Environmental Law and Local Government in South Africa is the only work of its kind to extensively analyse South African environmental law and policy for local government. The second edition offers a novel collection of theoretical scholarship and real-life examples that present different features of the interface between local governance, local government law, environmental law and urban development. Each chapter is detailed yet accessible. The 40 contributing authors hail from academia, local government practice and the environmental management sector. Together they bring a vast amount of experience and knowledge to help improve the state of the environment in and around South African cities and towns. In this profile, we discuss the book with editor Anel du Plessis.
Could you tell us more about your book and your intentions for wanting to write it?
The heartbeat of a country is its towns and cities. As a legal scholar, I have always been interested in understanding the legally relevant dynamics of our urban areas. This interest is fueled by my devotion to a better work and living environment for all people in South Africa and to a safe and healthy environment, one that my children and their children will still be able to enjoy one day.
Environmental Law and Local Government in South Africa was first published in 2015, in the same year when the United Nations for the first time in history adopted an urban goal in its list of 17 Sustainable Development Goals. The second edition of the book just appeared. 35 authors contributed to this second edition of the volume which critically unpacks the role of local government and local government law in achieving the outcomes envisioned in the country’s extensive framework of environmental law. The authors and co-authors hail from the fields of law, governance, planning, environmental management and local government.
What kind of impact do you hope your book will have?
The book is much more than a descriptive compilation of law and policy – it is a very rich integrated source of information that hopes to contribute to the scholarly fields of local government law, environmental law, sustainability, local governance, planning, environmental management and intergovernmental relations. As a comprehensive collection of theoretical scholarship and real-life examples that traverse the fields of local government and environmental law and governance, this book remains the first of its kind in South Africa. I hope that Environmental Law and Local Government in South Africa will inform, encourage and inspire its readers and that over time, it will make a tangible and lasting contribution to every municipality and our country’s transition to environmental sustainability.
Tell us about your writing experience. What did you find most challenging when you wrote the book?
Co-authoring chapters for and editing Environmental Law and Local Government (both editions) have been quite an experience. It is not easy navigating and steering a book project involving almost 40 (busy) authors from different disciplines and from across the country but seeing and feeling the product is always very rewarding. The biggest challenge has been keeping up to date with the constant changes in law and jurisprudence and having so many professional people (authors) adhering to deadlines. I also expected and gave birth to twin boys during the update process and had to juggle several personal and professional demands that were intensified by the global pandemic.
Why is this subject matter important to you?
We live in an urban age and a democratic country rich in biodiversity and that is world-renowned for its natural and cultural resources. Local government in South Africa must be enabled through law and sound governance structures and tools to help protect the right we all have to an environment that is not detrimental to health or well-being and to have the environment protected for future generations.
As a writer, where do you find your inspiration?
It is hard for me to pinpoint exactly where I find my inspiration from, but it lies in a mix of my love for life, knowledge, the creation, cities, art and most recently, the bright eyes of my boys.
What kind of books would you like to see more of from up and coming South African voices?
Books that help capture history (social, legal, political) in a way that helps us better conceptualise and construct our collective future. I would also like to see more scholarly writings that draw on mixed research methods and that combine critical subject fields within the natural sciences and humanities. Complex societal problems require us to unravel their causes and consequences through the prism of diversity and multiplicity.
At this point in history, what do you feel is important social dialogue for Africa?
Climate change is going to intensify many of the divisive socio-economic, political and environmental risks and challenges we face across our continent. We do not talk about this often enough.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
What books are you reading right now?
My profession requires me to read all the time – my readings range from PhD and Masters theses to op-ed commentaries and scholarly books and journal articles. I read Afrikaans and English novels for relaxation. I have just ordered “Klara and the Sun” by Kazuo Ishiguro.
Name the one book you believe everyone should read at least once in their lives
This is the one question I hoped you would not ask. *Laugh* So many people do not read at all. The one wish I have is that all people would have the opportunity to access at least one book during their lifetime that will leave them thrilled by the power of the written word.