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Mahlatse Mapheto

2019 intern

For Mahlatse Mapheto, the link between people and nature has inspired her to explore how differences between our various cultures could be used to steer the future of our planet in a positive direction.
With a Bachelor of Arts degree in Geography, Environmental Studies and Archaeology and an Honours degree in Geographical and Environmental Sciences from the University of Pretoria, Mahlatse has been placed with WWF’s Table Mountain Fund as an Environmental Science intern.
Mahlatse shares some of her experience so far:
What motivated your career choice?
I grew up in a township with very little vegetation but my father loved nature. I spent a lot of time camping and fishing with him and that moulded how I view and value the natural environment. It did not come as a surprise to my parents when I told them that I wanted to study Geology or Geography after I finished high school.
Humanity and the natural world do not exist in isolation and should not be treated as such. I feel privileged to have been exposed to this dynamic at a very young age because it motivated me to pursue a career that explores this interconnectedness.
What do you hope to gain from the internship?
When I initially started the internship, I had no practical experience. I had excelled in theory but never had the opportunity to apply my knowledge in a real world setting. My placement has helped me to dive into my interests and find a place for myself in the environmental sector.
This opportunity has given me the chance to grow, both personally and professionally.
What excites you the most about the internship?
I am working in an environment that allows me to input into decision-making that affects the lives of many people. I get excited every time I go on a site visit and get to see how much our work has changed people’s lives. I think that is something I will carry with me for the rest of my life.
What do you think is the biggest environmental issue the world is facing right now?
The unsustainable use of natural resources is our biggest challenge. The global population is exhausting these resources in an attempt to meet the needs of the current generation, without thought for future needs.

Development is necessary for the socio-economic advancement of a country but development should occur in a manner that conserves our natural resources for future generations.
What contribution do you wish to make to the well-being of people and nature?
The work I am doing aims to achieve social inclusivity and economic growth, which is an opportunity to mould my approach to sustainable development. I would like to use this approach to create awareness and bring about change in our country.
If you had a chance to change one thing in the world, what would it be?
The uneven distribution of resources is something I would change. The problem is not that there are not enough resources but, rather, how these resources are distributed.          
Who do you admire the most and why?
I admire my sustainable development lecturer from the University of Pretoria, Dr Nerhene Davis. I always had a passion for Environmental Studies and Geography but she introduced me to the social aspect of this field. This has been the catalyst for my interest in the relationship between environment, society and sustainability.
What role do you think your generation could play in creating a better world for all?
We are young Africans pushing boundaries and leading the way for the next generation. Our generation has been seated in positions our parents were not able to occupy and we have the opportunity to use this privilege to push our country toward where it needs to be.

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