Our Burning Planet


Searching for gold before the rainbow disappears in the toxic haze of fossil fuel fumes


Liziwe McDaid is The Green Connection’s Strategic Lead. She is a qualified scientist, teacher, and adult educator, with a Master’s Degree in Climate Change and Development from the University of Cape Town. Liz was also awarded the 2018 Goldman Environmental Award Africa, for her eco-justice efforts.

Gather around my friends, for a tale where the old meets a spirit of renewal — a cautionary reminder, with a pinch of hope, in a land torn apart by greed and corruption.

Once upon a time, in a kingdom once rich with lush forests, fertile lands and beautiful happy people, there rose a king — a king who loved couches almost as much as he loved gold, so much so that it was rumored that he even stored much of the kingdom’s gold inside a couch.

Even though the kingdom had many machines that could spin even straw into gold, this was not enough. In a frenzy to feed this need and greed for gold, the king instructed his advisor, the Nduna of the Beard, to find more gold. To find new materials to spin.

Lurking in the shadows are the tar monsters, cawing like hadedas, “mine, mine, mine!” They have the king believing that their toxic ingredients are the only way to make more gold. But mining this tar pollutes the land and sea and destroys fertile fields. And, as they toil in the tar mines, people’s smiles were robbed from their faces. The songs of the weaver birds are also long gone.

And instead of the joyful sound of children laughing, they are coughing, as they choke on the foul air. This foulness had engulfed the entire planet, choking a groaning Earth. Its life slowly smothered.

But other kingdoms found better ways of spinning their gold, with machines that simply need wind and sunshine. And these inventions were spreading through all the lands on Earth because instead of turning it foul, the air is cleaned and our Earth Mother gets to recover. And there was rejoicing in those lands.

Impressed with the quality of the gold, some of our kingdom’s goldsmiths experimented with these sun and wind gold-spinning machines. But, afraid of the Bearded Nduna and always dancing to his tune, the King ignored the cries to turn wind and sunshine into gold.

But, as the world was changing, the tar monsters could see that there might come a day when they would bar tar. So, the monsters worked harder, trying to convince all the kings in all the lands that nothing else, only tar, could become gold. And with the help of their wizards, a spell was cast through all the lands, convincing kings and their advisers that the sun and wind have nothing on tar.

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For the Bearded Nduna, the spell of tar made him afraid of the wind and the sun. From deep inside a cave, he continued advising the king to give the greedy tar monsters more and more power. The bearded Nduna let them make new spinning machines and take over the old ones, so they can continue spinning their poisonous tar into gold.

Then these monsters wanted the ocean. There’s more tar to mine and more havoc to wreak. And according to the spellbound Bearded Nduna, permission was granted, even though the people groaned and vowed to defend their oceans. They turned to the King’s adviser, Princess Uluhlaza, because she was the defender of land and sea. But it was no use. She had been to the bearded Nduna’s cave and came out drenched in tar. Princess Uluhlaza was spellbound too.

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Is all hope lost or can we still save our kingdom and our oceans? Do we continue to serve the greedy monsters until a time when everything is covered in tar, or do we fight?

Salvation came from an unexpected source. A child received a revelation, guided by the ocean, a wise dolphin and the spirits of her ancestors — she knew how to save the kingdom. With this newfound wisdom, she rallied the people to action, uniting sea people and eco-knights from all along the coast in a quest to break free from the dark spell of tar. With courage in their hearts and armed with imphepho and a jar of seawater, the child and her companions ventured forth.

First, they had to break the spell gripping Princess Uluhlaza. So, when she was at the seaside on holiday, they gathered around her and splashed her with seawater. When some of the water went into her eyes, the spell was broken.

Then, following the advice of the sea spirits, they headed to the hills to find the Bearded Nduna in his cave. As he slept, they crept into the cave, burnt the imphepho, and shaved off his beard with seawater, and the spell was broken. Yilililili!!! The Bearded Nduna came out of the darkness into the light, no longer afraid of the wind and sun.

Free from the spell, the people chased the tar monsters away, celebrating the cleansing power of the ocean. Over time, all the kingdom’s spinning machines made gold from the sun and the wind, leaving the land to recover.

The people are smiling again. The children are laughing. And the songs of the weaver birds can be heard once again. The people petitioned the king to make new rules and the gold was shared among all. And peace reigned throughout the land.

Are we destined to forever groan under the feet of the tar monsters or will we break the spell to instead rely on the unending supply of wind and sun? It is up to us. DM


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