Original Research

A decade of democracy: environmental management in a changing world

P. J. Aucamp
Suid-Afrikaanse Tydskrif vir Natuurwetenskap en Tegnologie | Vol 24, No 1/2 | a167 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/satnt.v24i1/2.167 | © 2005 P. J. Aucamp | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 22 September 2005 | Published: 22 September 2005

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P. J. Aucamp, Departement Geografie en Omgewingsbestuur, Potchefstroomkampus, Noordwes-Universiteit, South Africa

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The world’s focus on the environment started in 1972 with the Conference of the United Nations on the Human Environment in Stockholm. This led to the formation of the United Nations’ Environmental Programme (UNEP). The new interest in the role of the humans in the environment only picked up momentum after the publication of the report, Our Common Future by the World Commission on Development and the Environment, led by Harlem Gro Brundtland and the follow-up Conference in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 (The Earth Summit). The main products from this conference were the Earth Charter and the Agenda 21 principles and action plans. Not long after this event South Africa had a change in government in 1994. The new Constitution that was accepted in 1996 is one of the few constitutions that contain pertinent clauses pertaining to the protection of the environment. Environmental legislation such as the new National Environmental Management Act, a National Water Act, a Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act, an Air Quality Management Bill has been adapted since 1994. A huge number of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) attended the Rio Conference. Some, like Greenpeace (and locally Earthlife Africa), developed pressure groups that pressurised governments to give more attention to the protection of the environment and to improve environmental management. During this period results of scientific research that had a large impact on humankind’s perception of the environment, were published. The discovery of the hole in the ozone layer and of the increase in global warming led to great public interest. This led to conventions and protocols that have been ratified by most countries in the world, for example 189 out of a possible 191 countries ratified the Montreal Protocol for the Protection of the Ozone Layer by June 2004. The private sector responded and today it is the norm to report about the “Triple Bottom-line” (economic, social and environmental aspects). The question that arises is: who had the most influence on the wealth of new legislation and the change of emphasis to environmental management in the private and public sectors – the new government, pressure from green organisations or reaction to scientific research? This paper discusses the influence of all three.



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