6,000 people sign petition demanding City of Cape Town comes clean on water quality
WWF announces 2021 Living Planet Award winners
Ordinary people, extraordinary change

To diarise
International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer | 16 September
World Water Monitoring Day | 18 September
World Rhino Day | 22 September
Entries open for Twyg Sustainable Fashion Awards 2021
Wild Food Walks at the Sustainability Institute

Interesting reads
Activists plan court action against government’s new coal-fired power plants
South Africa: Electric vehicles on the cards for Africa’s largest car market
Rooibos tea: EU protection is good news for South African agriculture

We are loving …
Mo’s Crib
UJ becomes the first academic institution to join SA Plastics Pact
Vox Weather to focus on education of climate change
Cape Wild Foods: A Growers Guide

Who are Mycelium?

By Jemima Spring

If you follow us on social media, over the past few months you would have seen a series of stories highlighting different Water Protectors featured on the Water Stories website.  Mycelium are proud to be part of this collaborative partnership with the aim of communicating academic research, water activism and water creativity to a wider audience. We worked closely with researchers from Environmental Humanities South at UCT and Environmental Nano Sciences at UWC to develop the content and design of the website.

One of the most exciting aspects of Water Stories is that the team is almost entirely women, and we got to highlight the work of women doing critical work in science and science studies towards a clean and equitable urban water cycle in Cape Town. The social media posts featuring these researchers elicited a huge organic response, telling us that young women in science and academia is a story that is really resonating.

The other exciting aspect is connecting with other individuals and organisations committed to cleaning rivers, wetlands and oceans. Together we can collaboratively disseminate powerful stories not only about the atrocious state of our waterways and beaches, but the hard manual labour many are doing to physically clean them, and the work of engaging with government on their responsibilities. Groups like ARMOUR, #rethinkthestink, Help Up, the Freshwater Research Centre and Friends of the Liesbeck are getting on with the task of cleaning up our mess and should inspire us all to do the same.

Storytelling has become a bit of a buzzword these days. The internet, digital recording technology and social media have put the tools for digital storytelling in everyone’s hands, and the whole world has responded. The line between “professional” and “amateur” has dissolved, the rules have changed and established media has been forced to adjust or die.  It’s a jungle out there and stories need to survive and rise above the noise to have any chance of making an impact.

I spend a lot of my time thinking about and tracking stories. What topics always get a huge response on social media – like “look what I grew in my garden” – and what patterns inevitably play out. What tropes are being repeated over and over, what internet memes are constantly doing the rounds. History can be changed with stories, they don’t even have to be “true”. They just need to be repeated often enough and resonate with our fears and prejudices to catch fire and spill over into the “real” world. But the same is true of stories that resonate with our hopes and dreams, that make us laugh and entertain us, or are just beautiful.

It’s my belief that we can change the world for the better with stories like that. Stories that are life supporting, and not death supporting. Economic growth at all costs for a tiny minority is death-supporting. Circular economies and a caring society are life-supporting. Through Water Stories and other projects we have in the works, we have the great fortune of collaborating with dedicated, smart and courageous people who are working for a world that sustainably supports all life, and finding creative ways of bringing their stories to the wider world.

6,000 people sign petition demanding City of Cape Town comes clean on water quality

More than 6,000 people have signed a petition calling on the City of Cape Town to release the results of water quality tests in three polluted vleis – Zandvlei, Zeekoevlei and Rietvlei. Zandvlei has been closed for recreational use for three months because of sewage spills. Zandvlei has been closed for recreational use for three months because of sewage spills. All three vleis are closed for recreational use because of repeated sewage spills. The City has not released the results of water tests at any of the vleis.

“As residents and users of the vlei and as citizens we have a right to know in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act of 2000. It affects our daily lives,” the petition reads. Failing sewage infrastructure has caused high levels of E. coli pollution in the Zandvlei Estuary, which has now been closed for about three months by the City of Cape Town. Zandvlei was closed in 2018 and 2019 due to sewage spills, but only for a few days at a time. But for the last three months, the water quality has been bad enough for the vlei to remain closed. The City measures 2,501 – 4,000 colony forming units (cfu) of E. coli per 100ml to be a “tolerable risk” for recreational use. Anything above 4001 cfu per 100ml is an “unacceptable risk”.

Robert Hart, co-chair of the Western Cape Canoe Union (WCCU) and former chair of the Peninsula Canoe Club, also called for the results of water quality tests to be made public. He said sewage spills had started to become more frequent about seven years ago and had become progressively worse. Hart has previously written an open letter to the City, published by GroundUp, asking for a detailed explanation of why the vlei has been closed for so long. But he said he hasn’t received a response from the City regarding his letter.

The City of Cape Town’s Mayco member for Water and Waste, Xanthea Limberg says the Zandvlei pollution is the result of various problems including two sewer pump failures and an overflowing manhole. But she has acknowledged that fixing these may not be enough to bring water quality back to acceptable levels. “It is important to note that there is no single source of pollution. This vlei could potentially be affected by any pollution incident, such as a sewer overflow/pump station malfunction, in the Sand River catchment, which extends as far to the north as Wynberg/Kenilworth, and includes Constantia/Tokai areas,” Limberg said in response to GroundUp questions.

Unlike Zandvlei, which has multiple sources of pollution, Zeekoevlei is currently undergoing rehabilitation for a sewage spill as a result of failing screw pumps from the nearby Cape Flats wastewater treatment works. GroundUp has asked for the results of the water quality tests conducted by the City at the three vleis and is awaiting a response.

Article originally published on GroundUp.

Prof Bob Scholes teaching in the field in March 2021 shortly before he passed away.

WWF announces 2021 Living Planet Award winners 

World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has named acclaimed South African scientist Professor Bob Scholes (posthumous) and Johannesburg-based non-profit organisation African Reclaimers Organisation (ARO) as the winners of its annual Living Planet Award for 2021. The Living Planet Award honours exceptional South Africans who, through their catalytic contribution, inspire people to live in harmony with nature.

Professor Scholes, who passed on in April this year, won the award in the individual category, while ARO claimed the accolade in the organisational category. At the time of his passing, Professor Scholes was a distinguished professor of systems ecology and director of the Global Change and Sustainability Research Institute at the University of the Witwatersrand. WWF said in its homage to professor Scholes that he was “a giant in the field of climate science, a true leader and dedicated conservation ecologist”. The award honoured his lifelong commitment to science and the inspiration he continues to give those who follow in his footsteps.

The ARO, a non-profit organisation representing informal waste reclaimers, was honoured for its work in support of a truly circular economy and for being the voice of a particularly vulnerable community in the waste and recycling sector. It was formed in September 2018 in response to the City of Johannesburg’s decision to contract private companies to collect recyclables from high-income areas in the city, thereby displacing informal reclaimers and threatening their livelihoods.

Ordinary people, extraordinary change

Across the world, people worried about the impacts of climate change are seeking creative and meaningful ways to transform their urban environments. One such approach is known as ‘quiet activism’. ‘Quiet activism’ refers to the extraordinary measures taken by ordinary people as part of their everyday lives, to address the climate emergency at the local level. In the absence of national leadership, local communities are forging new responses to the climate crisis in places where they live, work and play. These responses work best when they are collaborative, ongoing and tailored to local circumstances. Here are three examples that show how it can be done.

Climate for Change: A Tupperware party but make it climate

Climate for Change is a democratic project in citizen-led climate education and participation. This group has engaged thousands of Australians about the need for climate action — not through public lectures or rallies, but via kitchen table-style local gatherings with family and friends. As they put it: “We’ve taken the party-plan model made famous by Tupperware and adapted it to allow meaningful discussions about climate change to happen at scale”. Their website quotes ‘Jarrod’, who hosted one such party, saying: “I’ve been truly surprised by the lasting impact of my conversation amongst friends who were previously silent on the issue – we are still talking about it nine months on”. Climate for Change has published a climate conversation guide to help people tackle tricky talks with friends and family about climate change.

EnviroHouse: hands-on community education

EnviroHouse is a not-for-profit organisation based in Western Australia committed to local-scale climate action through hands-on community education and engagement projects, such as: facilitating workshops on energy efficiency, visiting schools on request to provide sustainability services, collecting seeds to grow thousands of she-oaks, paperbarks and rushes along the eroded Maylands foreshore in Perth, teaching workshops on composting, worm farming and bokashi techniques to community members, giving talks on sustainable living and running a home and workplace energy and water auditing program.

Climarte: Arts for a safe climate

Climarte is a group that collaborates with a wide range of artists, art professionals, and scientists to produce compelling programs for change. Through festivals, events and interventions, we invite those who live, work and play in the arts to join us. This group aims to create a space that brings together artists and the public to work, think and talk through the implications of climate change.

Quiet activism raises questions around what it means to be an activist, or to ‘do activism’. While loud, attention-grabbing and disruptive protests are important, local-scale activities are also challenging the ‘business as usual’ model. These quiet approaches highlight how ordinary citizens can take action every day to generate transformative change. There is a tendency within climate activism to dismiss ‘quiet’ activities as merely a precursor to bigger, more effective (that is, ‘louder’) political action.

Everyday local-scale activities are sometimes seen as disempowering or conservative; they’re sometimes cast as privileging individual roles and responsibility over collective action. However, a growing range of voices draws attention to the transformative potential of small, purposeful everyday action. UK-based researcher Laura Pottinger emphasises that these everyday practices are acts of care and kindness to community – both human and non-human. Her interest is a ‘dirt under the fingernails’ kind of activism, which gains strength from a quiet commitment to practical action.

Climate action, here and how
By creatively participating in local climate action, we can collectively reimagine our experience of, and responses to, the climate emergency. In doing so, we lay the foundation for new possibilities. Quiet activism is not a panacea. Like any other form of activism, it can be ineffective or, worse, damaging. Without an ethical framework, it risks enabling only short-lived action, or leading to only small pockets of localised activity. But when done ethically and sustainably — with long-term impact in mind — quiet activism can make a profound difference to lives and communities.

This article is republished from The Conversation.

DIARISE: International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer | 16 September

The ozone layer, a fragile shield of gases, protects the Earth from the harmful portion of the rays of the sun, thus helping preserve life on the planet. The phaseout of controlled uses of ozone depleting substances and the related reductions have not only helped protect the ozone layer for this and future generations, but have also contributed significantly to global efforts to address climate change; furthermore, it has protected human health and ecosystems by limiting the harmful ultraviolet radiation from reaching the Earth. This year, we celebrate 35 years of the Vienna Convention and 35 years of global ozone layer protection. World Ozone Day, held on September 16, celebrates this achievement. It shows that collective decisions and action, guided by science, are the only way to solve major global crises.

DIARISE: World Water Monitoring Day | 18 September

World Water Monitoring Day was established in 2003 by America’s Clean Water Foundation (ACWF) as a global educational outreach program. The program, subsequently named the “World Water Monitoring Challenge” and “EarthEcho Water Challenge,” aims to build public awareness and involvement in protecting water resources around the world by empowering citizens to carry out basic monitoring of their local water bodies.

DIARISE:  World Rhino Day | 22 September

World Rhino Day celebrates five species of rhinos around the world. From a conservation perspective, the day raises awareness of the plight of these beautiful beasts. The five species of rhinos include Black, White, Greater One-horned, Sumatran, and Javan. The World Rhino Day was first announced by WWF-South Africa in 2010. So critical and dire was the condition of the species that less than 30,000 rhinos were alive in the world at that time. A
recent report says that at least 249 rhinos were killed in South Africa in the first six months of this year, more than compared to the same time in 2020.                                                   

DIARISE: Entries open for Twyg Sustainable Fashion Awards 2021

Is fashion fostering ethical practices? Do designers help with cultural and social sustainability? Do they challenge business-as-usual? Twyg is searching for designers who are concerned with these issues in order to spotlight their efforts during the annual
Twyg Sustainable Fashion Awards 2021. Twyg, a local not-for-profit organisation and online publication, launched its Sustainable Fashion Awards in 2019 to recognise and celebrate fashion designers who implement sustainable, circular, ethical and regenerative approaches to design.

“Designers are problem solvers, and right now, we urgently need problems solved. There has been a noticeable shift in how fashion thinks of itself with a realisation that its responsibility is far wider than making clothes,” Twyg said. Against the backdrop of the pandemic and its effects on the economy, the organisation said, “Twyg is more committed to supporting the growth of sustainable and circular designers and helping them reach consumers than ever before. In 2021, supporting local fashion is critical to job creation.” Nominations are now open and will close on 11 October 2021

DIARISE: Wild Food Walks at the Sustainability Institute

Join Loubie Rusch in discovering the local indigenous and wild foods that grow at the Sustainability Institute in Lynedoch. A plant display and list of indigenous and wild and weedy edibles will be on hand to help with recognising what we will come across. We will explore the food and ornamental gardens, the woodland thicket, or find them just popping up around and about. Tickets can be reserved via
Quicket and the event is family-friendly:

  • R 450 per person for Saturday walks from10.20 am to12.30 pm..
  • R 350 per person for Wednesday walks from10.20 am to12.30 pm

Where: Sustainability Institute, Lynedoch Rd, Lynedoch.
What to bring: Comfortable shoes, water, sun hat and sunscreen, a pen and notepad, your camera, a shopping bag.

Nikiwe Solomon, Environmental Humanities South, UCT

“I do feel a strong connection to the Kuils River because of what I’ve learnt from it. Doing research helped me slow down and notice relationships. It’s more than just H2O, more than components; there are multiple relationships formed by this river, and multiple histories entangled in this river.” Nikiwe Solomon, Environmental Humanities South, University of Cape Town. Nikiwe has recently completed her PhD exploring the relationships between the Kuils River and people, water governance and multi-species communities. “What kind of events have occurred along the river and shaped the way people are living today? What does this mean for future generations?”

Sandvlei and other residents close to Waste Water Treatment plants emptying into the river have long complained about the toxic impact of pollution on their health, their livestock and biodiversity. Upgrades at the Zandvliet Waste Water Treatment Plant are finally underway after 10 years of litigation around the tender process, but for Nikiwe this doesn’t really get to the root of things. Because of the [neoliberal] idea of what progress is, ties to the environment have been cut, and for these communities, the way the river is being treated, also felt like the way the government was treating them, as a site of negligence and of dumping waste.”

Nikiwe is currently a research fellow with the Seed Box, an interdisciplinary and international Environmental Humanities research program, working on the Kuils River, Milnerton Lagoon, Zeekoevlei and Rondevlei. We are delighted that she will also be working with us on developing content for the Water Stories website on these water bodies and connected stories. Nikiwe works closely with community members as co-researchers and we are looking forward to integrating their stories into the Water Stories map.

Read more about her PhD research and the Kuils River.


Activists plan court action against government’s new coal-fired power plants

The electricity from these new coal-fired power stations will cost more than electricity from clean, renewable alternatives, and the people of South Africa have a right to have a say in how our electricity is produced. Now, environmental activists are gearing up for a legal battle. GroundWork, Vukani Environmental Movement and the African Climate Alliance, represented by the Centre for Environmental Rights (CER) are preparing a court challenge to the government’s plans to procure electricity from new coal-fired power plants over the next 10 years. 
Daily Maverick 

South Africa: Electric vehicles on the cards for Africa’s largest car market

South Africa is on track to become Africa’s biggest market for electric cars and is also looking to become a globally competitive electric car manufacturing hub. A new e-mobility roadmap is in the works to make EVs cheaper than petrol cars in that market.  Released in May, South Africa’s draft e-mobility policy framework Green Paper shows the state is planning significant fiscal incentives to spur the sale of new energy vehicles (NEVs). How we made it in Africa

Rooibos tea: EU protection is good news for South African agriculture

The European Union recently added rooibos (red bush) tea to its register of products with a protected designation of origin. The iconic tea is the first African product to receive such status in the EU, and the 40th from a non-EU country. Rooibos is in good company – this is the same kind of protection given to champagne, prosciutto di Parma, feta and many other iconic foods. This designation contributes to a product’s global standing, and is likely to have benefits – economic and beyond – for the region.  The Conversation


… these initiatives which support our aim of living in a more sustainable world.

Mo’s Crib
Pretoria-based sisters Morongwe (Mo) Mokone and Michelle Mokone lead the all-woman team behind Mo’s Crib, a South African home decor business creating stylish products from recycled materials, and creating employment for women by equipping them with artisanal skills. Mo’s Crib specialises in proudly South African handmade homeware products made from recycled PVC. Attractive, durable and multi-purpose baskets and planters are created using PVC water pipes, which Mo’s Crib employees source and collect from landfills and construction sites around the country. These are then cut into strips and woven over the course of a workday to create the brand’s signature PVC product range. After finding success among local home retailers, Mo’s Crib has set its sights abroad, securing a partnership with popular US home decor store Crate and Barrel, which will begin stocking the locally-made recycled PVC range.

UJ becomes the first academic institution to join SA Plastics Pact 

The University of Johannesburg (UJ) has become the first academic institution to sign up as a supporting member of the South African Plastics Pact. The UJ faculty of engineering and the built environment’s Process Energy and Environmental Technology Station (UJ Peets) initiated the university’s involvement with the SA Plastics Pact, resulting in UJ joining the pact. The pact tackles the plastic waste challenge along the value chain in South Africa to increase sustainable practices and circularity, focusing on the packaging sector. Its members aim to accelerate the translation towards a circular plastic packaging sector in South Africa, joining eight other national and two regional pacts as part of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s global Plastics Pact Network.

Vox Weather to focus on education of climate change 

Vox has announced the launch of Vox Weather, an interactive weather channel with a focus on viewer education, to be presented by meteorologist Annette Botha. Vox intends bringing educational content to as many people as possible, in as relevant a time as possible, on the devices where they want to consume their media. In addition to this, Vox Weather will zone in on relevant topics of interest every month, adding context and depth to the public’s understanding of topics related to the weather and planet. Vox will aklso work with partners ahead of and during important sporting events to deliver detailed forecasts and drive awareness of the importance of quality and trustworthy weather data and insights. Vox Weather is live on

Cape Wild Foods: A Growers Guide

We are loving this amazing resource: Cape Wild Foods: A Growers Guide is the first book that Loubie Rusch and the Sustainability Institute have collaborated on. It shares practical plant and cultivation information about 22 plants with edible components, helping small farmers and gardeners to include them in their gardens.  Loubie has been exploring the forgotten and underutilised local indigenous foods of the Cape since 2010. She has foraged and observed them in nature, has cooked and bottled them and has shared about them in workshops and talks. The Cape Wild Foods Garden that she planted in Khayelitsha in 2016 served to try out cultivating some of the foods that till then had only been wild harvested. Order your copy from the Kirstenbosch Bookshop (in-store or online) or the Green Cafe at the Sustainability Institute.

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The world is facing an unprecedented crisis, significant environmental degradation, deepening social inequality and economic collapse. These interlinked crises are exacerbated by man-made climate change. We will only overcome these challenges and be able to bring about a sustainable and regenerative world by working together to rebuild our connections and relationships with natural systems, and with each other. Mycelium is a collaboration of multi-media content creators focused on showing what a sustainable and regenerative world could look like, and how to get there. We do this by raising awareness and showcasing examples, and by growing the number of practitioners able to support this mission.

Our values are based on those of the International Co-operative Alliance: self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity. We also embrace the values of collaboration, honesty, openness, social responsibility and caring for others. Our value system acknowledges the need to combat the significant levels of inequality in South Africa, particularly those related to race and gender. We have chosen to work through the cooperative model because it offers economies of scale and scope, increased bargaining power, a space for learning, and the ability to offer value to our members and broader society.

Membership to the Mycelium Media Colab is open to multimedia storytellers, artists and regenerators that share our vision collaborative and transformative change. It offers a networking and support space for members to share skills and inspiration, and creatively cross-pollinate, as well as a platform and organisational structure for projects that require a team.  Ownership of projects is shared between the creators and the co-operative. Contact for more information and visit