Protect The West Coast Attends Reforest Festival 2023

Words by Rona Van Der Merwe and Steve Pike

PTWC Exco members Camila Budden and Rona van der Merwe attended the 12th annual Greenpop Reforest Festival over Easter Weekend at Bodhi Khaya, Grootbos and presented a talk.

This popular and fun filled family environmental festival enables likeminded people to come together and celebrate nature and work towards its restoration – the main aim being reforestation. Together (about 1,000 of us, young and old!) planted 5000 indigenous trees as part of a bigger project to restore Uilenkraal Valley between Gansbaai and Baardskeerdersbos (Forests for Life Programme).

Through rain and shine we waddled through the mud, played barefoot and of course got some beautiful rich soil under our fingertips. We were entertained by incredible musicians, workshops, talks, wholesome food stalls and all over inspired by highly talented and creative individuals.

The work that we are doing at PTWC aligns with Greenpop’s values and we were invited to share these in a gentle setting on Sunday morning just as the sun finally peeked through the clouds at the Easyspeak stage, after a slow morning of movement and searching for easter eggs.

Greenpop’s environmental awareness guidelines that speaks to our own:

  • Pro-Nature: Nature should be conserved and restored both because it is inherently valuable and because it makes our planet habitable.
  • Pro-People: Ensuring equality of access to nature and its benefits for all people (present and future) is critical for a just world.
  • Pro-Innovation: Creativity, new technology and innovative design are key tools for tackling environmental challenges.
  • Pro-Action: Swift environmental action within every sphere (personal, economic & legislative) is essential for a sustainable future.

Instead of focusing on our actions and objectives for the talk, we wanted to get back to the root of it all and talk about why we are doing what we are doing. As activists working to change the status quo it is important to remind ourselves of our initial motivations and to keep ourselves and each other energised, passionate, safe and healthy.

At PTWC we are cognisant of our important social responsibility in service for and together with marginalised West Coast indigenous communities for the environment that we are trying to protect. Mining is nothing less than a social and environmental justice issue. And our work is to challenge the structures on which inequalities are based.

We will continue to envision a future for the West Coast that replaces degraded, lifeless and desolate mine dumps with cross-functional economic activity in unison with nature and her people to benefit present and future generations. And this vision will continue to motivate and drive all our actions.

Rona ended the talk sharing a poem by Wendy McNaughton and Courtney Martin:

This is your assignment,

Feel all the things, feel the hard things, the inexplicable things,

the things that make you disavow humanity’s capacity for redemption.

Feel all the maddening paradoxes, feel overwhelmed, crazy, feel uncertain,

feel angry, feel afraid, feel powerless, feel frozen, and then


Pick up your pen, pick up your paintbrush, pick up your damn chin.

Put your two calloused hands on the turntables, in the clay, on the strings,

Get behind the camera, look for that pinprick of light

Look for the truth (yes it still exists)

Focus on that light, enlarge it,

Reveal the fierce urgency of now.

Reveal how shattered we are, how capable of being repaired,

But don’t lament the break.

Nothing new would ever be built if things were never broken.

A wise man once said: ‘There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.’

Get after that light.

This is your assignment.

We were reminded as we planted different indigenous tree species, while learning about soil health and microbe diversity, that a healthy forest is a diverse forest. And as activists we must be an active forest thriving through our diversity and committing to our unique individual roles. We consist of the weavers, the healers, the experimenters, the frontline responders, the storytellers, the visionaries, builders, guides, caregivers and the disrupters.

And we, together, have work to do. PTWC expresses gratitude to the organisers at Reforest Fest for the beautiful opportunity to share our thoughts and hearts and everyone who came to listen and learn.

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