By John Cockayne | From BG Magazine


Our weatherproofing discussion continues with Alistair Collier (AC), who is the founder of the John Collier Survey, and the backdrop to the discussion is the need for venues, resorts and facilities to adopt a more anticipatory thinking process, and to try to be proactive, whenever possible, practical or when budgets will allow. A tumultuous 2022, in climate terms, was capped, at least for the USA, by the bomb cyclone, which literally froze huge swathes of the USA, to bring record low temperatures across many states – 46.5 in Montana at one stage! – but the lead up to this had been no easier:

Storms hit Southern Africa – Storm Ana hit Malawi, Madagascar and Mozambique in January (Rijasolo/AFP via Getty Images) A third of Pakistan was under water in September (Shahid Saeed Mirza/AFP via Getty Images)

The Bordeaux region in France suffered devastating wildfires (Thibaud Moritz/AFP via Getty Images) Lightning strikes Kolkata in May (Indranil Aditya/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

California hit a record 116F in September (Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images) Typhoon Nanmadol hit southern Japan in September (Yuichi Yamazaki/AFP via Getty Images)

JC: All in all, it doesn’t make for very ‘happy’ reading, does it?

AC: No, it does not, and the stakes are getting higher every year. It goes to the very core of sport environmental sustainability (sport-ES), where the research is indicating on the one hand vulnerability from exposure to stresses associated with climate change and this vulnerability’s counterpart – resilience, which is the ability to absorb shocks and still maintain function.

JC: We shall be returning to these shores, but at the start of the new year, and as we are about to embark on the Eco-Diary with Sabi River Sun Resort GC in the next couple of months, I’d like to take a strategic and almost dispassionate re-look at the whole question of weatherproofing, or to put it differently, the concepts of adaptation and mitigation.
We have been bombarded with bad weather news almost continuously for a year, and the pick of the crop of weather-related news stories shown at the beginning of this discussion proves it. In the preamble, we talk about the need for a change of mindset, and although I know we have covered this before, please repeat what the ideal mindset should be for golf to become more environmentally aware.

AC: Using the term ‘mindset’ is key, as one needs to understand that the capacity of humans to damage planet earth’s ecological systems, has been widely acknowledged. In this same context, the global scale of the impacts, on the natural environment, are now so pervasive that human activities are primary drivers of environmental change. In this same regard, sport in general, including golf, has had and continues to have a significant impact on the environment.

JC: Are we not continually in danger of looking at our environmental impact from too narrow a perspective, or even one-dimensionally? In this context, I would use an example where a club golfer will tend to see golf from the perspective of his or her club, and their monthly game of golf. However, the broader picture in golf terms, shows that golf tourism (which we shall deal with in more detail later in this discussion) is set to rise to US$ 4.8 billion by early 2023, and with these revenues will come a price to be paid environmentally. The linear nature of our thinking was also really brought home to me by the volcanic eruption in Iceland (Eyjafjallajökull) in 2010, where the grounding of European flights, over that ‘no go’ period at the height of the eruption, avoided us from generating about 3.44×108 kg of CO2 emissions per day, while the volcano emitted about 1.5×108 kg of CO2 per day over the same timespan!

AC: Indeed, we are ‘guilty’ (if that is the right word) of seeing things from personal perspectives. This makes these types of discussions platform so essential, in keeping everyone updated, as to the real status and the ‘bigger picture’. As for the broader activities encompassed by sport, there is a growing body of literature in sport-ES that has noted the capacity of sports activities to adversely affect the natural environment. In respect of golf, this includes, for example, clearing of land, water usage, turfgrass management, and greenhouse gas emissions, not only from golf course equipment but also the travel aspect, which you have mentioned. All this information needs to be managed, in order to get a comprehensive picture.

Research in the sport-ES field indicates increasing levels of sport environmental measurement tools, certification and reporting. From a South African perspective, the John Collier
The survey tool is ideally suited for this country’s requirements, but of real importance is the trend in international research, pointing to entities starting to calculate their carbon footprint, with a goal leading to zero carbon. Embracing a programme of environmental measurement, certification and reporting, and understanding one’s carbon footprint, illustrates a positive mindset.

JC: Where does the World Cup in Qatar sit in all of this, and were the bold claims about a zero impact in environmental terms, real, just window dressing, or the result of selective and or wishful thinking?

AC: Ever since the 1994 Winter Olympic Games at Lillehammer, called the “green games” the International Olympic Committee have been striving to govern host cities in delivering environmentally friendly games. The research indicates that host cities fell well short of the commitments they made. This includes the so-called environmentally compliant golf courses, such as the Olympic Golf Course in Rio de Janeiro and the Kasumigaseki Country Club at the Tokyo games. Similarly, with the World Cup Soccer, FIFA has also set out environmental standards and criteria, which bid cities need to adhere to. In respect of the FIFA World Cup held in South Africa in 2010, research by Govender, S., Munien, S., Pretorius, L., & Foggin, T., they concluded that significant environmental harm from the event prompts the need and value of environmental education campaign as part of mega-sport event promotion.

Also, on the subject of the 2010 World Cup, Otto, I., & Heath, E. examined the potential contribution of the 2010 soccer World Cup to climate change, and identified four key solution areas (transportation, energy consumption, stadiums, and environmental management strategies and guidelines), and concluded that transportation was the greatest threat to climate change. If one looks at the recent 2022 FIFA World Cup held in Doha City, Qatar, from all reports it was possibly one of the most exciting and spectacular World Cup Competitions ever organised by FIFA, but all that air travel to get spectators to and from the games must have tipped the scales against an environmentally friendly competition, and
anything to the contrary can only be termed as “greenwashing”