfront Charters, after all – from a look back at boats of the past. One of the main reasons that iron was brought into use as a boat building material was the fact that the earth could not sustain the ravages of tree-fellers in days of the fighting galleons, tall-ships and other ocean travelling sailing vessels. The above statistics regarding iron and oil are scary; here’s another to dent your sangfroid. The HMS Victory, the 104 gun first-rate ship of the line that served as Lord Nelson’s flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 was constructed from no less than six thousand trees. That’s 6000 trees written in numbers; 90% of which were oak trees, the balance made up of elm, pine and fir. It doesn’t take a mathematical or horticultural genius to point out that that sort of tree-felling was unsustainable: at the Battle of Trafalgar alone there were over 60 ships of the line. That’s a lot of trees, and trees don’t grow overnight, as the world has discovered. But deforestation continues apace, with the increasing population needing more and more space, and more and more land to grow food crops, the ancient forests are disappearing at an ever increasing rate. Between 2000 and 2012, 2.3 million square kilometres of forests around the world were cut down. More than 3.6 million hectares of virgin tropical forest was lost in 2018; an acre of rain forest is lost every minute of every day.
At Waterfront Charters we love taking guests out onto the ocean; in fact our sailing heritage goes back to Lord Nelson, who is a direct ancestor of the directors! We weren’t responsible for the felling of those old oaks for HMS Victory, but we can make a difference in 2020 by focussing people on the responsibilities we all have for keeping Planet Earth viable: at a rough guess Earth still has a lifespan of some 5 billion years ahead – at the rate humans are going, we won’t even make the next 100 without emptying the tanks.
Earth is a wonderful place: join us on a cruise and get a feel of Nature at its most unspoiled. Eco-tourism is much more than just a concept: it’s a way to focus people on the necessity of being aware of the depredations that are being wrought on our beautiful planet through greed, selfishness and ignoring the basic facts of pollution, overuse of resources and ignorance of outcomes.
Take an Ocean Safari; enjoy a Sunset Champagne Cruise. See Table Mountain in its magnificence; watch the sea creatures in their environment and take a decision to help make sure that we protect this amazing place for the generations to come. We can all make a difference.
*Any Old Iron: British music hall song from 1911; will probably be revived and become extremely pertinent in about 50 years’ time.