A broader view of solutions to climate change

BroaderViewClimateSolutions-DavidLePage2017I often worry that most climate change solutions are seen in far too narrow a context; here’s a view on that, in tabular form, that percolated up from my subconsciousness after an early evening slumber. Some of the key insights here come from:

• The wisdom to perceive the interconnectedness of all life and living.
• The courage not to fear or deny difference; but to respect and strive to understand people of different cultures, and to grow from encounters with them.
• The compassion to maintain an imaginative empathy that reaches beyond one’s immediate surroundings and extends to those suffering in distant places.

Various academic papers have begun to outline the links between democracy and sound environmental regulation, and the link between democracy and combating climate change in particular has been argued by AC Grayling, among others.

So our ambition now, as humanity, if we wish to avert and retreat from catastrophic climate change and parallel environmental crises, should be to cultivate a renewed psychospiritual culture, deep democracy and social justice, and a restorative economy (that avoids the distractions of chasing GDP).

Only then, I think, will the practical solutions that tend to be the focus of thinking about climate change find their proper place and alignment. Only then, will we perhaps have a chance of averting the worst unintended consequences of technology.

Success at the Eco-Logic Awards for Fossil Free South Africa

So towards the end of April, I won the Eco-Warrior category of the Enviropaedia 2015/16 Eco-Logic Awards. Many, many thanks to everyone who has supported Fossil Free South Africa and Fossil Free UCT, especially Robert Zipplies (who screened the doccie that spawned the idea and helped boost everything to a new level by formalising and fundraising for the campaign), our management committee (Cormac Cullinan, Happy Khambule, Nick King), William Frater who has greatly bolstered our credibility in the dialogue with UCT, and the comrades who signed that first letter to UCT in 2013 that kicked everything off, who included Jane Notten, Claire Kelly, Gina Ziervogel and Eduard Grebe. Also thanks to stalwarts like James Irlam, Giorgina King, Kirtanya Lutch, Tania Katzschner, Kai Coetzee, and to the many people who donated to our first crowdfunding campaign, and supported our late 2014 road trip. And of course, 350.org, which started the international divestment campaign.

Here’s hoping this award will help raise the profile of the campaign. We’re on the winning side of history, the world is decarbonising – but still not fast enough, and still without understanding the deeper cultural roots of our problems – the lack of faith in and care for each other, the compulsive desires for more-more-more, the excessive faith in technology, the religious attachment to economic growth, the loss of reverence for nature.

South Africa is dying of growth

[This article was commissioned by the Mail & Guardian in June 2010, but not published.]

We’re all on a ship. Let’s call it, oh, what the hell, the Titanic Earth. We’re steaming along at a reasonable clip, but there are… problems. The first class passengers are sipping champagne – but in second class, services are failing, while third class passengers, segregated behind armed guards and razor wire, aren’t getting all their meals. The ship’s engineers are running low on coal and tearing up the third-class decks and beds to feed the boilers.

The ship’s newsletter reports continuously on the speed of the ship, gossip and the deck tennis results. The burning of the floors and food shortages in third class get little attention.

This is our planet, and this is how we’re running it. The ship’s speed is growth, an economic measure beloved of conservative economists, big business and most politicians, but never intended to become the all-encompassing measure of “national success” that it has.
Continue reading South Africa is dying of growth

South Africa in Africa: The Post-Apartheid Era

South Africa in AfricaEarlier this year, I was contracted by Electric Book Works to work as copy editor with Adekeye Adebajo and the Cape Town-based Centre for Conflict Resolution to produce South Africa in Africa: The Post-Apartheid Era, now published by UKZN Press.

In this rigorous and policy-relevant book, a diverse group of Pan-African scholars examine South Africa’s post-apartheid foreign policy, arguing that an effective foreign policy can only be built on a strong domestic base. The authors assess key challenges of regional leadership for South Africa, addressing traditional issues of leadership, military and economic power, and less conventional foreign policy concerns such as land conflicts and HIV/AIDS.

A briefing against war on Iraq

First published on an earlier blog on 18 November 2002, months before the actual invasion of Iraq. I think the only assertion I made that is in retrospect dodgy was the claim, made in passing, that Iran was pursuing nuclear weapons, which we now (30 April 2013) know to be a propaganda claim, much like the claim that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

Interlocutor: So you think war on Iraq is a bad idea? Why?

Peacenik: Yes. Because war is wrong.

The great London march of over a million people against the Iraq war, 15 February 2003. My own pic.
The great London march of over a million people against the Iraq war, 15 February 2003. My own pic.

I: Cute notion, but neither fashionable nor persuasive. Try again.

P: There are many arguments, and many who argue, against war on Iraq. There are a very few courageous souls who do so on the basis that war might actually be An Inherently Very Bad Thing, or even Wrong. Are they correct? Confusion on this point has beset humanity for too long. But let us (copping-out perhaps) stick to practical arguments against war — there are more than enough of them.

All wars are messy and brutal, cause death and great suffering and have nasty unforeseen consequences. A war on Iraq will be no exception.

I: Surely the consequences of allowing Saddam Hussein to continue as World’s Nastiest Dictator will be great suffering if he is allowed to continue amassing, and uses, weapons of mass destruction?

P: If he attempted war, he would face overwhelming military force from the US and allies. He leads a moderately-sized country with a devastated economy, and armed forces stuck, for the most part, with ageing military technology. He cannot possibly hope to gain anything from going to war.

The CIA considers the risks of an unprovoked attack by Iraq on the US “low”, but suggests he might lash out with WMDs in advance of an imminent US attack (thus preempting the preempters). (32)

I: Saddam went to war with Iran in the 1980s, and invaded Kuwait in 1990. He’s waged brutal war internally against the Kurds and marsh Arabs. What’s to stop him doing it all over again?

P: He has shown no signs of external aggression since the Gulf War. His means of waging war are smaller than during the Gulf War; the US has spent another 10 years developing ever more sophisticated weapons. He can have no doubt that any external attack would end in overwhelming defeat. His regime, morally bankrupt as it is, is a state. States tend to behave far more rationally, particularly with respect to self-preservation, than the likes of al Quaeda. They can be, and are, deterred by the threat of force. His motives for hanging onto weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), if he is, are now probably the same as US motives for having such weapons: he wants to deter attack (being none too popular with the neighbours).

It has been argued that Saddam only invaded Kuwait on the nod from then US Ambassador to Iraq, April Glaspie. In other words, that the US is directly responsible for one of his major acts of past aggression. Continue reading A briefing against war on Iraq

SA’s AIDS Doubts Baffle the Experts

Mail & Guardian

Johannesburg, South Africa
March 17 2000


Statements questioning the cause of AIDS have caused dismay among local and international scientists.

LEADING international AIDS scientists and researchers this week unanimously dismissed the South African government’s suggestion that the link between HIV and AIDS be “re-examined”.

Head of the Medical Research Council Professor Malegapuru Makgoba also lashed out at the so-called Aids dissidents, describing them as “failures in their own countries” and warning that South African is becoming “fertile ground for pseudo-science”.

Their statements came as the government’s apparent readiness to overturn the principles behind its own Aids policies began to attract further disbelieving international attention.

A lengthy story in New York’s influential Village Voice this week is subtitled: “South Africa’s president may become the first world leader to believe that HIV is not the cause of AIDS.”
Continue reading SA’s AIDS Doubts Baffle the Experts