Nelson Mandela Day 2023: Climate, Food & Solidarity

There are very few people in my lifetime that have changed the course of history more than the legendary Nelson Mandela.

Image: Building on the Legacy of Nelson Mandela | United Nations

I can remember vividly watching the moment this great man was released from prison in 1990 after being incarcerated for decades for leading the movement to end South African Apartheid. He never wavered from his vision of a better future for all, he had an unbelievable ability to see the good in everyone and always remained optimistic. 

After 27 years in jail he went on to win The Nobel Peace Prize in 1993, then became president of South Africa the following year. From May 10, 1994 to June 14, 1999 Nelson Mandela led his country as an anti-apartheid activist, leader of uMkhonto we Sizwe, lawyer, and former political prisoner but most of all, a pioneer for humanity in every sense.  

His passion for change didn’t cease at the end of his presidency, as he continued to promote human rights, sustainable development, and dignity for all until he died at home in South Africa in 2013.  

To honour the legacy of Nelson Mandela, the United Nations General Assembly marked Nelson Mandela’s birthday, July 18 as Nelson Mandela Day, devoting the day to public service. Every year individuals around the world are asked to respect the day by making a difference to their communities. This year the theme is ‘Climate, Food & Solidarity‘ which absolutely resonates globally. 

Nelson Mandela also pushed environmental justice, which is evident from this iconic quote,  

“We know that political freedom alone is still not enough if you lack clean water. Freedom alone is not enough without light to read at night, without time or access to water to irrigate your farm, without the ability to catch fish to feed your family,” 

I wonder what he would have said about climate change as we know it now, with the levels of pollution culminating around the world and diminishing natural resources? 

I’m pretty sure I could have a good guess, he believed that politics and sustainability were intrinsically linked and I couldn’t agree more. In his address at the Launch of the Final Report of the World Commission in 2000 Nelson Mandela said, 

…the struggle for sustainable development nearly equals the struggle for political freedom. They can grow together or they can unravel each other. Threats to our governments in the century ahead will come from poverty, if anything.

Nelson Mandela

There is still a lot to do to eradicate poverty, and unfortunately climate change is having a devastating impact on many impoverished communities with rising sea levels, higher temperatures, more floods, longer droughts – all weather extremes are being magnified. Then we have pollution and the effect that is having on our ocean and on our land, we know that micro plastics are being ingested and as yet we do not know what impact that will have on human health in the longer-term. 

Could you image the conversation if Sir David Attenborough, King Charles III and Nelson Mandela all got together to discuss climate change, now that’s a conversation I would have loved to listen to.  

The United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres recently said, “Each of us can make a difference in promoting peace, human rights, sustainable development, and lives of dignity for all. Each of us can be inspired by Nelson Mandela’s example. Let us all build on the legacy of Nelson Mandela.” 

For me personally, Nelson Mandela inspired me through his resilience, his leadership and his unwavering belief that our world could get better. He was a great man and his legacy is evident in South Africa and around the world but I believe it should also live on in all of us. 

So what will you do this Nelson Mandela International Day to make a difference to your community? 

I have volunteered at my local school to run a series of ‘topics’ on sustainability; the impact of pollution and climate change and what we need to do now. We must educate responsibly on sustainability and where better to start than our children.  

We can all do our part but together we can do so much more. In the packaging industry, we all face the same challenges and we have to find ways to work together to have a real impact. We must reduce pollution, positively impact climate change and develop a true circular economy.  

At Aura, we welcome partnerships with like-minded organisations, we actively educate on sustainable packaging and very importantly we collaborate with our clients to inform and deliver products and services that positively impact our planet. We would love to speak to you and share experiences so please do get in touch. 

Gillian Garside-Wight Consulting Director

About the Author

Gill leads our consulting offer, with over 20 years’ experience in the packaging industry, strategically developing packaging strategies, roadmaps and packaging solutions to meet the needs of clients, consumers and the planet. She has worked with many global retailers and household brands on projects spanning sustainability and innovation to supply chain optimization. With a real passion for sustainability, her quest is to educate, influence and drive a circular economy wherever possible while complementing creativity, technical functionality and commercial realities.

Gill grew up on a tiny island in Scotland and this is where her passion for sustainability started. She loves nothing more than (trying) to grow her own veg and exploring nature with her son.