Slow Violence: Veld fires

The following blog post will focus on how veld fires can be seen as ‘slow violence’ as well as the consequences and effects of it by referring to Rob Nixon’s theories as seen in Slow violence and the environmentalism of the poor.

According to Rob Nixon violence is viewed as an immediate action whereas slow violence is something that occurs over a long period of time, out of sight, a delayed form of destruction, which is not typically viewed as violence at all (Nixon 2011:2). The question is, how can we only see the destruction of man-made things as violence but destruction against nature, like pollution or veld fires, are not considered as violence at all?

While an invasion with weapons of mass destruction is not tolerated, the export of garbage and toxic waste from rich-nations is overlooked, even though it causes the same amount of damage over a longer time period.We live in an age where the media glorifies violence, but only the kind that boosts ratings on the television. Unfortunately, long-term disasters of slow violence is not dramatic enough to rouse public attention or intervention (Nixon 2011: 1-3). 


Veld fire, Port Elizabeth 2015. Jbay News.

Veld fires is commonly not considered as violence, as it has a positive role in the vegetation structure and helps recycle nutrients contained in dead trees, but the frequency and extent of these fires caused by human actions are a concern. Statistics show that 90% of veld fires are caused by human intervention, while only 10% are caused by natural occurences (Veld and forest fires 2016). There are several human actions that causes veld fires, like the reckless disposal of lit cigarette stubs, the smoking out of bees for honey harvesting, land clearing and even arson (intentionally setting fire to cause damage) (Dangers of veld fires 2013).


Veld fire, Capetown 2015. Masa Kekana.

Fire is source of light, it brings warmth and comfort, it is a form of life but destroys others. Man-made veld fires can be seen as slow violence because of how it is overlooked as a form of destruction against the ecosystem and wildlife. Veld fires cause wild life to flee from their natural habitat, some escape while others perish, either from being roadkill or from burning to death (Indrajith 2015)


Tortoise perished in fire, Cape Town 2015. Darsha Indrajith.

Veld fires have extreme long-term effects as it reduces land cover, changes the hydrological cycle, destroys plantations and crops, increases soil erosion and overland flow in various ecological processes (Dangers of veld fires 2013). “Soil erosion leads to the siltation of rivers and dams, thus reducing their water carrying capacity. This is likely to induce floods in low-lying areas.” (Dangers of veld fires 2013).


The aftermath of a veld fire which destroyed all vegetation and where soil erosion is clearly visible. Port Elizabeth, 2013.  Tiaan pool.

The blog post discussed  how veld fires can be seen as slow violence as well as the consequences and effects of it by referring to Rob Nixon’s theories on slow violence.



Arrive alive. 2016. Veld and forest fires. [O]. Available:                                                                                        Accessed 23/04/2016.

Indrajith, D. 2015. Animals affected by Cape Town fire.[O]. Available:                          Accessed 23/04/2016.

Jbay News. 2015. Veld fires are a danger for all of us. [O]. Available:                             Accessed 23/04/2016.

Kekana, M. 2015. Firefighters battles two Cape Town blazes.[O]. Available:                         Accessed 23/04/2016.

Nixon, R. 2011. Slow violence and the environmentalism of the poor. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Pool, T. 2013. Higher Certificate in Veldfire Management to fill gap in the market. [O]. Available:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Accessed 23/04/2016.


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