School of Engineering


Mr Skhumbuzo Mhlongo was inspired to write poetry after experiencing the KZN floods.

Floods Inspire Environmental Champion to Pen Poetry

Mr Skhumuzo Mhlongo, an MSc student in Waste and Climate Change on UKZN’s Howard College campus under the supervision of Professor Cristina Trois, has turned to poetry to raise awareness of people’s impact on climate change.

A novice in the art of writing poetry, Mhlongo was inspired to pen his first poem after experiencing the devastating floods that wrought havoc in KwaZulu-Natal earlier this year. ‘I felt a burning desire to warn people about our negative impact on the environment,’ he said.

Mhlongo has always been interested in environmental issues. ‘I grew up in Folweni Township in Durban and attended Sobonakhona High School where I was a class representative and head boy,’ he said. ‘During my school days I would ask all the class reps to lead by example and join me in cleaning up the school. I also often gathered a group of young children to join me in cleaning up the streets, a community hall and a church near where I lived.’

‘Now, thanks to Professor Trois who is leading this amazing MSc coursework in Waste and Climate Change, I am able to contribute and give back to people in different ways.’

Mhlongo is currently leading a waste management community engagement project at Mangosuthu University of Technology and will be visiting schools to educate learners about the importance of proper waste disposal.

‘Going forward I am hoping to contribute to reducing illegal dumping in a small area of Lower Illovo and a small area in uMgababa – two pilot projects I will be involved in.’

He hopes his debut poem will raise awareness of the importance of acting against climate change.

Like warm plastics

A new culture of cleanliness
A new behavior of cleanliness
We are clean, our environment is clean not
Our environment has warned us
Our environment is full of full warm bins

Our fishes are feeding on warm, melting plastic-like waste
The sea ice is melting, seas are filling up, the landfills are filling up
It’s celebration time, foolishness & happiness in the air
Like sea level, our full balloons are rising to the warm heavens
Like glacier, our empty balloons are descending into warm oceans

Our fishes are feeding on plastic soup
We are feeding on fish, tastes more like plastic soup
We don’t get full, are you still hungry?
I waste and dump into a full dumpsite, not in my back yard
I throw my waste through my dolphin’s window, through taxi window

Through the window I see the floods sweeping
Through the same window I see the winds sweeping
Government will tax my cold pocket and sweep by the window
Yet the tortoises are choking, the seabirds are choking
Like this poem, the polar bears are warming up

Extinction is nearer
The museum is near the future generations
Like that dolphin in a fishing net, my garbage is trapped in a stormwater drain
Like that window by the riverbank, we are trapped in floods traffic

The economy is trapped, cold, frozen like our bank accounts
We are trapped, thirsty and warming up
We drink from our warm rivers, tastes more like plastic soup
I said we are warming the planet!!!
We are full of plastics

by Skhumbuzo Mhlongo (copyright)

Words: Sally Frost

Photograph: Supplied