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Open Letter to President Ramaphosa on climate change

Significant letter on climate change from a South African civil society coalition:

23 October 2018

Open Letter to President Ramaphonsa

Demand for an emergency sitting of Parliament to deliberate on the recently issued UN report on 1.5℃ increase in planetary temperature and its implications for South African climate change policy

The Cooperative and Policy Alternative Center, through and with alliance partners in the South African Food Sovereignty Campaign (http://www.safsc.org.za), has been linking the climate crisis and right to food since 2014. We have made efforts to educate the public about the connection between hunger, the drought and price increases in a corporate controlled food system. Our hunger tribunal together with the Human Rights Commission in 2015, food sovereignty festival and activist schools were all about this. Similarly, in 2016 we attempted to make the link between the drought, water inequality and the need for a food sovereignty system. This we did through our drought speak outs, bread march and coal filled coffin left outside the Gupta compound. Through our Peoples’ Parliament we also adopted a Peoples’ Food Sovereignty Act for South Africa. The latter was handed over to seven government departments and to parliament earlier this year when we also launched a water and climate justice charter process for the country at a Peoples Dialogue on the Water Crisis in Cape Town. Out of nine portfolio committees invited to this dialogue only one person, the Chairperson of the Water Portfolio Committee, attended. Our activism has confirmed a lack of responsiveness and leadership from the South African government regarding the drought and climate change. There is a total disregard for the disproportionate impacts of the drought, as a climate shock, on the unemployed, the working class and the rural and urban poor. This is a crisis of leadership and does not bode well for a climate driven South Africa in which we will be having more extreme weather including droughts, heat waves, floods, wild fires and sea level rise.

The recent UN report (http://www.ipcc.ch/report/sr15/) on Global Warming of 1.5°C draws attention to the rapidly changing science on global climate change. It also underlines the imperative of bringing down carbon emissions to prevent catastrophic climate change through a 1.5°C overshoot. The report is clear that we are running out of time and decisive leadership is needed over the next 12 years to prevent such a dangerous shift in the Earth’s climate. We believe this report needs to be deliberated through an emergency sitting of parliament as it impacts on the future of all human and non-human life forms in South Africa and on the planet. This is a matter of national interest for all present and future generations and we would like you to consider this demand.

We also believe this parliamentary sitting must consider the implications of the UN report for ensuring South Africa is placed on a climate emergency footing through the following:
· Adjusting its peak, plateau and decline scenarios, which are out of step with the current science on a 1.5°C increase. Drastic reductions in carbon emissions are required now;
· Adjusting the Integrated Resource Plan by removing the ceiling on renewable energy to enable an accelerated shift to socially owned renewable energy;
· Amending the Climate Bill to ensure people driven sustainable development planning is enabled;
· Going beyond government’s ‘death spiral’ of ESKOM approach to restructuring ESKOM to protect the interests of workers while prioritising an end to the climate driven ‘death spiral of society’ through advancing the deep just transition;
· Immediately ending all new investment in coal mining and fracking;
· Scrapping the existing National Development Plan and developing, in a bottom up manner, a Climate Emergency Plan for South Africa as part of the deep just transition to advance the water, food, energy, production, consumption, transport, financial and health systems that will sustain life.

Your predecessor Jacob Zuma, turned his back on Africa, which has and will continue to be hardest hit by climate shocks. Instead he bought into Obama’s stillborn ‘pledge and review mechanism’ entrenched in the Paris Climate Agreement which has not worked. The US, under Trump, has undermined this climate regime through promoting increasing eco-cidal carbon extraction and currently according to the International Energy Agency carbon use and emissions are still accelerating (https://www.euractiv.com/…/bad-news-and-despair-global-car…/). We need a new way forward that affirms climate justice, generational justice and the future of non-human life forms. In the spirit of Nelson Mandela and radical non-racialism, South Africa needs to display climate justice leadership that can unite every human being to face the difficult challenges of climate change.

Having a parliamentary debate on the UN report on Global Warming of 1.5° C also enables similar engagements to happen at provincial government, local government and ward committee level. The failure to act on our demand unfortunately will leave us with the conclusion that your government is either in climate denial or captured by fossil fuel interests or irrational about the current science of climate change. We look forward to your response.

Endorsed by the following organisations:

Children’s Resource Center
WoMin: WoMin African Gender and Extractives Alliance
GroundWork
Friends of the Earth, SA.
Unemployed People’s Movement
Young Women’s Forum
Sustainable Innovations Africa
African Center for Biodiversity
Alternative Information and Development Centre
Media Monitoring Africa
Itumeleng Youth project
Batlhabine Foundation
Ntinga Ntaba kaNdoda
Wits Inala Forum for Climate Justice and Food Sovereignty
Natural Justice
African Climate Reality Project
Earthrise
Earthlife Africa, Johannesburg
Vaal Environmental Justice Alliance
Active Citizens Movement, Pietermaritzburg
West Coast Food Sovereignty and Solidarity Forum
GreenHouse Project
PHA Food and Farming Campaign
African Earth Rights
Ecobrick Deep South
Support Centre for Land Change
Karoo Environmental Justice Movement
Consumer Action Network
Inspire Elsies
The Land Rights Organisation of South Africa
The Association for Water and Rural Development
SEED
Gender CC Southern Africa- Women For Climate Justice
Landless Peoples Movement South Africa
Biowatch South Africa
Project 90 by 2030
Noordhoek Environmental Action Group
South Durban Community Environmental Alliance
Environmental Monitoring Group
Sustaining the Wild Coast (SWC)
South African Faith Communities Environmental Initiative (SAFCEI)
Midrand Solidarity Economy Education and Communication Cooperative (MSEECC)
Global Environmental Trust (GET)
EarthLore Foundation
Save Our Imfolozi Wilderness
Mfolozi Community Environmental Justice Organisation
Youens Attorneys
Mining Affected Communities United in Action
Southern Africa Green Revolutionary Council
Assembly of the Unemployed South Africa
Middleburg Environmental Justice Network

For further information, contact:

Dr. Vishwas Satgar, COPAC Board Chairperson/ SAFSC Alliance Partner, 082 775 3420
Ferrial Adam, COPAC /SAFSC Alliance Partner, 074 181 3197
Itumeleng Mogatsui, GreenHouse Project / SAFSC Alliance Partner, 073 601 7078

2018 academic year ends with a flourish!

Last week was the Research Workshop and Colloquium – my favorite week in the year! The first three days is about preparing those exiting our course-work Postgraduate Diploma in Sustainable Development (PgDip-SD) for entry into the Mphil in SD, which is about writing a research-based thesis. This transition is a big deal because it means moving from a very structured learning environment that locks students into an institutionally managed learning process, to a self-managed learning environment where students have to be self-directed and more self-motivated. We introduce them to various research methodologies (grounded theory, qualitative and quantitative methods, literature reviews, etc), including our own brand of ‘transdisciplinary’ transformative research. They then ‘pitch’ their proposals to the group and an academic panel, and receive on-the-spot feedback. For most, this is very challenging. Based on this feedback they must write up their detailed research proposals for admission into the Mphil. Then during the last 2 days (Thursday and Friday) those who have completed their Mphil research projects do formal ‘conference style’ presentations for 20-30 mins followed by discussion and comments from supervisors. The purpose is to expose those starting their research journeys to those who have finished. This peer-to-peer learning is far more effective than formal presentations on methodologies by academic staff. Those who have completed are able to reveal how different the end product is from the original proposal, the agonies and ecstasies of field work, and the huge challenge aligning theory, methodology, methods and empirical findings. Supervisors are then given a chance to reflect on the progress on made by the student, and the significance of the research. Those academic staff who have heard these presentations each year were particularly impressed by the high quality of the research output this year, and the effective presentations. The complete research that was presented included the following:

Siraj Jardine: Exploring the role of music in fostering resilience in transformative space toward improved ecosystem stewardship: a case study of teh Reforest Fest

Erich Rickens: A critical analysis of the discursive strategies for circulating climate change denial

Sharne Bloem: Assessing the sustainable infrastructure of a low carbon community: case study of the Lynedoch ecovillage

Sonya Samson: Exploring the role of visuals in sensemaking and sensegiving: a study of the Sustainable Development Goals in corporate South Africa

Therezah Achieng (from Kenya): Investigating land use change in the Eastern Cape as a regime shift

Ray Swilling: Exploring the Sino-Africa Relationship: Investigating Chinese investment and governance regimes in the context of oil discoveries in Uganda’s Albertine Rift System [And yes, he is my son – and I’m such a proud father]

Kyle Swartz: Addressing community energy challenges with utility-scale renewables: a case study of the Hopefield Wind Farm

Adele Strydom: Understanding household energy metabolism in the city of Cape Town

Mersha Zeleke (from Ethiopia): The role of traditional ecological governance systems and legal protection of Sacred Natural Sites (SNS) to enhance community wellbeing and resilience in Bale, Ethiopia

Robyn Foley: Exploring the intersects of State Capture, Neopatrimonialism, and the Fourth Industrial Revolution: A case study of the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA-Gate) Crisis.

All the above will be deposited in Stellenbosch University thesis repository called SunScholar after they have been fully evaluated. They can all be found via the SunScholar site by latest February 2019.

 

 

First day back at work….

Coming to the end of my first proper back at work after my long sabbatical. So amazing to back in the space of the Sustainability Institute, and tomorrow I’ll return to the CST (Centre for Complex Systems in Transition) to see if I still have a desk. Just finished going through the applications for the 2019 intake into our Masters programme – really amazing people applying, with many more from African countries, which is really great. As usual, the majority of the applications are from women, and most black women. Not sure how to explain this demographic. Buried below a mudslide of academic admin, the beautiful memory of my near-completed book is receding – so worried about that!

Last days at Yale 🙁 …I need more time!

I have been at Yale since mid-March (except for a month of teaching in August back in Stellenbosch). My aim was to write a book called Just Transitions in a Complex World: Reflections of an Enraged Incrementalist. I have just completed Chapter 8 – two more chapters to go! As always happens when it comes to writing, what emerges is not what was intended at the start. But I am far happier with what is emerging. Last week Routledge let me know they are very keen to publish it – this was because the draft chapters got rave reviews from three reviewers. This was such a boost. One of them wrote: “The breadth of scholarship, the depth of thought, experience and insight is impressive, extraordinary and awe-inspiring. It is also an example of the way the activist and academic modes of learning may work together, a challenge of which the relevance of social and environmental research depends. Integrative studies such as this book that are capable of opening up different kinds of research questions are essential for future developments.” Chapter 8, just completed, is an overview of the renewable energy revolution underway, counterposing the top-down corporate model with the bottom-up cooperative model that drove the renewable transitions in the so-called ‘frontrunner’ countries – Denmark and Germany. By 2000 80% of all wind energy in Denmark was owned by cooperatives and nearly 50% of ALL renewable energy in Germany was owned by cooperatives by 2012. Amazing how cooperatives have driven the innovations that the world now depends on to decarbonize!

Last few weeks at Yale! … I need more time

I have been at Yale since mid-March (except for a month of teaching in August back in Stellenbosch). My aim was to write a book called Just Transitions in a Complex World: Reflections of an Enraged Incrementalist. I have just completed Chapter 8 – two more chapters to go! As always happens when it comes to writing, what emerges is not what was intended at the start. But I am far happier with what is emerging. Last week Routledge let me know they are very keen to publish it – this was because the draft chapters got rave reviews from three reviewers. This was such a boost. One of them wrote: “The breadth of scholarship, the depth of thought, experience and insight is impressive, extraordinary and awe-inspiring. It is also an example of the way the activist and academic modes of learning may work together, a challenge of which the relevance of social and environmental research depends. Integrative studies such as this book that are capable of opening up different kinds of research questions are essential for future developments.” Chapter 8, just completed, is an overview of the renewable energy revolution underway, counterposing the top-down corporate model with the bottom-up cooperative model that drove the renewable transitions in the so-called ‘frontrunner’ countries – Denmark and Germany. By 2000 80% of all wind energy in Denmark was owned by cooperatives and nearly 50% of ALL renewable energy in Germany was owned by cooperatives by 2012. Amazing how cooperatives have driven the innovations that the world now depends on to decarbonize!

Interviewed by Karima Brown on 702 about Zondo Commission

A little weird sitting here in a bubble called Yale University, on the East Coast of the USA, waiting to be interviewed by Karima Brown about the Zondo Commission. Last night I read the Preface of my book Shadow State to a friend here in the USA who knows nothing about SA politics. It was an uncanny experience, because Americans are experiencing the same bizarre surreal political reality we experienced under Zuma. Populist leaders who suffer from serious delusions of grandeur coupled to an extra-ordinary capacity to self-justify by completely discrediting hard facts seem to be flourishing the world over. We should be proud to have the Zondo Commission because all the evidence is in the public domain. Here they have Special Prosecutor Mueller who is mounting an investigation that clearly implicates the President, but nothing is the public domain. These are serious bizarre times, and they are not simply aberrations. At the core of the rise of populist authoritarianism is the defense of an outdated energy system, whether this is fossil fuel based or nuclear. As the power bases of business empires erode as the real costs of oil and coal rise, renewables are getting cheaper and increasingly easy to set up.  Zuma was about defending the nuclear deal with the Russians; Trump is about defending the oil and coal industries. One of the first things Minister of Energy Jeff Radebe did after taking office was sign the outstanding contracts for more renewable energy plants. While Trump acts against renewable energy and the environment, many city and state level governments move in the opposite direction. Dozens of young people horrified by Trump are standing for election in the November mid-terms here in the USA, bringing a new radicalism into the Democratic Party. As the old cliche goes, we live in interesting times.

Reflections on a new teaching experience ….

i’m back at Yale, preparing for more writing time, but cannot help reflecting on an extra-ordinary teaching experience last week. For the first time in two decades I am teaching undergraduates again. I was somewhat nervous, but it has been very very satisfying. I taught a module on our new Diploma in Sustainable Development. The class comprises about 25 young people, just completed high school. The large majority are women and nearly all are black. On the first day I decided to arrive without a course outline. I told them my life story and then asked what they would like to learn from me. I asked them to introduce themselves, and to include a question they bring to the course. I then clustered these questions into themes and these became the themes for the course. We then brainstormed how they would like to learn about all this. One of the themes was sexuality, femininism and masculinity. When the day arrived for this session on sexuality, I asked them to watch two talks overnight before the session – one by the Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Adichie on ‘why we should all be feminists’ and another by a black American male activist called Tony Porter  who organises movements of young men to reinvent what masculinity means. I opened the morning session by asking them to discuss in small groups what struck them about these two talks. The question I asked them to consider was: Is it possible for men to be feminists? Before getting feedback, I then asked them all to get up and stand to one side of the classroom. I then posed a series of questions, asking them to vote with their feet. Although I cant recall exactly what I asked them, they were questions such as: ‘Those who think men can be feminists, move to one side of the classroom and those that don’t, stay where you are – and the undecided, can situate themselves anywhere in-between’. Then I asked: ‘Those who think men hate women, move to one side …. etc’. And so on….. . The ones I recall thinking of: ‘Those who think women are more oppressed and exploited than men…. .’ ‘Those who think it is harder for a women to succeed than men…..’ ‘Those who think that men can actually change so that they are less misogynistic and sexist…..’ ‘Those who think black women face more challenges than white women ….. ‘ ‘Those who think ….. etc’. This worked very well, because for younger people expressing themselves with their bodies and actions is so much more expressive and energising. We then sat down, and got feedback from their group discussions. Although most deviated from the question, there was a generally positive view that men could be feminists. However, underneath, as I pushed harder, it became clear that the men in particular (only 3 of them) did not fully understand what this meant. Nor were the women able to express very clearly what it is about men that they want to see change. There was a lot of talk about how boys are told growing up that they should not express their feelings and what that has done to them as men. As one women put it: ‘men are told they have to be men’, and she said it in a way that made it clear that she did not approve of the outcome. So my question to the class was: ‘Well, if you don’t want them to be brought up to be men, what should they be brought up to be – after all, they are men?’ This is where the talk by Tony Porter was so useful – he provided basic concepts for how to re-invent what it means to be men. With this discussion as background, I then read out from a text a summary of all the global statistics that reflect the extent of patriarchal oppression and how embedded we are in a misogynistic culture: not only the usual economic numbers about unpaid work, wage differentials, etc, but also how often rapists are known to the women who get raped, how widespread and under-reported domestic violence really is, the extent of human trafficking (predominantly women), the difference in sentences meted out to those who beat up boys versus those who beat up girls, etc. Deeply shocking stuff. This sunk deep, and I let the silence hang. I then expressed my overall conclusion: I argued that the most dangerous species ever to walk the earth in 4 billion years of evolution is the heterosexual male. Yes, like all humans of all sexual persuasions and all cultural backgrounds, heterosexual males possess amazing capabilities for imagining the worlds we want to live in and organising ourselves in large numbers – these being the two fundamental features of the species we call homo sapiens. With these capabilities extra-ordinary things have been achieved. However, as we contemplate the distinct possibility that in 50 years life as we know it will no longer be possible because of fundamental geophysical changes instigated by human actions over the past 250 years, and as we contemplate the past and present history of colonial and non-colonial oppression and exploitation of particular categories of humans by other humans, then the one species that stands out as being the most destructive of all is the heterosexual male. He is responsible for the industrial systems that are destroying the planet, and the socio-economic and patriarchal systems that destroy the lives of millions of people. So this raises questions about what do we really know about this heterosexual male. What makes him tick? To open up this discussion I took a risky decision to read them a piece of writing by someone who did an online course on Sacred Masculinity that I did some years ago. I have posted this before on my blog and it can be accessed here. Before reading this out, I prepared them – I said it may be upsetting, and I asked them to consciously shield themselves via a hand movement across their bodies symbolizing the donning of a shield – a gesture we use in the men’s movement when one man has what we call a “charge” with another. I then slowly read the writing entitled Awakening the Sleeping Giant in All Men. This triggered strong reactions, with many saying ‘we know all this, but we never say it’ – one young man who has experienced gang culture was deeply moved, saying this is what men (and I read this to mean heterosexual men) are. Of course, quite a few said these are not just what men feel – women also have these feelings. True, but men have power, women don’t – having power over women, the less powerful and nature, men express their destructiveness in ways others who have less power cannot. But as suggested by the reading, for the heterosexual male – and, indeed, all humans – there is a transformative healing power in the act of loving. We explored this further, but I also made it clear that the issue is not simply a psycho-sociological challenge. It is also a socio-structural challenge because patriarchal and misogynistic power has been institutionalized and now legitimized by a violent pornographic culture that is having a particularly pernicious impact on boys and men in the age of high-speed digital imagery. The culture versus biological debate is, of course, pertinent here – I argued it is not one or the other. When it comes to puberty, boys are hit by a tsunami of testosterone no-one warns them about – in this drug-induced state, they get inserted into a digitized pornographic culture that creates neural pathways in their brains that are often antithetical to what meaningful real-life sexual relations are all about. This is where biology and culture fuse into a deadly cocktail whose implications very few are currently contemplating. This took us into a rich discussion that captivated them. To finish on a hopeful note, though, I read out a poem by the founder of the Mankind Project called The New Macho.

He cleans up after himself.
He cleans up the planet.
He is a role model for young men.
He is rigorously honest and fiercely optimistic.

He holds himself accountable.
He knows what he feels.
He knows how to cry and he lets it go.
He knows how to rage without hurting others.
He knows how to fear and how to keep moving.
He seeks self-mastery.

He’s let go of childish shame.
He feels guilty when he’s done something wrong.
He is kind to men, kind to women, kind to children.
He teaches others how to be kind.
He says he’s sorry.

He stopped blaming women or his parents or men for his pain years ago.
He stopped letting his defenses ruin his relationships.
He stopped letting his penis run his life.
He has enough self respect to tell the truth.
He creates intimacy and trust with his actions.
He has men that he trusts and that he turns to for support.
He knows how to roll with it.
He knows how to make it happen.
He is disciplined when he needs to be.
He is flexible when he needs to be.
He knows how to listen from the core of his being.

He’s not afraid to get dirty.
He’s ready to confront his own limitations.
He has high expectations for himself and for those he connects with.
He looks for ways to serve others.
He knows he is an individual.
He knows that we are all one.
He knows he is an animal and a part of nature.
He knows his spirit and his connection to something greater.

He knows future generations are watching his actions.
He builds communities where people are respected and valued.
He takes responsibility for himself.
In times of need, he will be his brother’s keeper.

He knows his higher purpose.
He loves with fierceness.
He laughs with abandon, because he gets the joke.

 

Canadian visa not ready, so not going to ICLEI World Congress to present the Weight of Cities report

Travelled to New York this morning to collect my visa from the Canadian embassy. It was not ready, and so could’nt catch my flight this afternoon. Would have loved to attend the ICLEI World Congress to present the Weight of Cities report, and get some good feedback from people who run cities. So back in the Yale library now – happily writing away, and escaping the incredible heat outside!

Charles Eisenstein at the Garrison Institute

I will be attending a 3 day workshop on The Space Between Stories run by Charles Eisenstein at the Garrison Institute, outside New York, from Friday. So looking forward. Herewith the link if you are interested – there are still some spaces left! For the link click HERE

 

 

The Sustainability Institute continues to fly higher and higher

The Sustainability Institute has issued an annual report for 2017 (see link below) that gives an account of the amazing work that it does, and has done for nearly 20 years now. This is such an achievement in a world that regards innovation as the primary goal of change. Maybe there is a place for some things to just be repeated and repeated because what is achieved is so utterly remarkable and transformational.

Link: Year in Review 2017