From FB post dated 18 May:
Yho, two weeks of extra-ordinary interactions, learnings, debates and explorations – and now parking off in a French Chateau just south of Paris which is the home-base of a new initiative called the Transition Campus – a new Sustainability Institute-cum-Schumacher College type experiment by an amazing group of progressive academics, activists, nuns and Jesuits! But before I say more about that as I gaze out onto the lush green French countryside, let me share the lead up to this. This two week helter-skelter of amazing interactions started Monday before last – 6th May. That was the first day of the Design for Transformation course that was run and facilitated this year by Dr. Keneilwe Munyai. Keneilwe’s speciality is ‘design thinking’ and she ran this week-long module (that is part of our Masters Programme) as a facilitated process of self-learning and co-creation. The class was covered in bright colourful post-its. Each group had to work on how to set up entrepreneurship hubs that really work! The next day I was in Johannesburg talking at a morning workshop on the Just Transition co-hosted by EE Publications (Chris Yelland) and Nedbank. I shared the platform with Zwelenzima Vavi and Mike Levington. Great discussion – I floated our ideas about municipal ownership of renewable energy IPPs. When the panel was asked what is the single biggest obstacle to a just transition, I replied it was the belief that ESKOM could be saved (note: I said belief because that is the problem – the problem is not that it cant be saved, because its death-spiral is in fact unstoppable: the end result of believing it is stoppable is an IMF bailout). And then on Friday 10th the CST hosted an all-day workshop on complexity theory with keynote talks by renowned complexity economics guru Brian Arthur, complexity theorist of organizational and cultural change Jean Bolton, systems biologist Jannie Hofmeyr and myself. I’ll post my talk, but I tried to share my thoughts on Ukama (Sub-Saharan African philosophy of relatedness) and how the recent Western post-humanist turn is about the west catching up with long traditions of African thinking. On Monday 13th I was back at the Sustainability Institute to support Megan Davies start the Renewable Energy Policy module – this was her first-ever module that she has designed and coordinated on her own (and yet another graduate who has morphed into a great teacher, following the likes of Jess Schulschenk, Josephine Musango and Candice Kelly!). With 60 students, including many engineers, it has been a great success! (Well done Megan!). The next day (Tues 14th), I found myself at the 19th African Utility Week conference at CTICC. ESKOM CEO Phakamani Hadebe and Minister of Energy Jeff Radebe were opening speakers. Hadebe was brutally honest, especially when speaking off script. He simply said if you want more coal mines, no-one will fund them! (Anyone in the ANC listening to him?) Hence, he said, the transition to renewables is inevitable and necessary. Radebe sang a different tune – what I would call the ‘diversification blues’, including ‘clean coal’ (that ingenius piece of nonsense invented by the coal lobby!) But at least Radebe reiterated his commitment to embedded generation and a new role for municipalities as deliverers of renewable energy! Exciting stuff. I spoke at the next session which was a panel on climate change – to put it mildly, it was a disastrous session that lacked any coherence, with an American from PowerAfrica ending it with a long boast about the great work Americans are doing for Africans (his financial contribution must have had conditions). On Wed 15th I gave a talk on Megan’s course on the global energy revolution which was similar to my Soul Soil and Society talk earlier this year. And that afternoon I caught a flight to Johannesburg to attend a DBSA Board meeting on Thursday. That afternoon I left for Paris. And here I am at the Transition Campus, invited here by my new friend Prof Gael Giraud (CNRS Professor, Chief Economist of the French Develoment Bank [AFD] and Jesuit Priest!) Gael also arranged for me to meet with his colleagues at AFD in my capacity as Chair of the DBSA Board earlier in the day – AFD is a major partner of the DBSA’s, and recently co-funded the CPI Report on South Africa’s ‘stranded assets’ caused by the global decarbonisation processes. I’m on the Scientific Committee of the Transition Campus – an extra-ordinarily exciting endeavour, and I hope to do some teaching here. With 40 rooms and 9 classrooms on a 12 hectare property with its own indigenous forest, this incredible donation from the Catholic Church to this group opens up many opportunities for us to partner with yet another SI-cum-Schumacher College type initiative that seem to mushrooming around the world in response to the demand for an alternative pedagogy that is appropriate for the present polycrisis. The Chair of the Scientific Committee, a Professor, said they have tried to initiate alternatives within French Universities like what we have at Stellenbosch, and they failed. So they have to make it work outside the Universities. This really stunned me. After all, we were sitting in a meeting room in an institution where Jacque Derrida used to teach – the famous Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales! Amazing that even there, alternatives are not possible! Tomorrow I head for Freiburg to meet with a team that Maarten Hajer and I are leading to formulate a research proposal on how the global renewable energy revolution could catalyse a just transition (for submission to the VW Foundation). After Freiburg I head back to Utrecht University to spend time with Maarten and his colleagues, and in mid-June I head to Tunis for discussions about research on democratic governance. So grateful to be living my life to the full – challenging, exhilarating, somewhat exhausting and, I hope, impactful. So grateful.