Start main page content

Sustainability is instinctive in every culture

- Wits University

Proverb: We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.

Dr Morné du Plessis, Chief Executive of WWF South Africa, used this well-known proverb to remind graduands from the Faculty of Science that “planet Earth is worth protecting”.

Speaking during the graduation ceremony today, 23 March 2016, Du Plessis said that instead of borrowing Earth from our children, we have now realised that we have been stealing it from them.

“We have not been good stewards of our only planet. We are making excessive demands on the natural world and Earth’s ecosystems are under extreme pressure. The way we meet our needs today is compromising the ability of future generations, you and your children, to meet theirs – the very objective of sustainability,” said Du Plessis, a former director of the FitzPatrick Institute at the University of Cape Town – one of only six national Centres of Excellence in South Africa.

“Our very existence depends on healthy ecosystems and the solaces that they provide from clean water to air to liveable climates to food to fuel to fibre to fertile soil. The concept of sustainability is not some far-fetched ideal of a narrow interest group – it is an instinctive truth that presides in every culture in the world.”

About Dr Morné du Plessis:

Du Plessis has presented keynote lectures and scientific presentations at a wide range of local and international conferences, and authored or co-authored over 50 scientific publications in the fields of conservation biology and environmental science.

He was awarded the South African National Research Foundation’s President’s Award in 1996. In 2000, he was listed among the Mail & Guardian’s “Most Promising 100 Young South Africans in the New Millennium”.

Du Plessis holds degrees in Agriculture and Zoology from Stellenbosch and Pretoria Universities, an Executive MBA from the Graduate School of Business (Cape Town), and a PhD in Zoology from the University of Cape Town.