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 slowly shredding democracy, in line with international best practice

Following yesterday’s passage by the National Assembly of the Protection of State Information Bill, and the Black Tuesday campaign’s comparison with the days of apartheid, there’s been a lot of discussion about whether ‘this takes us back to the dark days of apartheid’. And a lot of anger from those, including the government, who says it’s ridiculous to make that comparison.Black Tuesday protest in Cape Town - pic Odette Herbert

“The only result this unfortunate comparison and the planned campaign, in which people are urged to dress in black, will achieve is to dilute the real history of the Black Wednesday and insult the victims of apartheid’s barbaric laws,” said ANC Chief Whip Mathole Motshekga in a statement.

Of course, it would be quite wrong to suggest that we are now back in the darkest days of apartheid. But Motshekga’s statement ignores the trend. And the trend is away from freedom. His argument that “the rejection of a public interest defence is in line with international best practice on security in the US, Canada and the UK” is chilling, and not only because he is factually incorrect, as Pierre de Vos has pointed out (there is a public interest defence in Canada).

Because what passes for democracy Continue reading South Africa slowly shredding democracy, in line with international best practice

Sunday Times: ‘Stop these crimes against humanity’

SA negotiators at COP 16 in Mexico
SA negotiators at COP 16 in Mexico

Published in The Sunday Times, 20 March 2011

Climate breakdown is destroying the lives of millions, but SA has merely adopted a morally bankrupt position, writes David Le Page

Parliament has been holding hearings on South Africa’s climate change green paper. We must hope truth will emerge, for the truth is a hard thing to come by when it concerns the global addiction to fossil fuels.

The danger posed by further carbon emissions is now so great, and the evidence for that danger now so overwhelming, that any proposal to expand fossil-fuel production – not least the natural gas exploitation plans of Shell, Sasol and others in the Karoo – should now be regarded as a crime against humanity.

When government licenses continued fossil-fuel production – in the absence of an absolute commitment to a low or zero-carbon economy – it, too, is committing a crime against humanity. And when the media fail to communicate this crisis, they are complicit in crimes against humanity.

South Africa hosts companies that claim to be concerned about climate change – yet their international colleagues fund climate change deniers in the US Congress. Such behaviour, by ArcelorMittal, BP, Bayer and others, is dangerous and disgraceful. Continue reading Sunday Times: ‘Stop these crimes against humanity’

Sunday Times: ‘Save us from the super-rich’

Robin Hood cartoon: We have a job for your merry men.Published by The Sunday Times, 10 October 2010

The very rich are a danger to the environment, democracy, economic empowerment and themselves, says David Le Page

Rich people are becoming a luxury we can no longer afford. In fact, rich people are rapidly becoming even more of a danger to themselves. So it’s little wonder that rich people have been queueing up to endorse Cosatu boss Zwelinzima Vavi’s recent call for a tax on the super-rich … oh, but they haven’t. So why should they be? The fact is that all the evidence and experience of other countries that have succeeded in building more sustainable and healthy societies suggests that a class of super-rich people is not part of the solution. Our rich should declare their interests: are they for South Africa, or just for themselves?

Noting October as Social Development Month, the ANC has called for an intensification of the “war on poverty”. Indeed, the government is making efforts to deal with poverty, such as the Community Work Programme now managed from the Department of Co-operative Governance. But to truly deal with our many social afflictions, the government is going to have to get to grips with the effects of our country being host to a class of super-rich people.

What are those effects? There are many social afflictions we associate with poverty that are in fact also afflictions of Continue reading Sunday Times: ‘Save us from the super-rich’

City Press: ‘Equality is key in fight for the poor’

Published in City Press, 2 October 2010

Growing inequality is one of the awkward truths of South Africa’s new democracy.

According to local researcher Kate Philip, at a recent Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) conference on the ­subject, South African attendants looked “contrite” as their international colleagues expressed amazement that income inequality in South Africa has actually grown since the end of apartheid.

Yet it appears vital that South Africans cease to talk only about poverty and start being honest about our world-leading inequality.

According to University of the Western Cape Professor Andries du Toit: “The proper study for poverty research is inequality.”

The South African trend of growing income inequality is arguably in part the curse of being so influenced by economic trends in English-speaking democracies such as the US, Ireland and the UK. Democratic South Africa has followed economic policies approved in spirit by the World Bank. Our approach to poverty reduction, Du Toit argues, has so far been largely shaped by Continue reading City Press: ‘Equality is key in fight for the poor’

M&G: ‘Getting our greenhouse in order’

Published in the Mail & Guardian, 27 August 2010

In December 2011 the world will again be watching South Africa, focused on an event that might be remembered far longer than the World Cup — the 17th meeting of the parties to the United Nation’s climate convention.

The hope of many is that the world may finally reach a just, legally binding and ambitious agreement on cutting carbon emissions — the agreement that Copenhagen failed to deliver.

Putting aside whether that’s likely, this means that an awful lot of attention is going to be focused on South Africa and raises the question — what example are we, as the hosts, going to be setting? Assuming we don’t want to be shuffling about trying to avoid the question, there are many exciting possibilities.

The most urgent step is a real commitment to energy efficiency. It is the first and easiest way to cut carbon emissions, one that often pays for itself, one that Eskom admits neglecting (Mail & Guardian, July 11), and for which researchers suspect there is immense potential. Used to having some of the world’s cheapest electricity, we have become immensely wasteful.

We could make it illegal to build RDP houses that do not meet the basic standards for energy efficiency much less human health. Women living in basic “eco-houses” do not celebrate cutting their carbon emissions — they celebrate having children who are not constantly ill. Continue reading M&G: ‘Getting our greenhouse in order’

Sunday Times: ‘Can we fight corruption in a world that’s built on greed?’

Khayelitsha, Cape Town
South Africa is one of the world's most unequal societies: Shacks in Khayelitsha, Cape Town, where many residents still do not have toilets in this supposedly world-class city

Published in the Sunday Times, 8 August 2010

The only way to stop the rot is to create a fair society

Man, are we ever in a stew over corruption. The issue is in the news every day, bloggers have launched an online reporting initiative called the Meerkat Corruption Project, newspapers are beefing up their investigative units… and it might all be pointless.

We shouldn’t feel too insecure about our corruption in comparison to some other nations. The United States Congress is a filthy stew of special interests that makes a mockery of “We, the people” and compromises not just the interests and wellbeing of ordinary Americans, but of the whole world. US warmongering is a murderous subsidy system for the military-industrial complex; US climate imperialism threatens the entire human race to preserve the pollution “rights” of American fossil fuel interests. (Obama’s leading economic adviser, Larry Summers, believes Africa is “under-polluted”.)

No bill passes Congress these days without being laden with appropriations called “earmarks”, really payoffs to the favourite special interests of individual legislators. Corrupt US legislators are currently refusing to pass legislation either to ease US unemployment or to reduce the universal threat of climate change.

So the US is hardly less corrupt than we are, but its rulers are better at corruption: they’ve written it into law and spin it well. So too, to a good degree, the British. Tony Blair supported the illegal Iraq war, blocked enquiries into dodgy arms deals, and appears to have released the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing in order to secure access to Libyan oil for BP. No envelopes of cash need have changed hands for us to call this corrupt.

But struggling young democracies should not or seek find consolation in the failures of the old. Rather, we need to Continue reading Sunday Times: ‘Can we fight corruption in a world that’s built on greed?’