Thursday, January 18, 2018

Quote / unquote: We have reached a point no return

Captain's Log: 93 days to Day Zero

It's 20h25. Thursday night. I'm on my second tumbler of a fine Chenin Blanc that was on promotion at the supermarket. 

My brow is clammy, my body sticky. It was, apparently. 29 degrees centigrade today, but to me, felt much hotter, much more unpleasant than that.

An interesting day for me today: It's the first time that I've considered beginning to buy water and to hoard it in my flat. For Day Zero. It's, also, the first time I've felt fear about our water running out.

It's still light, although the sun set at about eight. On the other side of The Mountain. 

It's particularly beautiful outside; despite the south-easter is howling, which means that I can't - without risk - open my sixth-floor sliding door with its awesome views over Woodstock, Devil's Peak and, then to the right, Table Mountain. It's so beautiful that, for a brief moment, I force open the door against the howling, whipping, shredding wind and take some photos as quickly as possible with my phone. Because everything is being blown to smithereens  It's not for nothing that I nickname my adopted suburb 'Windsock':- ask me, the south-easter - can hand down - beat the living shit out of a grown man.

My context is important (north/south, dry/wet): A week ago I returned to Cape Town from the UK, where I'd spent three weeks; an intense, wonderful, Christmas with my ageing mother. 

A week later I'm listening to The Wind. And, on YouTube, to Bach's Preludes and Fugues (BWV 869 & 894). Which I find relaxing. While a beaten up old Chinese-made fan does it's best to sporadically caress my bare back, and between my sips of wine from the blue glass.

When I got back last week, my first commitment was to get to the gym with the aim of working off, despite my many miles of walking, the three pasty and Christmassy kilograms I'd unevenly plastered to my frame, but mostly around my waist. 

The changes at the gym were immediately obvious: there was a man-size poster loitering at the entrance to the male change rooms making it clear that the city was no confronting Level 6 water restrictions. Also, after my exercise, when I made it to the shower there was a noisy, obvious timer measuring two minutes before bleating like a stuck sheep. Not only was a grey bucket in the shower cubicle to collect the grey water, but you had only two short minutes to shower. Not to mention that months ago already, the sauna and steam room were switched off and closed, that the two pools were no longer being topped up.

It's now serious. Also, the tone has changed in this onslaught against the city, where we are being crippled by the worst drought in a century. Even worse is the uncertainty that there will ever again be enough water; it's called climate change. No-one, not even the scientists at the city's university knows anything for certain; predictions no longer work, nor can they be relied upon; this is a new and pretty scorching territory for all of us.

Also, now, before sitting down at my desk to write this, I read an article posted on The Guardian today: 2017 was the hottest year on record without the El Nino boost, also that data shows that it was one of the hottest years ever recorded; 'scientists' are warning that the 'climate tide is rising fast'. 


As I said above, today was an interesting one for me; it's left my stress levels severely raised and has me questioning my priorities. For example, is it worth even chasing a doctorate? What really does matter anymore? Genuine question.

This same day the City of Cape Town hosted a press conference. Day Zero, an ominously shifting date that increases or decreases according to a variety of factors, like daily water consumption and, among others, evaporation at the less than handful of dams that feed Cape Town, is - at this very moment pegged at 21 April, this year; that's when the taps are predicted to run dry.

Cape Town will be moving to Level 6b water restrictions from 1 February, further curbing water usage by some 30-odd litres per person per day, with the city warning citizens Day Zero on 21 April was “now very likely”.

Today I also read a WWF advisory (issued yesterday - 17 January) on my city's water situation, which made for chilling reading:

"At present, Day Zero is calculated to be about three months away on 21 April. This day is calculated based on knowing how much water is in the big 6 dams that feed Cape Town and the Western Cape Water Supply System and knowing how much water is being used by the city’s residents, by agriculture and what is evaporating out of the dam. 

"Day Zero is a worst-case scenario but it has been inching closer since the City of Cape Town began predicting it. As of 15 January, the dams were 28% full and if we continue using water at the current rate we will run out of water on 21 April. 

"This calculation assumes that we can’t use the last 13.5% of water in the dams and that there are no new sources of water available by this date. Substantial new water sources are not likely to come on line before April, so the only thing that can really push out Day Zero is if YOU and I use less water and save water NOW!"

This was, also, the week I experimented with not showering for three days despite that it's the height of summer and that this (was a) winter rainfall/Mediterranean climatic zone; in other words if there is rain to come, it will only be in the winter.

Nevertheless, I continue listening to Bach's Preludes and Fugues. While Rome burns.

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