Blog

Returning from Georgetown

Well, the moment has come to return home. At the airport in Washington DC. Arriving in Johannesburg tomorrow night after a stop over in Newark. Weekend in Pretoria and home to Stellies and the mountains – that’s what I missed most – that amazing view of the Helderberg from my couch. It’s been three months at Georgetown University in D.C., based at the newly established Environmental Justice Programme (EJP) headed up by my good friend Prof Gäel Giraud. He and I crafted the original ideas and with an amazingl young interdisciplinary team of modellers and social scientists, we have crafted the vision and 5 year strategy over the past three months. Gäel and I also spent many many hours in Georgetown’s coffee shops and restaurants sharing and building ideas for a new book that should in my view simply be called ‘HOW?’ – Lenin’s famous pamphlet was ‘What is to be done?’ … that is no longer the question: now it’s ‘How should it be done?’ What amazes us both is how little is said about the HOW of change. We want to fuse together thermodynamics, heterodox economics, relational governance, institutional work, transition thinking and the commons. We want to answer the question: Why does so little change when we know so much about why we have no future if nothing fundamental changes? We want to thread together long histories of material resource flows, economic development and the commons. If neoliberalism was an economic paradigm that was coupled to a particular theory of goverrnance, what theory of governance is appropriate for a heterodox economics of the global dynamics of the just transition? Gäel brings his superb non-equilibrium integrated economy-climate modeling skills and I bring the institutional knowledge about governance, process and space. It’s a rare privilege to find an intellectual soul mate – we have the same values and world view, but very different knowledge sets and writing traditions. On economic matters there is so much I can sense, but it would take a decade to master the relevant literature! Gäel has it all at his fingertips, including a technical grasp of the maths involved. And vice versa, he tells me. And so when we talk, there are almost no limits to the landscapes we traverse. Long lists of readings to be done emerge, as well as notes, diagrams and doodles that capture an ever-evolving and expanding intellectual landscape. Truly exciting. Can’t wait until we start getting into the real writing!! But for now, it’s back to African soil and my mountains.Well, the moment has come to return home. At the airport in Washington DC. Arriving in Johannesburg tomorrow night after a stop over in Newark. Weekend in Pretoria and home to Stellies and the mountains – that’s what I missed most – that amazing view of the Helderberg from my couch. It’s been three months at Georgetown University in D.C., based at the newly established Environmental Justice Programme (EJP) headed up by my good friend Prof Gäel Giraud. He and I crafted the original ideas and with an amazingl young interdisciplinary team of modellers and social scientists, we have crafted the vision and 5 year strategy over the past three months. Gäel and I also spent many many hours in Georgetown’s coffee shops and restaurants sharing and building ideas for a new book that should in my view simply be called ‘HOW?’ – Lenin’s famous pamphlet was ‘What is to be done?’ … that is no longer the question: now it’s ‘How should it be done?’ What amazes us both is how little is said about the HOW of change. We want to fuse together thermodynamics, heterodox economics, relational governance, institutional work, transition thinking and the commons. We want to answer the question: Why does so little change when we know so much about why we have no future if nothing fundamental changes? We want to thread together long histories of material resource flows, economic development and the commons. If neoliberalism was an economic paradigm that was coupled to a particular theory of goverrnance, what theory of governance is appropriate for a heterodox economics of the global dynamics of the just transition? Gäel brings his superb non-equilibrium integrated economy-climate modeling skills and I bring the institutional knowledge about governance, process and space. It’s a rare privilege to find an intellectual soul mate – we have the same values and world view, but very different knowledge sets and writing traditions. On economic matters there is so much I can sense, but it would take a decade to master the relevant literature! Gäel has it all at his fingertips, including a technical grasp of the maths involved. And vice versa, he tells me. And so when we talk, there are almost no limits to the landscapes we traverse. Long lists of readings to be done emerge, as well as notes, diagrams and doodles that capture an ever-evolving and expanding intellectual landscape. Truly exciting. Can’t wait until we start getting into the real writing!! But for now, it’s back to African soil and my mountains.

Mantashes takes us forward in reverse

On the same day that the International Energy Agency publishes a report on how to achieve Net Zero by not building anymore fossil fuel plants, our ‘coal fundamentalist’ Minister Gwede Mantashe gives a speech in Parliament where he says: “We are going to be a major players in gas and oil”. Since 1994 Government has had these extremely expensive hobby horses that are arrogantly asserted coupled to denials – think arms deal, Fifa, pebble bed modular reactor, and then all denials about the criminal capture of Eskom, DENEL, Transnet, Prasa, etc, and this insane quixotic rush to become an oil and gas leader in a world moving off oil and gas. What alternative universe is the Minister in? Who benefits from this? What are the vested interests?

Accelerating the Transition to a Sustainable Ocean Economy

Launch of Ocean Panel Blue Paper during World Ocean Week (co-lead authors Mark Swilling and Tanya Brodie Rudolph of CST with Mary Ruckelshaus, Stanford University): “Accelerating the Transition to a Sustainable Ocean Economy”

The COVID-19 crisis has brought into sharp focus the interconnected nature of people and the environment. This is particularly true of the ocean, which is integral to human well-being and a thriving world economy.  As multiple stressors threaten the ocean, shifts in governance are needed to ensure the continued contribution of the ocean to people. The Ocean Panel (High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy), an initiative of 14 serving world leaders, commissioned a series of Blue Papers to build momentum towards a sustainable ocean economy.  Blue Paper 14 – “The Ocean Transition: What to Learn from System Transitions” – will be launched on Friday 12 June 2020 at an event which concludes two weeks of global dialogues and debates with the ocean community.

Dr Mary Ruckelshaus, co-lead author (Natural Capital Project, Senior Research Scientist, Stanford University) will participate in a panel discussion presenting the key insights from this paper together with Dr. Andrew Steer, President and CEO, World Resources Institute, H.E. Mr. Peter Thomson, UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Ocean, Mr. Vidar Helgesen, Norway’s Special Envoy for the Ocean, Sherpa to Prime Minister Erna Solberg, H.E. Ms. Ngedikes Olai Uludong, Permanent Representative of Palau to the UN, Sherpa to President Remengesau Jr,  and Hon. Jane Lubchenco, PhD., Oregon State University, Co-chair Ocean Panel Expert Group.

Join the event by registering on https://wri.zoom.us/webinar/register/tJMpf-CurDopH9d4PJb8s7nzyDkUGB7IyneN/success?user_id=CO7Z6HFHSo63_t6aSkrKiQ&timezone_id=America%2FNew_York

Latest research from our Mphil students….

Every November we have a research colloquium where students who have completed their Mphil theses present a summary of their research. Although I have procrastinated in posting this, herewith the list of topics of the research presented last November:

Fundi Cwele: Towards an Inclusive and Green Growth Path: A Review of the South African National Development Plan’s Approach to Economic Growth

Louise Jones: Corporate Social Responsibility and Social Justice Advocacy: An exploration of factors which impact corporate South Africa’s engagement

Brett Rightford: Exploring hemp farming as a sustainable agriculture in South Africa, using a social-ecological systems approach

Kelly Scott: Exploring the role of storytelling in environmental communication: A study of a documentary campaign aimed at South African millenials

Beryl Visser: Women entrepreneurship development in South Africa: towards transformative innovation

Ann Gacheri Kaimenyi: A differential urban food metabolism of Cape Town households

Lerato Mahamo: A qualitative analysis of household food insecurity in urban and rural households in Maseru

Nontsikelelo Mngqibisa: Assessment of Collaborative Mechanisms for Planning Processes in building Resilient Cities: Case studies of Blantyre and Harare

Mosili Liphoto: Exploring the impact of Lesotho Highlands Water Project compensation plan on the livelihoods of resettled communities

Elena Mancebo Masa: Enabling complexity thinking in urban regeneration in Cape Town

Michelle Cruywagen: Exploring the usefulness of Just Transition strategies in mitigating the risk of labour losses in South Africa’s energy transition

Andy Muranda: Investigating the Global Renewable Energy Revolution: Waves, Cycles and Transitions

Andrew Murray: The blockchain-energy Nexus

 

On my way home…..

On my way home after an incredibly successful trip. Georgetown University (Washington DC) has decided to establish a Centre for Environmental Justice and opened the discussion about how I can be involved in some way, working with an amazingly wide group of academics from many disciplines who are part of the Georgetown Environmental Initiative led by the ecologist Peter Marra. Then spent two days in London with my son Ray, and had an excellent discussion with Jeremy Oppenheim who heads up the international consulting firm SystemIQ – I’ve been appointed a Senior Advisor with a Brief to explore establishing a Cape Town office. And then overnight in Amsterdam with my good friend and colleague Maarten Hajer from Utrecht University. We celebrated winning a 1.5 million euro grant from the VW Foundation to Fund four years of research on inequality and the energy transition. And yet, heading home in a world gone mad: Trump impeached, Boris leading the lemmings into cultural oblivion, Australia on fire, locust plagues in Somalia, famine stalking the land across many regions, misogyny on the rise and young people clamoring for answers who get mocked and attacked by police in the streets. We do what we can so our children live in a world they deserve. 2020 is when I hand over to the next generation and reach out to work with others across the globe. Challenging, but exciting times.