The environment is constantly in flux, with change driven by a variety of factors that influence and direct it in many ways – affecting the quality of our water and air resources, for instance, or the productivity of land. These factors, or ‘drivers’, arise mainly from a country’s socio-economic activities. When combined with changes in the condition of the natural environment, these drivers can and do have significant impact on the health and functioning of that environment, which, in turn, affects people’s quality of life and their ability to survive.
Several levels of drivers affect South Africa’s environment. This report is based on the view that the drivers are the macro-level processes and activities that influence the environment for good or ill. For instance, commercial and industrial development can pollute water and air through its waste products, but it can also contribute to raising people’s standard of living. Better living standards can, in turn, bring about improvement in the quality of natural resources, provided society chooses to fund the protection of the environment.
Many drivers combine to affect the various receiving environments, but the influence that each exerts can differ widely. International drivers include globalization, global governance, and multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs), for example, while national drivers include population growth, economic development, governance within the country, and science and technology.