31 January 2023

Producers and consumers living together

It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. Matthew 4:4

Life is easier without religion. Here the Lord is saying that we should not just seek to exist, survive, or live, but to expand our vision to His view and growing, thriving, climbing, labouring, reaping, harvesting, studying, learning, etc. 

Yesterday I took 7 Latter-day Saint missionaries for a walk at Kirstenbosch. During the walk I mention the Khoisan in terms of van Riebeeck's hedge, and San artefacts found in the Dell. I am always impressed by pondering how the San, the original occupants of the Cape, were hunter gatherers. They were fruitful, multiplied, and filled the Earth and lived wonderfully in harmony with nature. See Genesis 1:22. To Adam and Eve God gave a higher directive than He had given to His other creations in Gen 1:28. 

Hunter gatherers would need tens of square kilometres of land to support a family. 

Then new people who came from the North - agropastoralists - the Khoi, came in and were competing with the San. The Khoi would have required much less land to support a family since they were not simply consumers, but by tilling the earth they were producers. They integrated and became the Khoisan.

Then came other strangers that had sailing vessels and came from across the sea! These and later strangers people were much more impressive, even imposing, in their productivity. They built forts of stone, roads, canals, hospitals, schools, wagons, and all sorts of amazing things! They ploughed lands and were very productive and could have hundreds, even thousands of people on a square kilometre! This was amazing, but seriously outcompeted the Khoisan. Conflict was inevitable! 

They were very different. But one was not good and the other evil. One was not right and the other wrong. One was not superior and the other inferior. They were different - distinctly different - but their lifestyles were a little incompatible. The same scenario existed when pioneers in wagons arrived and intruded on the lands of the Ute Indians in Utah, and many other lands all around the world. 

Nowadays there are places with tens of thousands of people per square kilometer, but they still need those who live in harmony with their environment and who need square kilometres to support a family. We need each other. Each is superior in some aspects. Therein is our strength. Unity is Strength. There is Strength in Diversity as Diverse People Unite

If only we could walk the talk of the mottos of several nations, peoples or organisations 🤔😊

29 January 2023

Careers in Biodiversity - or careers in life

This blog post is written for anyone thinking about what to do with however many minutes, hours, days, weeks, years, decades, or any amount of time during her or his mission on this planet Earth. 

This is based on a talk that I have given at schools, universities, to audiences that included interns, youth, young adults, and others. I hope that you enjoy reading it and broadening your outlook on career development for you and anyone that you might influence - like children, grandchildren, or anyone!

Before I go any further, let me point out that I worked for more than 30 years at Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden on the slopes of Table Mountain in Cape Town. This garden is one of the top 7 botanical gardens in the world. Here are some photos that demonstrate some of the beauty and wonder of this place, and the delight that I had working there.

Now for the talk...

The tax payers of South Africa that largely fund the SANBI work

SAFARIS volunteers


SANBI staff

Early biodiversity explorers in southern Africa

Anyone contributing to making the world a better place.

I would invite the members of the audience to:

Introduce yourself.
Explain your interests and background.
What is the level of expertise already in the room?
Take a photo of the group for the SANBI record!

I have a cute GIF that I prepared that shows this dog being wagged by its tail. I would say to the audience:

Don’t let the tail wag the dog

Just because many people around you seem to have more of anything than you have – money, beauty, fame, skill, talent, glam, power, or sommer anything! – don’t let that cause you to be anything less than you are created to be.

Just because MS Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Access, Macros, GIS, Visual Basic, Python , field work, careers, or anything that I teach, can do or be something is not reason for you to have to do it.

Keep it simple, concentrate on what you need to accomplish, and don’t lose sleep over all the things that life can do or be that you don’t know how to do or be.

This talk will introduce you to things that you may not remember, but at least you will have an idea of some things that can be done.

The most important thing is to be the best that you can be. My mother often said ‘The world needs streetsweepers, but, more importantly, the world needs excellent streetsweepers.’ I include shepherds, carpenters, fisherman, plumbers, mechanics, electricians, doctors, lawyers, accountants, scientists, or any career. Be excellent in whatever you set out to be. No career is insignificant or inferior if you will be excellent in whatever you choose for your career path and see your role in helping to make the world a better place for each of its occupants. 

As I was typically talking at or for SANBI, I would remind them of the SANBI motto.

uGreat, the SANBI motto: Ubuntu; Growth; Respect & Tolerance; Excellence; Accountability; Togetherness

You are part of the uGreat team

Know what I am presenting today can do, or at least you have an idea.

Then you can communicate with a team member who can get this tool to do what you need to do at the time that you need it.

This presentation is on the network
If I move too fast for you, or if you want to review something, find this presentation later in [M:][\\\KRC Department Folders]\Public\InternSkillsDevelopment

The examples, questions and practice documents will also be there

Following are some images the depict some of the exciting things that I have done during my career - only a small part of what I have done!

The following 17 slides show just some of the interesting things that have been part of my wonderfully fulfilling career.

I loved working in this team, and being part of so many wonderful experiences, tasks, travels, projects, responsibilities, and so much more.

I would ask the audience who they imagine might be employed at the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden where I was based for more than 30 years:
The more obvious:
Nature conservator
And then I would point out others that work in such an organisation.
The behind-the-scenes:
Biodiversity informatics
Bioregional plans
Bus driver
Climate change
Collections manager
Education officer
Estate manager
GIS/GIS technician
Graphic designer
Health & Safety
Herbarium curator
Invasives (Early Detection and Rapid Response)
Marine biologist
Marine ranger
Motor mechanic
Media (photos, film)
Molecular biology
Movie director
Museum curator
Nature Conservationist
Policy advice
Population biologist
Project management
Red listing
Vegetation survey
Web design

Then I would include SANBI as a whole: 
The list goes on!
Climate change
Corporate Services
Data management
Events coordinator
Facilities manager
Human resources
IT procurement
IT technician
Laboratory technician
Lecturer: natural resource/biodiversity governance and management, land issues…
Legal adviser
Municipal support
Occupational Health, Safety & Environment (OHSE)
Operational and Quality Managers
Reservations Consultant (conserve Africa's spectacular biodiversity)
Supply Chain Manager
Systems Management
Urban Development Experts in urban sustainability

And more…

The biodiversity sector includes:
Botanical gardens
City Parks
Garden Centres
and more...

Groups with whom we interact include:
National, Provincial, Local Government
Industry – Dimension Data, 
Consulting Ecologists – Environmental Impact Assessments etc.
NGOS – WWF, TMF, SANCCOB, Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS)
Africa Media
Mining companies
Construction & Engineering
Nature reserves
Architects and engineers
Sustainable energy
and more…

My journey since 1983:
NBG (National Botanical Gardens)

BRI (Botanical Research Institute)

NBI (amalgamation of NBG and BRI)

SANBI (further development of our statutory directives – South African National Biodiversity Institute)
All Biodiversity – terrestrial, marine, mammals, birds, reptiles, spiders, insects, bacteria, GMOs, aliens, invasives, ecosystems…

Office of the Chief Executive Officer

Biodiversity Research Portfolio Management
Climate change
Applied research
Knowledge, Policy & Network Management
Conservation Management & Corporate Services
Human Resources 
Marketing & Communications
Information Technology
Conservation Gardens & Tourism
Building & maintenance

My journey in practicing my career:
  • Handyman most of my life.
  • BSc
  • Namib Desert (4 visits)
  • BSc (Hons)
  • Commercial horticulture research (one year)
  • Medical biochemistry research (21 months)
  • Teaching science, mathematics, computer studies, business economics in Middle School
  • Plant chemical taxonomy
  • Graduating with an MSc
  • Herbarium and Education in Nelspruit (Lowveld National Botanical Garden)
  • Tour guiding
  • Stress ecology research
  • Investigating potential impacts of Climate Change on plant species distributions
  • IT manager
  • Database developer
  • Field research, travelling very widely in South Africa, and visiting parts of Lesotho, Swaziland and Namibia
  • Ecology
  • Herbarium collections
  • GIS work
  • Programming (BASIC, VisualBasic, Avenue)
  • Author/co author of scientific and popular articles and books
During this time, I was involved in Employment Equity (including interviewing and selecting several candidates for employment), Occupational Health and Safety (OHS rep as well as chair of the committee, First Aid), mentoring interns, and assisting people in the education, administration, gardens, and other departments with technological solutions.

I was never bored!

I am somewhat a ‘Jack of all trades, and a master of few’ (even although I am a Master of Science 😊)
I would say that your career can be as exciting as you choose to make it, no matter where you are, but I choose to make my career exciting in the beautiful setting of Biodiversity
Having botanical, zoological and ecology training and having an engineering way of thinking makes me more versatile in the Biodiversity setting

I have given a talk about enjoying your personal desert wherever you are, using examples of my time in the Namib and other desert areas.
While this relates to the inevitable depressing times of life, I think it is very relevant to your career choice

Months and months of nothing but months and months
Unless you get down to ‘smell the flowers’ you probably will not even see that they are there

Employee attraction and Retention
Employer of choice
Equal opportunity
Rigorous recruitment processes
Incentives above market rate
Continuous Professional Development
Rewarding high performance
Conducive working environment

Human Capital Development – the greatest asset of an organisation is its human capital.

Whether you choose 
a biodiversity career in the biodiversity sector
another career in the biodiversity sector
a biodiversity career in another sector
another career in another sector
Being happy or unhappy is still your choice
Being environmentally conscious, responsible and friendly is also up to you.

I hope that you will choose
a biodiversity career in the biodiversity sector
another career in the biodiversity sector
a biodiversity career in another sector
another career in another sector – yes – I hope that you will choose a meaningful career!
Being happy
Being environmentally conscious, responsible and friendly
To enjoy our gardens, parks, mountains, our wonderful natural heritage…
One of the most important things that I can suggest is that anyone wanting to choose a career do a profile to determine your own talents, interests, type, temperament, and to see what might be suitable options for your own career. These are so easily available in this period of our history (just do a Google search such as 'career profile assessment', or 'types of temperaments and their characteristics'). It is always amazing how diverse the options can be for one person. For example, my profile points me to a variety of things ranging from engineering to accounting to physiotherapy to clergy to ...

I hope that you will choose – to be intentional in your life – to choose to be part of the solution and not part of the problem

Question time

Questions, then I’ll briefly conclude my talk.

Sharing time
Floor open for 
questions and 
sharing skills. 
Some of the interns may be more skilled in some things than I am, so that will be the greatest value – learning from a peer, teaching the ‘buddy system’. 
I may well learn some things from you that I have not known or used before.
Does anyone have a cool thing to share regarding recording, transcribing, georeferencing?

You are the person who is living your life – live it – enjoy it – be fruitful, multiply, replenish, subdue, have [righteous] dominion – make a difference – be leaven in the loaf, light to others, salt of the Earth...

Thanks for being here

Attendance register and photo


I enjoy sharing things – I hope you were not bored out of your wits…. 

25 August 2023 - about 8 months after posting this blog, I watched this video shared by Rob Whittaker about choosing careers. In this case, he is discussing working with the disability of Bipolar Disorder, but I fully agree with each of these considerations in choosing your career - with or without a disorder - letting a long-term view guide you. You may find unanticipated less-than-ideal things as you go, but near the end he shares counsel that he received from a friend that proved to be very valuable for him in filtering out many careers that were less suited to his character, strengths, weaknesses, passions, and needs.

19 January 2023

The costs and benefits of a mother seeking employment

Years ago Sally and I put together a list of costs and benefits of a mother working outside of the home. During our early marriage years mothers were strongly advised by prophets, seers, revelators and general church leaders to stay at home and invest in the rising generation. However, Sally was training as a medical doctor and was advised by an apostle to finish the course that she had started - my question that was not answered was, when does that course end - with graduation, or does it include her working as a doctor? The Spirit spoke to me that Zion would be made the more glorious by mothers working as nurses, teachers, doctors, and even Relief Society presidents! They all spend time outside their homes, and the benefit is not just to self, but to community. We were blessed in that I could go to work early and return home early and Sally could go to treat patients in the evening whilst I took over the supper and evening parental duties, thus enabling Sally to spend as much time as possible as a mother whilst also serving as a doctor.


I emphasize that a mother is in no way a second-class citizen! She is helping to prepare leaders for the future of community, country, and Zion. She is performing great and noble work that includes accounting, crafts, catering, health-care, and so much more! A mother with good education will be so much more competent in rearing those leaders of the future.

One very important thing that I realised is that there is a big difference between a mother working for minimum wage and one with qualifications that enable her to earn as much in two or three hours in a week and stay at home for most of the time!

However, we continued to advise others to invest in their children rather than in fancy clothes, cars, homes, or anything else. We listed things like the following that are costs that have to be balanced against the benefits of working.

  • Tithing

  • Tax

  • Transport

  • Clothing for protection and appearance

  • Health and well-being, often strained by the pressures of working

  • Mental wellness

  • Child care

  • Domestic worker to make up for what the mother is not at home to do

If I find that list I shall add the details that we put together. But the important thing is that if a mother takes away all of these costs from all of the income and will be making R500 profit in the month, is there some way to earn R500 by doing something at home with far less expenses?

Things that one can do at home include sewing, knitting, cooking, gardening, writing, bookkeeping, being a family history consultant, and such like - partly to provide for mothers that are working and not able to do these things for herself and her family! 

The most important thing that I realise is that we are constantly counselled to get a good education. This means that we will earn better in an hour than without that education, we will be better valued and thus more likely to be retained at work, maybe promoted. And we will almost certainly earn far more in an hour than someone who lacks basic skills and knowledge. Education does not necessarily mean university - the world needs competent carpenters, plumbers, mechanics, hairdressers, seamstresses, and so forth.

My mother often said that the world needs street sweepers - but, more importantly, the world needs excellent street sweepers! We should all be striving to be excellent in whatever we do, and increasing education in our chosen field is going to make us more valued and employable. PathwayConnect is a truly valuable way to make ourselves more profitable employees.

My mind always comes back to the command to Adam and Eve to eat their bread by the sweat of their faces, and in the process to be fruitful, multiply and replenish the Earth, to subdue it and have dominion over it. That is so much more than the command to the animals to be fruitful, multiply and fill the earth. We have a greater call - to even make the desert blossom as a rose. This takes effort and expertise - and faith and faithfulness. Let us gain that expertise and put forth that effort and faith so that we will multiply our talents and warrant the commendation of the Creator of all that we have, even 'Well done, thou good and faithful servant.' May we be able to hand over to Him wonderful fruits so that we, as a fruitful bough that is dependent on the vine can add glory to the vine by all of the fruits that we produce.