Eagle Canyon Golf Course. Picture: SUPPLIED
Eagle Canyon Golf Course. Picture: SUPPLIED

The eternal optimists among us are always quick to trot out their favourite phrases — “every cloud has a silver lining”, or that “it is an ill wind that blows nobody any good” at the first signs of trouble.

Given the reactions to the pandemic, they might be accused of clutching at straws to find any benefit in the mess that has ensued since the first signs of the Covid-19 outbreak in Wuhan — in what now feels to be a lifetime ago.

The more cynical among us would argue that the only beneficiaries have been a few billionaires who got even richer, or the black marketers, dealing in booze and cigarettes, making small fortunes over the past few months.

However, there is one genuine good news story — the environment. This embattled area of global concern, received an enormously beneficial free drop (to use a golfing term) away from humankind’s normally pollutive habits during the lockdown.

Within one month of the lockdown in India, people reported being able to see the Himalayas for the first time in over 30 years, CO2 emissions levels dropped radically everywhere as the normal volumes of aeroplane and vehicular activity plummeted and turtles were seen on beaches during the daytime, taking advantage of the sudden absence of people.

Unfortunately, it cannot last. We would be naive to think that as a species (or virus, as one environmentalist labelled mankind, which is more than a little ironic given present circumstances) we are going to change our habits soon.

In these uncertain times, if you want a sure bet, one would be that it will be business as usual before  long and the issues of our impact on the environment and climate change will need to be hauled back forcibly onto the debating table.

Why is there any debate? Perhaps because so many people have become polarised in their approach to the environmental issues and potential solutions. This is not dissimilar to the reactions to Covid-19, in which one group’s reaction is to shut us all indoors until a vaccine is found, while another wants us to carry on as normal and let the virus do its worst.

The middle-ground view might be more practical, if we want sustainable progress.

Few human activities have a desirable impact on our surroundings, and golf always receives a particularly bad rap for its supposed negative environmental impact

Mother Earth also has her own cycles, which science still does not fully understand. And so while we are contributing to our own environmental demise, one has that sneaking suspicion that when she is ready, and rather like a large dog, the earth with give itself a good shake, spiralling mankind off out into oblivion and not worthy of even a footnote in cosmic history.

On June 5 it was World Environment Day. The 2020 theme is on biodiversity, which given the numbers of species facing extinction (estimated to be more than 1-million) is a further wake-up call for those who are still unconvinced there are any real issues.

Few human activities have a desirable impact on our surroundings, and golf always receives a particularly bad rap for its supposed negative environmental impact. Given the positive developments in the golf business in almost every area of turf maintenance and from golf clubs and golf estates, to residential estates and golf resorts this is sad.

Sad, but unsurprising, given the game’s perennial inability to share its own good news stories effectively.

In numerous past articles and columns, I have referenced a diverse range of initiatives taken by golf clubs and estates that are having a positive environmental impact. I have used the examples of such initiatives at Dainfern, St Francis Links and Pecanwood and the site rehabilitation at Ebotse and Eagle Canyon and I run into the serious danger of becoming a “bore” on this topic.

That the “team ethic” is not in the golfing DNA, makes it difficult for the golf business to talk about itself collectively. Initiatives such as the John Collier Annual Survey act as a shop widow to allow us to see who is doing what and where in environmental terms within golf.

The survey’s structure enables those using the tools provided to keep track of their own activities. In this functionality, there is another benefit in the growing understanding that being environmentally aware can be beneficial to the bottom line, in terms of improved cost-saving efficiencies.

The platform provided by the survey is not only essential for those involved in managing a golf course, but also in its acting as a spur to get others to make the environment a key part of their daily processes.

This is key, because it will not only help the environment, but it also makes good business sense.

• Part two of this series will appear in the week