Looking for the most influential voices in all aspects of the environment in South Africa? Here they are: the policy influencers, the entrepreneurs, the champions, the researchers and the media.
By Bridget McNulty
The environment: one word, so many different facets. So much overwhelm. From climate change to conservation, air pollution to recycling, policy change to research, activism and sustainable energy. Where do you start? How can you do something about the greatest issue of our time? How does one voice make a difference when the problem is so vast?
Here are 50 ways that one voice can make a difference. Each of these South African voices on the environment have focused on one aspect that they care about deeply, and they are doing all they can to fight for it. We focused on the people behind the issues so that you can know who is driving change, and how to connect to them. We encourage you to actively support and follow the people on this list: that’s why we’ve included their social media handles.
A uniquely South African perspective
Why should you care? Because this is your problem. My problem. Our problem. Environmental issues have historically been seen as an elite concern in SA, but that is no longer the case. The urgency and scale of the problem has pushed it to centre stage. South Africa has warmed at twice the global average. The people who have the least are going to be affected the most. It’s happening already: the impoverished residents of the town of Makhanda (in the Eastern Cape) hit Day Zero on the 12th July 2019. It just didn’t make front page news.
There are other stats that should be making front page news, and aren’t. SA’s annual carbon emissions are 70 million tons higher than the UK. The Moody’s report on climate collapse singled out Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (in that order) as the countries whose economies will suffer the most if climate change isn’t curbed. Around the world, climate disasters are now occurring once a week, according to a special representative of the UN secretary-general.
We’re at a tipping point
Now is the time for change. The amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere hit its highest level in human history in June 2019 (414.8 parts per million): a three million year peak. “The world is at a tipping point,” writes Lois Young, the chair of the Alliance of Small Island States, in the Financial Times. “We are at a moment in history where we can and will go one of two ways: towards climate disaster or a safer planet for all.”
There is hope, of course. Hope that has been backed by science. The IPCC special report on climate change outlines exactly what we need to do. The two targets are: global carbon emissions reduced by 45% by 2030 (11 years’ from now) and to net zero by 2050. The scary part? South Africa has picked neither target.
The social and environmental impacts of climate change
Cape Town’s drought last year was a stark illustration of climate change for many. The warning that many parts of Africa are hotspots for climate change became not just a concept, but a reality. Clean water flowing out of a tap was seen as the miracle it is - when we feared it would be taken away, we suddenly realised what a precious resource it had always been. Once we can see the social and environmental impacts of climate change, we can work to make the necessary changes. But the first step in protecting the environment - as with anything in life - is understanding. Deep, personal understanding. That’s what the voices on this list have, and what we all need to attain.
Our constitutional right
South Africa has one of the only constitutions in the world that guarantees citizens the right to a clean environment. Here it is, direct from our constitution:
Everyone has the right –
(a) To an environment that is not harmful to their health or well-being; and
(b) To have the environment protected, for the benefit of present and future generations, through reasonable legislative and other measures that –
(i) prevent pollution and ecological degradation;
(ii) promote conservation; and
(iii) secure ecologically sustainable development and use of natural resources while promoting justifiable economic and social development.
We need to ensure our constitutional right is fulfilled. By highlighting those who are speaking up for the environment in South Africa, we hope to inspire other South Africans, ordinary South Africans like you and me, to join them in their efforts.
Follow them, support their work, add your voice to their voice. This is a rallying cry for the environment: an invitation to set aside the overwhelm and focus on what you really care about. The air you breathe. The ground you stand on. The future.
50 76 South African voices speaking up for the environment
The Policy Influencers
Debra Roberts is currently head of the Sustainable and Resilient City Initiatives Unit in eThekwini Municipality (Durban). She established the Environmental Planning and Climate Protection Department of the same municipality and she is Co-Chair in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Sixth Assessment cycle: the first time in the history of the IPCC that there has been an SA Co-Chair and the first woman from Africa to hold such a position. She is currently an advisor to the Global Commission on Adaptation, United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) and the United Nations Secretary General’s 2019 Climate Summit. She is on Apolitical’s inaugural list of the World’s 100 Most Influential People in Climate Policy.
Mark New (@marknewacdi)
Mark New is the director of the African Climate and Development Initiative (ACDI) at UCT, and has been listed among the World’s 100 Most Influential People in Climate Policy. His research career spans over 20 years, with a focus on detecting climate trends, climate modelling and assessing the impact of failed climate mitigation policy. He won the Piers Sellers Prize for his world-leading contribution to solution-focused climate research.
Tanya Abrahamse is currently Chair of the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) Governing Board, a panel member of the UN Environment’s International Resources Panel (UN IRP), Deputy Chair of the Board of South African Tourism, a member of SA National Parks board, a trustee of the Women’s Development Bank (WDBT), and a founding member of the board of the Mapungubwe Institute (MISTRA) — a South African think tank. She previously was on the task team to form Future Earth — a global platform of science for society and sustainability — and was a member of the inaugural Science Advisory Board of the UN Secretary General (UNSAB).
Kerry Sink (@KerrySkink)
Kerry Sink is a marine biodiversity scientist and science to policy practitioner. She is the SANBI Marine Programme Manager and initiated SASSI (the WWF Southern African Sustainable Seafood Initiative). She was awarded the WWF South Africa Living Planet Award in 2017 for her contribution to decisive government planning, policy and management in the marine environment.
Alex Lenferna (@AlexLenferna)
Alex Lenferna works as South African Climate Justice Campaigner for 350Africa.org. He is a Fulbright and Mandela Rhodes Scholar who has written and researched widely on climate justice, and recently completed a PhD on climate justice at the University of Washington. Alex has served in climate justice advocacy roles within organised labor, student, and grassroots climate justice.
Bobby Peek (@bobby_peek)
Bobby Peek is the director of groundWork, a non-profit environmental justice service and developmental organisation. Environmental justice is about power relations and ensuring that there is equity amongst all people. From Bobby's first experience of corporate power (used against his community of Wentworth, South Durban), he has been driven to seek ways of creating true democracy as the basis of environmental justice in SA.
Jane Cherry (@janecherry_tree)
Jane Cherry is a climate justice and food sovereignty activist. She is the Executive Manager of COPAC (Co-operative and Policy Alternative Centre) and has worked on activist tools (seed saving, water sovereignty, a People’s Food Sovereignty Act and sustainable land use). She has organised national events for food sovereignty and climate justice. COPAC is currently undertaking a process with civil society to develop a People's Climate Justice Charter for South Africa.
Happy Khambule (@hkhambule)
Happy Khambule is a senior political advisor to Greenpeace Africa. He is an official party delegate to the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) and negotiates Response Measures for South Africa at the international climate change negotiations. Happy is a director of Mansa Advisory and a former board member of Fossil Free South Africa, and holds an EESI (Environmental Entrepreneurs Support Initiative) fellowship that built his capacity as a policy drafter.
Noëlle Garcin (LinkedIn)
Noëlle Garcin is the African Climate Reality Leader Coordinator at Food & Trees for Africa and the Action24 Project Manager. She works with the African Climate Reality Project to coordinate a network of 25 coalitions of over 550 civil society organizations across 25 countries. Action24 is a 30-month action co-funded by the European Union, aimed at strengthening environmental governance and civic participation, in order to advance decarbonised sustainable and inclusive development in South Africa.
Lebo Molefe (LinkedIn)
Lebo Molefe is the Director Air Quality and Climate Change in the Environment and Infrastructure Department in the City of Johannesburg. She’s responsible for the issuance of Air Quality Licensing and Permits to industry as prescribed by the National Environment Management: Air Quality Act. In her role in climate change, she is driving climate mainstreaming in the City of Johannesburg and is currently working towards completing a Climate Action Plan: a City of Johannesburg demonstrable commitment to the Paris Agreement that will ensure that the City of Johannesburg is positioned as a Global Mega City.
Alia Kajee (@JustMissAlia)
Alia Kajee currently works as an advisor implementing projects in the South African National Climate Change Response Policy. She intends to mainstream climate justice through policy, participation and practice. With an emphasis on the disproportionate impacts of climate change divided along class, racial and gendered lines, viewing the climate crisis as a fundamental injustice is critical. As a Muslim, Alia draws from a faith based perspective in standing firm for justice as a duty on this earth for people and for the planet. An eco-socialist at heart she believes in people power as the anchor in bringing about a democratic and sustainable future for all.
Ferrial Adam (@ferrial_adam)
Ferrial Adam is an environmental justice activist who has worked on energy and water issues for more than 15 years and serves as the Chairperson of the board of OUTA (Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse). She is presently working on her PhD looking at activist science and environmental justice.
Neoka Naidoo (@neokanaidoo)
Neoka Naidoo is a technical advisor at GIZ working on Strategic Partnerships for the Implementation of the Paris Agreement (SPIPA) in South Africa. She is interested in policy and development to shape future decisions in an integrated way. Neoka is engaged with her studies at the Sustainability Institute through Stellenbosch University for an MPhil. She published an essay in a book called Feminism Is: South Africans Speak Their Truth.
Melita Steele (@Melita_Steele)
Melita Steele is Greenpeace Africa's Senior Climate and Energy Campaign Manager, and she is responsible for managing the campaign team and leading the strategic development and implementation of the campaign. Melita completed her MSc in Environmental Science at Rhodes University in 2008, and in 2011 she was named as one of the Mail and Guardian's Top 200 young South Africans. Her main focus is on campaigning for the urgent Just Transition away from fossil fuels towards renewable energy in South Africa in response to the climate crisis, which she believes is an existential threat for humanity.
Ndivile Mokoena (@MokoenaNdivile)
Ndivile Mokoena is a member of the Women & Gender Constituency (WGC) under the UNFCCC, and started following the process with COP17, representing Women in Energy and Climate Change Forum under the auspices of Earthlife Africa and GenderCC Southern Africa (WGC) of the UNFCCC. She has been taking part in the WGC since then and is currently the global south co-focal point of women and gender constituency in the UNFCCC processes. Ndivile is also very active as the coordinator of another international project called “Gender into Urban Climate Change Initiative” at the COP.
Lauren Hermanus (@laurenhermanus)
Lauren Hermanus is the director of Adapt, a platform to convene the right team of thinkers and doers from a network of sustainable development professionals. She has 10 years of experience in sustainable development research and practice, working in the private and public sectors, academia, with NGOs, focused on sustainable energy innovation, urban resilience and green economic development.
Chad Robertson (@CR_10)
Chad Robertson is a social entrepreneur and the co-founder and CEO of Regenize, a recycling initiative he created with his partner and fellow recycling evangelist Nkazimlo Miti. Regenize is a residential recycling solution that’s on a mission to make recycling more accessible, inclusive and rewarding. They reward people for recycling, educate youth through their Regenize Education programmes, and researches new ways to reuse waste. They collect, educate and transform waste.
Nonhlanhla Joye (@UmgibeCreator)
Nonhlanhla Joye is the founder of Umgibe Farming Organics & Training. This carbon-saving, ecological-organic, income generating vegetable programme provides a platform to market vegetables grown by grassroots farmers from the sub-economic townships of KwaZulu Natal. She is passionate about food security, the implementation of SDGs and creating a thriving economy.
Photo credit: Beautiful News
Khululekani Nyobole (LinkedIn)
Khululekani Nyobole is an eco-friendly entrepreneur who started Nurturer, a range of personal care and cleaning products created for all South Africans. Nurturer develops premium natural products for family, home and businesses. Their products are affordable, local, earth-friendly, and 100% of their profits are donated to a youth development NPO, Salesian Life Choices.
Mao Amis (@MaoAmis)
Mao Amis researches and consults on various sustainability issues globally. Recently, he has focused on building leaders for the green economy, and how green entrepreneurship can be used to alleviate poverty, and lead the transition to low carbon, resource efficient economies in Africa. He is the founder and Executive Director of the African Centre for a Green Economy (AfriCGE), a non-profit think tank.
Ian Dommisse (@EcoBrickXchange)
Ian Dommisse is a social entrepreneur and architect curious about alternative, environmentally friendly construction methods. He founded The EcoBrick Exchange (EBE), a recycling non-profit, which promotes the building of pre-schools and structures of value using up-cycled plastic waste. Using EcoBricks as a catalyst to nurture environmental awareness and responsibility, the EBE improves the schooling environments of children.
Robyn Smith (LinkedIn)
Robyn Smith is the owner of Faithful to Nature, South Africa’s largest green online shop with the vision of becoming ‘Africa’s Green Amazon’. They were one of the first companies worldwide to create and implement a very strict ingredient policy that determines which products they sell. This policy is their DNA, and is designed to empower their customers on their journey towards ethical consumption.
Andrew Muir (LinkedIn)
Andrew Muir is CEO of both Wilderness Foundation Africa and Wilderness Foundation Global. He is one of South Africa’s most influential conservationists and social entrepreneurs. Andrew has regularly been nationally and internationally recognized for his success in integrating conservation programmes with social and development interventions, and is a Schwab Foundation Fellow of the World Economic Forum.
Rhian Berning (@EcoAtlas)
Rhian Berning is an environmental activist and visionary. She is the founder of Eco Atlas in South Africa, an online platform which empowers active citizens with the information needed to vote with their daily choices for a better world. Rhian also initiated the Renew Able Plett campaign which looks at reducing waste to landfill and creating local circular economy opportunities. She was recently awarded the Eco-Angel Award in the prestigious South African Eco-Logic Awards.
Karoline Hanks (Instagram)
Karoline Hanks is a passionate anti-SUP (Single Use Plastic) campaigner, and has been spear-heading a campaign against the use of plastic water sachets in road running in South Africa for over five years. She started a small business three years ago (called SUPA) making single-use plastic alternative products, which has grown from strength to strength, and which upskills a small sewing group in Masiphumelele.
Dorah Marema (maremadorah)
Dorah Marema is the President of GenderCC's board and one of the founders of GenderCC Southern Africa. Previously, Dorah was the Executive Director of the GreenHouse Project, an environmental NGO based in Johannesburg that demonstrated how to live sustainably in poorer areas of Johannesburg. Other programme areas include green building and design, efficiency and renewable energy, waste management and recycling projects. She is currently implementing a range of projects in the region and is GenderCC’s Focal Point in Africa.
Colin Bell (LinkedIn)
Colin Bell has worked in conservation since the early 1980s, when he co-founded Wilderness Safaris with Chris McIntyre. Over the decades, Wilderness grew to manage camps and lodges across seven countries and employed more than 2,500 people. Many of these lodges gained their “bush cred” through partnerships with local communities. During this time, he initiates the process that resulted in the successful reintroduction of both black and white rhino back into the wilds of the Okavango Delta. He then went on to co-found Great Plains Conservation and publish and co-author Africa’s Finest. This lays the foundations and principals for responsible, sustainable tourism – the Green Safari model.
Catherine Morris (@GREENHOMESA)
Catherine Morris is the founder of GREEN HOME: South Africa’s first and to this day, only completely compostable food packaging company. GREEN HOME creates a range of plant-based, environmentally-friendly food packaging, and they are proudly carbon neutral. They offset their emissions by supporting a low-carbon housing development in Kuyasa, one of the most vulnerable corners of Khayelitsha. The project lowers greenhouse gases by providing low-carbon technologies for homes. These save locals money, improve air quality by reducing paraffin use and also create much needed jobs and skills training in the area.
Lewis Pugh (@LewisPugh)
Lewis Pugh is an ocean advocate, endurance swimmer and the UN Patron of the Oceans. He pioneers swims in the most vulnerable ecosystems on earth to campaign for their protection. Lewis has been instrumental in protecting over 2 million square km of vulnerable ocean – an area the size of Western Europe. He is a Young Global Leader of the World Economic Forum and one of National Geographic’s Adventurers of the Year.
Hanli Prinsloo (@hanliprinsloo)
Hanli Prinsloo is a Freediver and Ocean Conservationist. She is the founder of the I AM WATER Foundation which focuses on ocean conservation through human experience. I AM WATER works with underserved / low income coastal communities to introduce young people to the ocean. She holds 11 national records in competitive freediving and is a Young Global Leader of the World Economic Forum.
Aaniyah Omardien (@AaniyahOmardien)
Aaniyah Omardien is the founder of The Beach Co-op, an NPO which cleans beaches, and a Conservation Consultant. Aaniyah focuses on work that connects people and nature. She worked for WWF SA from 2001 to 2010, where she helped start and eventually managed WWF’s Marine Programme. Alongside her Beach Co-op work, she consults to WWF SA on single-use plastics.
Tasneem Essop (@TasneemEssop)
Tasneem Essop is is the founding director of the Energy Democracy Initiative. Prior to this, she headed the climate work in WWF International. She is also a commissioner in the National Planning Commission of South Africa. Before joining WWF in 2008, she held the positions of provincial minister of the environment, planning and economic development in the Western Cape.
Ray Jansen (LinkedIn)
Ray Jansen is the Chairman of the African Pangolin Working Group and a member of the IUCN Species Survival Commission Pangolin Specialist Group. He is a Full Professor in the Department of Environmental, Water and Earth Sciences at the Tshwane University of Technology and supervises post-graduate students working on African pangolin ecology, their use in traditional medicine and their prevalence in the bushmeat markets of West and Southern Africa.
Ruby Sampson (@AfrClimAlliance)
Ruby Sampson is an 18-year-old climate activist who helped create the African Climate Alliance in order to unite climate activists across the continent in the fight for climate action. Ruby has been holding presentations, educational days and poster-making sessions to raise awareness and prepare students for the future, while encouraging them to attend the termly strikes across South Africa.
Ian Little (@TheEWT)
Ian Little began his career as the manager of the Endangered Wildlife Trust’s Threatened Grassland Species Programme. His PhD in Conservation Biology at UCT focused on threatened species conservation and ecology, especially linked to agricultural management and restoration. He is now Senior Manager for Habitats at EWT and oversees strategic conservation planning for terrestrial landscapes across SA.
Christine Colvin (@ColvinH2O)
Christine Colvin is the Freshwater Senior Manager for the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) SA. Christine leads WWF-SA as they seek to provide water security throughout the region. Since working with the WWF, she has launched a number of successful initiatives that include Water Source Areas and Water Stewardship programmes, as well as the Journey of Water Campaign aimed at connecting people to where their water comes from.
Sharon Pollard (LinkedIn)
Sharon Pollard is the Executive Director at the Association for Water and Rural Development (AWARD), conducting pioneering research and advocacy work around water supply in underprivileged areas in South Africa. She has managed many internationally recognised projects and focuses on planning for meeting water requirements for sustaining ecosystems.
Jay Naidoo (@Jay_Naidoo)
Jay Naidoo was part of Nelson Mandela’s Cabinet and served as Communications Minister until 1999. He now serves as a trustee of the Earthrise Trust and works with communities of evicted farmworkers to build democratic practice of innovative development models for thriving, sustainable and peaceful communities. Their goal is to build resilience to climate change and tackle the challenges of livelihoods and hunger.
Louise de Waal (@GreenGirlAfrica)
Louise de Waal works as an independent sustainable tourism consultant with specific interest in wildlife and conservation. She is the driving force behind the #HandsOffOurWildlife campaign, which aims to create greater awareness around issues of unethical and even cruel captive wildlife interactions by educating the public and the tourism industry at large.
Lazola Solani (LinkedIn)
Lazola MaDuka Solani is a young proud Xhosa womxn who is making a difference in her community through creative environmental activism specially targeted at the youth of South Africa. Clean Our Hoods is an anti litter campaign in Mfuleni and Vrygrond (two townships in Cape Town), creating a series of events that engages townships in conversations on litter while encouraging to clean our public spaces in fun and interactive ways.
Justin Bonello (@Justin_Bonello)
Filmmaker, father, cook, traveler, urban farmer and author Justin Bonello is the director and founder of Neighbourhood Farm, a social enterprise that is sowing seeds to change the Urban Living Philosophy by giving children and community members real edible education. “Social enterprise, underpinned by a mosaic of urban farms, can help all Capetonians, from school children to grandparents, to create a living legacy for our children’s children,” he says.
Courtney Morgan (LinkedIn)
Courtney Morgan is an eco-feminist currently working in climate justice activism and food sovereignty with COPAC (Co-operative and Policy Alternative Centre). She is particularly interested in the gendered experiences of climate change and poverty and has a BSc Honours degree in Human Geography from Wits University.
Kumi Naidoo (@kuminaidoo)
Kumi Naidoo is a South African-born human rights activist of Indian descent who is the current Secretary-General of Amnesty International. Kumi was the first African head of Greenpeace, an international environmentalist group, serving as its International Executive Director from 2009 to 2015.
Makoma Lekalakala (makomaphil)
Makoma Lekalakala is a South African activist who is the director of the Johannesburg branch of Earthlife Africa, an NPO that seeks a better life for all people without exploiting other people or degrading their environment. They encourage and support individuals, businesses and industries to reduce pollution, minimise waste and protect our natural resources. Along with Liz McDaid, Makoma was awarded the 2018 Goldman Environmental Prize for the African region for their work on using the courts to stop a Russian-South African nuclear deal in 2017.
Hayley McLellan (hayleymclellan3)
Hayley McLellan is the Environmental Campaigner for the Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town as well as a 5 Gyres Ambassador. As an animal behaviourist for most of her career she became unbearably aware of the degradation of the environment due to plastic pollution. She created the Rethink the Bag campaign – for a plastic shopping bag free South Africa. The campaign was officially launched as an environmental campaign of the Aquarium in 2011. Hayley is an experienced presenter engaging with all sectors of society to address behaviour change in order to become plastic shopping bag free zones.
Xoli Fuyani (@XoliF)
Xoli Fuyani is an environmental education coordinator and eco role model who guides young people to a safe sustainable green future. She worked for Eco-schools as a coordinator for 11 primary schools in Gugulethu and volunteered with Pride of Table Mountain, leading youth on excursions on Table Mountain to grow their knowledge of their environment. She also facilitated a WESSA Adopt-a-beach programme, teaching learners from Gugulethu about conservation of the coastal environment. Xoli now works with Earthchild Project, coordinating the Environmental Education in their Schools’ Programmes. She also runs the Young Women’s Group, Hiking Clubs and Worm Farming Clubs.
Morné du Plessis (plessis_morne)
Morné du Plessis is the chief executive officer of WWF South Africa. Throughout his tenure, Morné has served on a large number of committees and boards of conservation NGOs, government funding allocation committees and academic institutions, including the Green Trust, Leslie Hill Succulent Karoo Trust, National Parks Trust, Table Mountain Fund, Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Studies and Mammal Research Institute (University of Pretoria). He has authored or co-authored over 50 scientific publications in the fields of conservation biology and behavioural ecology and published two books, earning the National Research Foundation’s President’s Award.
Michele Pickover (LinkedIn)
Michele Pickover has been campaigning on behalf of animals for the past 20 years and is a campaigner for inclusive justice. Much of her contribution has been through lobbying, campaigning, research and investigative work as well as national and international networking and liaison. She is currently the Director of the EMS Foundation, an NGO which focuses on the commonalities of oppression working for the advancement and protection of the rights and general welfare of children, elderly persons, wild animals and other vulnerable groups. Michele wrote a pioneering book called Animal Rights in South Africa.
Audrey Delsink (@back2wild)
Audrey Delsink Kettles is the Wildlife Director of Humane Society International/Africa. She oversees HSI’s wildlife campaigns in Africa, including work to champion the protection of wildlife. She is also responsible for HSI’s Back to the Wild program, which facilitates the release of compromised indigenous wildlife back to protected preserves. Audrey has acted as the Field Director for the world-renowned African Elephant Immunocontraception Program since 2000. She has been actively involved in both national, provincial and private elephant management, and together with the immunocontraception research team, has helped to shape policy and legislation regarding wild African elephants in South Africa.
Michelle Henley (@elephantsalive)
Michelle Henley is the co-founder of Elephants Alive, whose mission is to ensure the survival of elephants and their habitats and to promote harmonious co-existence between elephants and people. She has published numerous articles in in peer-reviewed scientific journals, popular publications and has contributed towards various books. She has also written and illustrated children’s books on elephant conservation. Michelle is a registered Post-doctoral Fellow at the Applied Behavioural Ecology and Environmental Research Unit of the University of South Africa and a Trustee of the Elephant Specialist Advisory Group of South Africa. She has won numerous awards for her inspiring work.
Candice Mostert (LinkedIn)
Candice Mostert is the founder of Waste-ED, an organisation implementing waste to resource systems that explore the journey to zero waste, while developing and applying environment based waste management solutions and education. She offers interactive zero waste set ups, consulting, research, workshops and presentations. Along the way, she collects Ecobricks and creates much needed, well insulated structures teaching the skill of natural clay building. Candice worked with Greyton Transition Town to build the first known South African Ecobrick outdoor classroom and revive the concept of value in our wasted resources.
Raj Lalloo (LinkedIn)
Raj Lalloo is Chief Scientist at CSIR Biosciences and Chief Technical Officer at OptimusBio, a CSIR spin-out company specializing in biodegradable and biologically active products for the green economy. He is a recognized specialist in the field of bioprocess and product development and has written more than 300 research reports, 5 publications, 2 patents, 3 book chapters and has trained more than 100 students.
Coleen Vogel is a climatologist, adaptation and sustainability specialist at the Global Change Institute at the University of the Witwatersrand. She was one of the Chapter Lead Authors of the Africa Chapter for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC 4th Assessment Report and was also an author of the Synthesis Report for Policy Makers of the 4th IPCC Assessment Report. A Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the author team together with Al Gore for the 4th Assessment Report. Coleen was a Chapter Author on Human Security for the 5th IPCC assessment report. Coleen is also working with the DEFF and the City of Johannesburg on climate change adaptation and with young change agents on climate change.
Francois Engelbrecht (LinkedIn)
Francois Engelbrecht is a principal researcher at the Global Change Institute at the University of the Witwatersrand, where he leads the Climate Studies, Modelling and Environmental Health Research Group. He has published widely in the fields of climate modelling and the projection of future climate change over Africa.
Gina Ziervogel (@GinaZiervogel)
Gina Ziervogel is an Associate Professor in the Department of Environmental and Geographical Science at UCT. Her work has focused on climate change adaptation, resilience and development through the lens of water and governance. Gina has published widely and been involved in national and international initiatives related to climate change adaptation, including the recent IPCC Assessment Report 6. She is the co-author of Day Zero – One City’s Response to a Record-breaking Drought with Leonie Joubert.
Bob Scholes (LinkedIn)
Bob Scholes is a systems ecologist at the Global Change Institute at the University of the Witwatersrand, with a particular interest in the savannas of Africa. He is among the top 1% of environmental scientists worldwide based on citation. He has led several high-profile studies and large research campaigns and was an author of the IPCC 3rd , 4th and 5th assessments. He is an NRF A-rated scientist, and a winner of the National Science and Technology Forum Lifetime Contribution to Science Award.
Philile Mbatha (LinkedIn)
Philile Mbatha is a lecturer at UCT who works within the fields of environmental sustainability and human geography. Her research has a specific focus on rural contexts along the coast. She also has vast experience in the research field working with rural/economically poor and marginalised communities. She is interested in human rights debates connected to marine and coastal governance processes impacting rural areas in South Africa.
Harald Winkler (@HarryWinkler)
Harald Winkler is a Professor at the Energy Research Centre at UCT and an internationally acclaimed researcher, as rated by the National Research Foundation. His research has informed energy and climate policy at the national level and multi-lateral negotiations. Harald led the research work underpinning South Africa’s Long-Term Mitigation Scenarios (LTMS), and developed the proposal of sustainable development policies and measures (SD-PAMs). He was an author on the IPCC 4th, 5th and 6th reports.
Zarina Patel is a senior lecturer at UCT whose research is concerned with the multiple dimensions of the meaning and practice of sustainable development at the city scale. This agenda is driven by evidence that the poor and the natural environment continue to be marginalised in decision making. Using an engaged and applied approach to research, her concern with the justice implications of the gap between policy and practice have focussed on the three themes of urban knowledge, urban governance and tools for decision making.
Godwell Nhamo is a Full Professor and Exxaro Chair in Business and Climate Change at the University of South Africa (UNISA). He has published widely in the areas of Climate Change and Governance, Green Economy and Sustainable Development, including 6 books (5 edited) and over 70 journal articles. Godwell sits in a number of international and national boards and has received several awards and recognitions. He is one of the four-member African Union High Level Panel drafting the Green Innovation Framework for the continent.
Guy Midgley (LinkedIn)
Guy Midgley is an internationally acknowledged expert in the field of biodiversity and global change science. He is an A-rated researcher and has been lead author on the 4th, 5th and 6th IPCC reports. He has led and contributed to several policy-related government reports and collaborated internationally on global change research themes in Chile, Australia, USA, UK, Germany, France, Botswana and Namibia. Guy has authored/co-authored more than 160 scientific and popular publications.
Jackie King is an aquatic ecologist who was a researcher, lecturer and supervisor of postgraduates at the University of Cape Town for almost four decades. She now owns and runs Water Matters, a water-resource consultancy specialising in the science of integrated flow management of rivers, and is an internationally-recognised leader in the field. Jackie recently won the prestigious international 2019 Stockholm Water Prize: she is only the fourth woman in the world to be awarded this prize, considered the Nobel Prize for water. She presently serves on the Board of Directors of WWF-SA and the Research Advisory Panel of South Africa’s Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). She serves as a Senior Scientific Advisor to the International Crane Foundation and as a member of AAAS’s global project Water in our Future.
Sipho Kings (@SiphoKings)
The Mail & Guardian’s Environment Reporter for six and a half years, Sipho Kings has been one of the loudest voices for the environment in SA. A 2018 Nieman fellow at Harvard University, he is now the News Editor at the Mail & Guardian, and has just written a book with Sarah Wild: South Africa’s Survival Guide to Climate Change, which breaks down the issue into digestible chunks.
Leonie Joubert (@LeonieJoubert)
Leonie Joubert is a South African author who uses storytelling to grapple with tough issues: climate and environmental change, energy policy, cities as development hubs and more. She writes for the Daily Maverick, HBF Energy Transitions and Business Day, amongst others, and her journalism has been multiply awarded. She is the co-author of Day Zero – One City’s Response to a Record-breaking Drought with Gina Ziervogel.
Kia Johnson (@KiaJohnson1)
Kia Johnson hosts the Smile90.4FM Sunday morning show, and is an Ambassador for WWFSA, the World Wide Fund for Nature. She is actively involved in environmental campaigns, and won the ‘Most Influential #PlasticFreeMzanzi Campaigner’ for 2019. Through the Mycelium Media Colab, she uses storytelling to create awareness around the environment and creating a healthier world.
Sarah Wild (@sarahemilywild)
Sarah Wild is a “journalist, scribbler, ranter, tea-drinker, and (occasional) author.” Her work has appeared in AfricaCheck, Nature, Quartz, New Scientist, the Guardian, the Atlantic, Research Africa, Business Day, Undark Magazine, and the Mail & Guardian, amongst others. Her most recent book, South Africa’s Survival Guide to Climate Change, was written with Sipho Kings.
Kelvin Trautman (@kelvintrautman)
Kelvin Trautman is a self-taught photographer and filmmaker. His work focuses on narrative driven content, where he uses travel, sport, and pioneering expeditions as a lens to look at human and environmental conditions. He has covered assignments on all 7 continents and his images have appeared in the New York Times, National Geographic, Red Bulletin, and Outside Magazine.
Jackie May (@twygMAG)
Jackie May is the founder and editor of Twyg, a website with stories about fashion, food and places that don’t harm the planet and people. “We can no longer ignore climate change, nor can we pretend that we are not to blame. Twyg wants to play a part in the solution by telling stories about how to lighten our tread,” she says. Jackie’s focus is on exploring ways we can live well now while ensuring a better future.
Kevin Bloom (@KevBloom)
Kevin Bloom is a writer and journalist who frequently writes about environmental issues as Senior Correspondent for the Daily Maverick. He is the co-author of Continental Shift: A Journey into Africa’s Changing Fortunes and author of Ways of Staying, shortlisted for the 2010 Alan Paton Award.
Adrian Steirn (@AdrianSteirn)
Adrian Steirn is a photographer and filmmaker who believes that conservation and humanity are inextricably linked. In his capacity as photographer-in-residence for WWF South Africa, Steirn has worked to promote and engage with wildlife conservation, using visual images as a means to stimulate discussion and action around key issues such as poaching. Adrian is the creator of Beautiful News, which celebrates the extraordinary fabric of human nature that binds our nation and drives individuals towards active citizenry. Adrian was recently awarded the Commonwealth Points of Light award from the Queen of England for his voluntary efforts to campaign for wildlife conservation.
Don Pinnock (@DonPinnock)
Don Pinnock is a writer, investigative journalist, and photographer. He has been an electronic engineer, lecturer in journalism and criminology, consultant to the Mandela government, a professional yachtsman, explorer, travel and environmental writer and photographer, and was the former editor of Getaway magazine in Cape Town. One of his passions is species conservation in Africa.
Ian Michler has spent the last 29 years working as a specialist guide, safari operator, photo-journalist and consultant across Africa. His writing focuses on the continents conservation and environmental challenges and he is the author and photographer of seven natural history and travel books. He is the Lead Character, Researcher and co-campaign leader for the feature documentary Blood Lions and a Director of Eden to Addo. He currently runs Invent Africa Safaris and is enrolled as a part-time student at the Sustainability Institute, Stellenbosch University.
Elise Tempelhoff (@elisetempelhoff)
Ian McCallum (@Wild_Gifts)
Ian McCallum is a psychiatrist, analytical psychologist and writer. He is the author of two anthologies of wilderness poems and a novel Thorns to Kilimanjaro, as well as his award-winning book Ecological Intelligence. A former rugby Springbok, McCallum’s other interests include evolutionary biology and wildlife photography. A trustee of the Cape Leopard Trust and long-time associate of the Wilderness Foundation and Wilderness Leadership School, he is a 2016 recipient of the Wildlife and Environmental Association of South Africa (WESSA) Lifetime Conservation Achievement Award.
Skye Meaker (Instagram)
Skye Meaker is a South African Photographer who specialises in wildlife photography for conservation and enjoyment. At just sixteen, Skye won the Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2018, the largest and one of the most prestigious wildlife photography competitions in the world. He was the only teenager invited to attend the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, and spoke about the importance of youth voices in conservation.
Elaine Mills (@mselainemills)
Elaine Mills is the Africa correspondent for major energy commodities pricing agency, and a former CO2 markets reporter. She is passionate about climate and social justice, and works as a Greenpeace Africa Volunteer in Cape Town. She is vocal about the danger of single-use plastics, and the role that the South African government has in ensuring we rid ourselves of them.
Remember to follow these incredible South Africans and support them in driving environmental awareness and action throughout the country. Is anyone missing from our list? Pop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know, so that we can continue celebrating South Africa’s top environmental changemakers.