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Coal or rhinos – we shouldn’t have to choose

It has been my privilege to explore some of the most incredible parts of our planet, including the North Pole, the Antarctic and the Himalayas, and I have made it my life’s work to campaign to protect many of them.

A few years ago I was invited to join the Wilderness Leadership School on a five day trail across the iMfolozi Game Reserve. It was a life-changing experience. We walked next to rhinos, lions and gazelles. We slept under the stars.  And we experienced the peace and tranquility, which our ancestors must have had living in harmony with their environment. Of all the natural wonders I’ve experienced, iMfolozi was up there with the best.

The iMfolozi Game Reserve is much more than a National Park. It is a national treasure.  The Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park is the oldest proclaimed national park in Africa, with the largest population of white rhino in the world. It’s an area where thousands of young South Africans have hiked and connected with nature – for many it is their first and only experience of true wilderness.

I understand there are now plans afoot to mine for coal on the edge of this wilderness area. Aside from the fact that the use of this fossil fuel will further accelerate dangerous climate change, I simply cannot understand how this can be allowed.  It is impossible to imagine that mining on the edge of the park will not have a seriously detrimental effect on the area and it’s precious wildlife.

Many of the greatest injustices in history have happened because good men and women kept quiet. I urge all South Africans to stand up against these outrageous plans. Use your voices – tweet, blog, petition, and protest to those in power.  Together, we can stop this travesty before it starts.

As the renowned conservationist Dr Ian Player once said to me, “If we allow our wildernesses to disappear, we lose something deep within our souls.”

Author: Lewis Pugh is an ocean advocate, a pioneer swimmer and an inspirational speaker. In 2010 he was named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum and in 2013 he was appointed Patron of the Oceans by the United Nations Environment Programme. http://lewispugh.com