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Exxon hacks the Yes Men June 29, 2007

Posted by Andreas in activism, Environment, News, Press Release, renewable energy, Society, Sustainable Living.
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Can anybody out there help the Yes Men? Wouldn’t it be excellent to host them on a South African server – come one you IT-techno-types…

Exxon hacks the Yes Men

Yes Men badly need sysadmin, server co-location

Contact: people@theyesmen.org

One day after the Yes Men made a joke announcement that ExxonMobil plans to turn billions of climate-change victims into a brand-new fuel called Vivoleum, the Yes Men’s upstream internet service provider shut down Vivoleum.com, the Yes Men’s spoof website, and cut
off the Yes Men’s email service, in reaction to a complaint whose source they will not identify. The provider, Broadview Networks, also made the Yes Men remove all mention of Exxon from TheYesMen.org before they’d restore the Yes Men’s email service.

The Yes Men assume the complainant was Exxon. “Since parody is protected under US law, Exxon must think that people seeing the site will think Vivoleum’s a real Exxon product, not just a parody,” said Yes Man Mike Bonanno. “Exxon’s policies do already contribute to 150,000 climate-change related deaths each year,” added Yes Man Andy Bichlbaum. “So maybe it really is credible. What a resource!”

After receiving the complaint June 15, Broadview added a “filter” that disabled the Vivoleum.com IP address (, and furthermore prevented email from being sent from the Yes Men’s primary IP address ( Even after all Exxon logos were
removed from both sites and a disclaimer was placed on Vivoleum.com on Tuesday, Broadview would still not remove the filter. (The disclaimer read: “Although Vivoleum is not a real ExxonMobil program, it might as well be.”)

Broadview did restore both IPs on Wednesday, after the Vivoleum.com website was completely disabled and all mention of Exxon was removed from TheYesMen.org.

While this problem is temporarily resolved, the story is far from over. Meanwhile, though, two bigger problems loom, for which we’re asking your help:


Broadview Networks provides internet connectivity to New York’s Thing.net and the websites and servers it hosts, including the Yes Men’s server. Thing.net has been a host for many years to numerous activist and artist websites and servers.

At the end of July, Thing.net will terminate its contract with
Broadview and move its operations to Germany, where internet expression currently benefits from a friendlier legal climate than in the US, and where baseless threats by large corporations presumably have less weight with providers. At that time, the Yes Men and two other organizations with servers “co-located” at Thing.net will need a new home for those servers. Please write to us if you can offer such help or know of someone who can.


The Yes Men are desperately in need of a sysadmin. The position is unpaid at the moment, but it shouldn’t take much time for someone who knows Debian Linux very well. It involves monitoring the server, keeping it up-to-date, making sure email is working correctly, etc. The person could also maintain the Yes Men’s website (which will be
updated next week), if she or he wants.

Thing.net also needs a sysadmin: someone living in New York who knows Linux well. The Thing.net position involves some money and the rewards of working for an organization that has consistently and at great personal risk supported groups like the Yes Men over the years.


‘A universe we choose’ – Part 3 June 21, 2007

Posted by Andreas in History, Politics, rant, Society, South Africa.

‘A universe we choose’ – The Fight against Corporate Globalisation: A South African perspective (Part 3)

(Part 1 is here, Part 2 is here)

by Sam Wilson and Andreas Späth

The female face of global resistance
(I guess this was going to be a sidebar to the main story, but here it is anyway, for completeness sake) .

Arundhati Roy
The daughter of a Syrian Christian mother, a divorcee who managed a tea plantation (much like the character of Ammu in Roy’s Booker prize winning novel, The God of Small Things), 43-year-old Arundhati Roy did not attend school until she was 10, being schooled instead by her mother.

After boarding at a school in Southern India, and training at Dehli’s School of Planning and Architecture, Roy supported herself as an aerobics instructor before becoming one of the world’s most celebrated novelists. She has since used her public profile to voice many of the tenets of the global resistance movement, and her political journalism is every bit as lyrical and hard-hitting as her much fêted prose.

By characterizing corporate globalisation as no more than the new face of imperialism, Roy exhorts us to follow our hearts and relearn the art of civil disobedience.

In her own words? ‘We can hone our memory, we can learn from our history. We can continue to build public opinion until it becomes a deafening roar…. In other words, we can come up with a million ways of becoming a collective pain in the ass.’

Naomi Klein
Naomi Klein is an award-winning journalist and author of the international bestseller No Logo, described as ‘ a movement handbook’ by the New York Times. She comes from strong activist stock, her mother Bonnie Klein is a leading Canadian feminist while her grandfather, an American Marxist, was a Disney animator fired and blacklisted for organizing the company’s first strike. Her parents moved to Canada in protest over the Vietnam War.

Where Roy enchants with her prose, Klein follows in the more traditional journalistic steps of feminists such as Susan Faludi, gathering and presenting the facts which then speak for themselves. She sees herself as ‘an activist journalist’, rather than an activist as she ‘hates crowds – I know, great irony’ and is ‘physically incapable of chanting’.

From exposés of sweatshop workers in the Philippines who have to urinate into plastic bags under their desks, as they are not allowed to leave their Gap/ Liz Claiborne sewing long enough to go to the toilet, to detailing the nefarious corporate strategies of companies like Wal-Mart and Starbucks, Klein has, nevertheless, given the global resistance movement a lot to chant about.

For nearly a decade, Klein has been traveling through Asia, Latin America and Europe, tracking the rise of anticorporate activism.

‘When people say the movement lacks vision, what they are really saying is that it is a completely new kind of movement – just as the Internet is a completely new kind of medium… the movement should be in no hurry to define itself,’ says Klein. ‘Before they sign on to anyone’s 10-point plan, they deserve the chance to see if, out of the movement’s chaotic, decentralized, multi-headed webs, something new, something entirely its own, can emerge.’

Renewable energy, poverty alleviation and nuclear billions June 20, 2007

Posted by Andreas in "The Economy", activism, Cape Town, Environment, Nuclear Power, Politics, renewable energy, Society, South Africa, Sustainable Living.
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At one of the While You Were Sleeping screenings of The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil, an audience member who works for the Cape Town city council told us that renewable energy sources would have to create a market for themselves in South Africa by attracting those able and willing to pay for electricity at a premium. Clean energy for rich greenies, in other words.

The reason for this, he said, was that both locally and nationally, poverty alleviation was the number one priority.
That kind of ended that part of the debate – we all know how huge a problem poverty is in South Africa.

On the weekend, my friend Tammy took me and my boys to see a children’s home in Khayelitsha. Picture the scene: a small house with about four rooms for 40 people. The kids range in age from about 3 to about 15. Some of them are aids orphans and some of them have serious mental and physical disabilities.

(pics: Tammy Gardner)

They’re in need of just about everything that most of us take for granted. Yet, these kids are the lucky ones: at least they’ve got a roof over their heads, go to school or creche and don’t go hungry.


Tammy and others have taken home on as a project. They’ve bought some land and have started to raise funds to build a bigger house.

This is just one example of the dire straits that so many South Africans find themselves in – we all see the squatter camps every day. My point here is: where is the nationally prioritised poverty alleviation?

In this mornings Cape Times, Melanie Gosling reports that:

South African taxpayers will have to fork out R400-billion to pay for Eskom’s planned nuclear programme, an independent study has revealed.

The cost of decommissioning the proposed nuclear power stations at the end of their lives will add several hundred billion rand to the bill.

The study found that this massive expenditure would not solve South Africa’s energy crisis, as the proposed nuclear power plants were unlikely to make a significant contribution to the national grid before 2020.

Eskom is forging ahead with the proposed nuclear programme in an energy policy “vacuum” as South Africa has no integrated energy plan, while the public, who will foot the massive nuclear bill, has had no chance to have its say.

R400 billion! R400 billion, but government is unwilling to pay teachers and nurses half-decent salaries.

Surely, even in a flawed representative democracy, we as taxpayers should be able to decide whether we want government to spend that much of our money (and, I’m afraid, being afforded the opportunity to write letters to a parliamentary committee does not quite cut it).

The lost opportunity costs involved here are staggering. With that sort of budget, anyone who really wanted to and who had two creative brain cells to rub together should be able to open a country-size alleviation-can of whoop ass on the poverty problem, while at the same time building and fostering local, environmentally-friendly energy solutions involving renewable power sources, improved efficiency, energy saving and a reduction in consumption.

What are we getting instead? A dirty and dangerous non-renewable nuclear mega-project that will generate heaps of lethal waste we have as yet no idea what to do with as well as the capacity (for the powers that be) to re-establish an atomic weapons programme.

Oh, but I forget. The way this will all work is as follows: we keep on bending over backwards to provide global markets and giant multi-national companies with tax-breaks, cheap labour, exploitable natural resources and cheap electricity (read about a prime example of this here) and as if by magic, wealth will trickle down all the way to the country’s poorest.

Problem solved. Now will somebody go and tell the good news to the poor.

‘A universe we choose’ – Part 2 June 18, 2007

Posted by Andreas in History, Politics, rant, Society, South Africa.
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‘A universe we choose’ – The Fight against Corporate Globalisation: A South African perspective (Part 2)

(Part 1 is here)

by Sam Wilson and Andreas Späth

The impact of neoliberalism in SA

Post-apartheid South Africa took to neoliberal policies like a stock market raider to a currency-market loophole.

First, there was our apartheid debt. In 1994, SA owed nearly $20 billion in foreign debt, advanced by global financial institutions to a corrupt, illegitimate government. To cement our commitment to the neoliberal paradigm, and so as not to raise eyebrows at the World Bank or IMF, we simply paid this staggering sum back. Without a fuss.

Then with the creation of the government’s Growth, Employment and Redistribution program (GEAR), we are probably the only developing nation to pen its very own neoliberal economic strategy (with some help from World Bank and IMF advisers). Other developing countries, often highly indebted and dependant on the 1st World, have tended to adopt neoliberal policies (such as the IMF’s notorious structural adjustment programs) under some duress.

And the truth is, ten years into our fêted welcome into the global economy, it isn’t looking so good.

The great divide

SA is Africa’s richest country. We are also one of the world’s most unequal, with 40% of the poorest household’s garnering only 3.3% of the country’s income. And this divide is getting worse… not better.

Unemployment and the rise of the ‘McJob’

Unemployment has been spiraling. In the last 10 years we have lost over half a million jobs (some peg that figure at closer to one million). Equally frightening, only some 40% of South Africans with jobs have permanent positions – the other 60% are forced to settle for contract, part time or casual work, with reduced or non existent benefits, no security, yet often, exactly the same job description as their permanent counterparts.

Cutting lifelines

Despite repeated promises of free lifeline basic services and the much-touted rollouts by the likes of Eskom and Telkom, the increasing insistence on total cost-recovery for such services has resulted in tens of thousands of households affected by water, electricity and telephone cut-offs and evictions. Ashwin Desai suggests that “the cost-recovery prerequisites of neoliberalism are creating a new kind of apartheid”.

Lowering of import taxes

The drastic lowering of import taxes has been disastrous to sectors of the local manufacturing industry such as the clothing and textile branches.

The global resistance movement…

The good news is that we are still South Africans, and many of us still put our money where our mouths are when we are gatvol.

Over the years, a growing number of grassroots organizations have started to question and oppose some of the neoliberal policies that affect their lives at the local level throughout South Africa.

The Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign has been fighting house evictions in the townships around Cape Town, while the Soweto Electricity Crisis Committee has illegally reconnected power to thousands of homes. The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) has doggedly challenged the governments AIDS policy, Jubilee South Africa has highlighted the injustice of apartheid debt repayments and the need for reparations, the Landless People’s Movement (LPM) has demonstrated against the painfully slow rate of land redistribution, and green groups such as Earthlife Africa and Groundwork have tackled a range of environmental concerns.

Slowly, these groups have made the connections between their local problems and those of other organizations around the country and gradually also with similar communities throughout the world. This process of networking has been going on globally for years and has resulted in the world-wide web that is the anti-globalisation movement, which has demonstrated against the IMF, World Bank and WTO, as well as a wide range of issues from the wars in the Middle East to the introduction of genetically-modified crops.

Frequently misrepresented by the mainstream media and maligned by some opponents as leaderless and aimless, this is not a rigid political organization in the old-fashioned mould. Rather it is a diverse, somewhat anarchic and voluntary association of equals who share common views on numerous issues.

Characterised by its savvy use of the Internet, a widespread rejection of hierarchical organizational practices, a stress on creativity and spontaneity, and a preference for direct participatory democratic process, it has confounded many a critic by its longevity. Although the movement has no individual leaders as such, it has also provided a platform for a number of intellectuals, among whom the strong female voices of Canadian Naomi Klein and Indian Arundhati Roy are particularly notable.

After the 2000 annual IMF/World Bank meetings in Prague were cut short by demonstrations, Trevor Manuel (chairperson of the IMF/World Bank board of governors at the time) remarked: “I know what the protesters are against, but I don’t know what they are for!” Given a chance to reply, the demonstrators. whose most often repeated slogan insists that “another world is possible”, may have answered that what one is for is often implicit in what one is against.

Just as 10 years ago, being against apartheid implied being for democracy and non-racialism, being against economic globalisation and neoliberalism is being for human rights over corporate profits.

It is about being for a world which is not specifically GEARed towards widening the gap between rich and poor. It is about being for a world where ordinary citizens do not have to risk life-threatening disease because their inability to participate in the global economy makes them worth less than cows.

It is about having the courage to believe in people over profits, and then to act on that belief. It is about the courage to believe that another world is indeed possible.

ExxonMobil proposes burning humanity for fuel June 15, 2007

Posted by Andreas in activism, Environment, News, Politics, Press Release, renewable energy, Sustainable Living.

They’ve done it again! I looove the Yes Men. Andy and Mike must surely rank among the 20/21st century’s most creative and ballsy activists. Here’s their latest stunt:


Conference organizer fails to have Yes Men arrested

Imposters posing as ExxonMobil and National Petroleum Council (NPC) representatives delivered an outrageous keynote speech to 300 oilmen at GO-EXPO, Canada’s largest oil conference, held at Stampede Park in Calgary, Alberta, today [June 14].

The speech was billed beforehand by the GO-EXPO organizers as the major highlight of this year’s conference, which had 20,000 attendees. In it, the “NPC rep” was expected to deliver the long-awaited onclusions of a study commissioned by US Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman. The NPC is headed by former ExxonMobil CEO Lee Raymond, who is also the chair of the study. (See link at end.)

In the actual speech, the “NPC rep” announced that current U.S. and Canadian energy policies (notably the massive, carbon-intensive exploitation of Alberta’s oil sands, and the development of liquid coal) are increasing the chances of huge global calamities. But he reassured the audience that in the worst case scenario, the oil industry could “keep fuel flowing” by transforming the billions of people who die into oil.

“We need something like whales, but infinitely more abundant,” said “NPC rep” “Shepard Wolff” (actually Andy Bichlbaum of the Yes Men), before describing the technology used to render human flesh into a new Exxon oil product called Vivoleum. 3-D animations of the process brought it to life.

“Vivoleum works in perfect synergy with the continued expansion of fossil fuel production,” noted “Exxon rep” “Florian Osenberg” (Yes Man Mike Bonanno). “With more fossil fuels comes a greater chance of disaster, but that means more feedstock for Vivoleum. Fuel will continue to flow for those of us left.”

The oilmen listened to the lecture with attention, and then lit
“commemorative candles” supposedly made of Vivoleum obtained from the flesh of an “Exxon janitor” who died as a result of cleaning up a toxic spill. The audience only reacted when the janitor, in a video tribute, announced that he wished to be transformed into candles after his death, and all became crystal-clear.

At that point, Simon Mellor, Commercial & Business Development Director for the company putting on the event, strode up and physically forced the Yes Men from the stage. As Mellor escorted Bonanno out the door, a dozen journalists surrounded Bichlbaum, who, still in character as “Shepard Wolff,” explained to them the rationale for Vivoleum.

“We’ve got to get ready. After all, fossil fuel development like that of my company is increasing the chances of catastrophic climate change, which could lead to massive calamities, causing migration and conflicts that would likely disable the pipelines and oil wells. Without oil we could no longer produce or transport food, and most of humanity would starve. That would be a tragedy, but at least all those bodies could be turned into fuel for the rest of us.”

“We’re not talking about killing anyone,” added the “NPC rep.” “We’re talking about using them after nature has done the hard work. After all, 150,000 people already die from climate-change related effects every year. That’s only going to go up – maybe way, way up. Will it all go to waste? That would be cruel.”

Security guards then dragged Bichlbaum away from the reporters, and he and Bonanno were detained until Calgary Police Service officers could arrive. The policemen, determining that no major infractions had been committed, permitted the Yes Men to leave.

Canada‘s oil sands, along with “liquid coal,” are keystones of Bush’s Energy Security plan. Mining the oil sands is one of the dirtiest forms of oil production and has turned Canada into one of the world’s worst carbon emitters. The production of “liquid coal” has twice the carbon footprint as that of ordinary gasoline. Such technologies increase the likelihood of massive climate catastrophes that will condemn to death untold millions of people, mainly poor.

“If our idea of energy security is to increase the chances of climate calamity, we have a very funny sense of what security really is,” Bonanno said. “While ExxonMobil continues to post record profits, they use their money to persuade governments to do nothing about climate change. This is a crime against humanity.”

“Putting the former Exxon CEO in charge of the NPC, and soliciting his advice on our energy future, is like putting the wolf in charge of the flock,” said “Shepard Wolff” (Bichlbaum). “Exxon has done more damage to the environment and to our chances of survival than any other company on earth. Why should we let them determine our future?”

Text of speech, photos, video:http://www.vivoleum.com/event/
GO-EXPO statement: http://newswire.ca/en/releases/archive/June2007/14/c5086.html
Press conference before this event, Friday, Calgary:http://arusha.org/event/7214
Contact: mailto:fuel@theyesmen.org

About the NPC and ExxonMobil: http://ga3.org/campaign/lee_raymond/explanation
About the Alberta oil sands: http://www.sierraclub.ca/prairie/tarnation.htm
About liquid coal:http://www.sierraclub.org/coal/liquidcoal/

‘A universe we choose’ – Part 1 June 14, 2007

Posted by Andreas in History, Politics, rant, Society, South Africa.

Sam and I wrote this about a year or two ago, but then didn’t manage to sell it to anyone. So now I’m inflicting it on you (in three parts nogal). It’s still relevant, I reckon.

‘A universe we choose’ – The Fight against Corporate Globalisation: A South African perspective (Part 1)

by Sam Wilson and Andreas Späth

In 2000, a cholera outbreak around Ngwelezane in rural KZN killed nearly 200 people and infected more than 80 000 others. Why the outbreak? The government had recently terminated a 17-year-long, apartheid-era supply of free water. Those too poor to buy their water found themselves forced to gather it from wherever they could find it, storm drains, dirty rivers, stagnant pools…. hence the cholera.

For millions, our whole conception of ‘a new South African identity’ is inextricably tied to the pride we have in the democratic principles enshrined in our Constitution. Drenched in ubuntu and patriotism, our constitution specifically promises, among other basic human rights, access to adequate housing, food and water.

So what happened here? Did our government really put its profit margin above the lives of these people? Could our national priorities have shifted that much in less than a decade?

(Then) Wits academic Patrick Bond is just one of the critics blaming our government for adopting neoliberal economic policies that put profit before people. Government is turning basic services like water and electricity into commodities, and then selling them off to the highest bidder. From there, it’s a quick step to insist upon a 100% cost recovery model from ‘customers’, regardless of how poor these individuals may be. No money, no water.

What prompted our government to take such a step? For a lot of reasons, but not least of which the fact that the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) have made no bones about the fact that they will be plenty cheesed off if SA doesn’t go this route. In the words of writer-activist Ashwin Desai, ‘our transition to democracy… was trumped by the transition to neoliberalism’.

What is neoliberalism?

For the last quarter of a century, neoliberalism (sometimes also referred to as the Washington Consensus) has been the economic theory that has allowed the astonishing success of corporate globalisation.

Initiated by University of Chicago economist Friedrich von Hayek and a group of his students including Milton Friedman, it is a theory that has been aggressively pursued by large governments, the IMF, World Bank and World Trade Organisation (WTO). Margaret Thatcher was a particularly zealous neoliberalist.

Basically, neoliberalism is designed to maximize profits and efficiency by making the movement of goods, resources and finances (but not people) between nations freer and easier. How is this achieved?

· Strict insistence on free market principles.

· Severe cuts in public expenditure for social services (Remember the school lunch furore in the UK: ‘Maggie Thatcher stole my milk money?’).

· ‘Flexible’ labour relations, with reduced wages and an emphasis on part-time, contract and casual labour (derisively christened the ‘McJob’ by critics).

· Privatisation of state-owned assets and services.

· Removal of tariffs and regulations that act as barriers to international trade and investment.

It isn’t that simple though, as neoliberalism comes with a built-in side order of hypocrisy. While countries in the North insist that we in the South offer up complete financial and trade transparency, they are at the same time rigorously protecting their own sensitive markets. Sparkling wine, anyone?

So, who benefits? Let’s look at it this way. In 1999, the total sales of each of the five biggest companies (General Motors, Wal-Mart, Exxon Mobil, Ford Motor, Daimler Chrysler) exceeded South Africa’s GDP. That’s a lot of sales.

We hear the term corporate globalisation bandied about a lot… and it is just these kinds of figures which underpin the concept. Simply put, as new markets are ‘encouraged’ by the WTO and IMF to open their trade doors as wide as possible, so the supercompanies come storming in… with corporate machinery that can dominate commerce, production, finance and culture faster than you can say ‘Happy Meal’.

And the statistics are truly mind-boggling: more than half of the world’s biggest economies are not countries, but corporations, the vast majority of which are based in North America, Western Europe and Japan – hence the old East/West divide has given way to North/South in politico-speak.

While a few Northern supercompanies may have amassed untold wealth and power under neoliberalism, critics argue that inequalities between the rich and poor have increased in virtually all countries as a result of it. The world’s top 200 corporations’ combined sales were 18 times the combined annual income of the 1.2 billion people living in “severe” poverty.

The wealth gap between the rich countries of the North and the nations of the third world has grown steadily. Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano uses this example: ‘Western Governments pay their farmers a subsidy each year for every cow they rear. Halve that subsidy. You are looking at about the annual salary of a peasant in a poor country. Basically, applying free market principles and thinking globally, the average impoverished third world peasant is worth about half a cow’.

Solidarity with Palestinian women June 13, 2007

Posted by Andreas in activism, Cape Town, Film screening, Israel and Palestine, Politics.
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A few months ago, While You Were Sleeping organised a screening of The Iron Wall, a documentary about Palestine and Israel and the wall that divides them. ILRIG is showing it again as part of their efforts to build local women’s activism. Here are the details:

ILRIG (International Labour Research and Information Group) presents:

Building Women’s Activism 2007

Solidarity with Palestinian women

Women only

Thursday 21st June, 4:30pm-6:30pm

Elijah Loza Hall (next to cafeteria), Community House, Salt River

Draft agenda:

· Welcome & Introduction

· Films and discussion: The Iron Wall and Balata Refugee Camp films

· Input from women activists involved in Solidarity with Palestine

· Building Women’s Leadership Course Reportback

· Issues arising/planning for next forum

Snacks and transport home will be provided. Please contact us at least 2 days beforehand if you have transport or childcare concerns. We look forward to your participation at the public forum!

RSVP –Anna Davies-van Es

Tel: 021 4476375, Fax: 021 4482282, Cell: 0827828785 Email: anna@ilrig.org.za

Tell Parliament what you think about nuclear energy June 12, 2007

Posted by Andreas in activism, Environment, Nuclear Power, Politics, South Africa.
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Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Environmental Affairs and Tourism is hosting public hearings on nuclear energy in South Africa (see details below). Anyone, individuals, groups and organisations, can make written submissions, but they have to get there no later than this Friday.

I know this is quite short notice, I only found out about it yesterday myself ( thanks Melissa!), but there’s enough time to put your thougths about atomic power into an email and to send it off to Mr Langa Zita (marked for the attention of Ms Albertina Kakaza) at this email address: akakaza@parliament.gov.za.

I’m planning to put together an email compilation of my nuclear power posts on this blog and send it to Mr Zita. If I get my act together, I’ll post it here…

I do think the whole process is flawed (serious misgivings about representative democracy…), that the nuclear horse in SA has already bolted and that we’re going to get more of it no matter what we tell Parliament, but if we go through this process we at least can’t be blamed for not trying.

You can download the original call for submissions as a pdf here: Nuclear Submission.

Here are the details:


In line with parliament’s core objective of facilitating public participation and involvement in legislative processes, the Portfolio Committee on Environmental Affairs and Tourism will host public hearings on Nuclear Energy on Wednesday 20 June, 2007. The purpose of these public hearings is to solicit public written and oral input on the socio-economic, waste management and security of supply, human resource development as well as science and technological implications of Nuclear Energy in South Africa.

Interested Individuals and Groups wishing to comment on the subject of Nuclear Energy are kindly requested to forward written submissions to the committee by no later than Friday 15 June 2007. Stakeholders interested in making oral submissions are also requested to contact our office by no later than Friday 15 June 2007.

All correspondence should be addressed to:
Mr Langa Zita (Chairperson) and marked for the Attention of Ms Albertina Kakaza
Box 15
Cape Town

Tel: (021) 403-3749/65
Fax: (021) 403-2808
E-mail: akakaza@parliament.gov.za

How not to dispose of nuclear waste June 5, 2007

Posted by Andreas in Environment, News, Nuclear Power.

There are still no long-term storage sites for high-level nuclear waste anywhere in the world. At a time when many countries, First World and developing, are looking to build more nuclear power plants this should surely be a major concern for all of us.

My friend Petrus commented the other day, that this is a bit like taking off in an airplane while knowing that the airport at your destination hasn’t even been built yet.

Atomic energy pundits assure us that these are merely technical issues that will be solved in due course and should not detract us from thinking that nuclear power is the best thing since sliced cheese. I guess in terms of Petrus’ analogy, they are suggesting we stay in a holding pattern above our destination until the damn runway has been  laid down already.

The nuclear industry has given us a number of very telling examples of how not to store high-level nuclear waste. Here’s the latest case, taken from The Ecologist Online:

Tanks holding nuclear waste in the Russian Arctic are in danger of exploding in a spontaneous chain reaction, an environmental group has warned.

Bellona, a Norwegian group which campaigns against nuclear power and advocates clean energy generation, described the tanks as ‘a powder keg’ with a burning fuse.

A report distributed by Bellona states:
‘Ongoing degradation is causing fuel to split into small granules. Calculations show that the creation of a homogenous mixture of these particles with water can cause an uncontrolled chain reaction.’

The three tanks are reportedly filled with 21,000 spent nuclear fuel rods and are sited at Andreeva Bay, on the Russian Kola Peninsula. Until recently, they were thought to be dry, but new investigations have shown corrosive salt water leakage.

Both Russian and Norwegian authorities said that there was ‘no danger’, but that steps were being taken to improve the storage facilities.

South Africa’s neo-con spin factory June 1, 2007

Posted by Andreas in "The Economy", activism, Environment, News, Nuclear Power, Politics, rant, Society, South Africa.

After my recent bumbling forays into the local public relations industry’s spin doctoring efforts in promoting nuclear power (or, in fact, their self-avowed non-participation therein – see here and here), I stumbled onto what has got to be the most sophisticated South African spin machine of them all, The Free Market Foundation.

Actually I kind of found them courtesy of Noseweek. They describe themselves as

an independent non-profit policy organisation founded in 1975 to promote and foster an open society, the rule of law, personal liberty, and economic and press freedom as fundamental components of its advocacy of human rights and democracy based on classical liberal principles.

The FMF website is, however, full to the brim with articles that:

  • are pro-nuclear energy (e.g. “Nuclear energy is safe and reliable“)
  • are pro-biotech and genetic engineering (e.g. “Genetically modified foods mired in false controversy“)
  • are pro-oil (e.g. “Oil bashing, round two“)
  • deny global warming and climate change and are anti-Kyoto (e.g. ““Global warming” has become a European religion“)
  • are pro-privatisation, corporate and financial globalisation and neoliberalism (e.g. “Globalisation is hope for the developing world“)
  • are-pro gun (e.g. “Good news from the U.S. about guns: they save lives“)
  • are pro-death penalty (e.g. “Capital punishment saves lives“)
  • etc.

Taken together, that all makes for a deeply conservative economic/political/social/environmental platform that could have been taken straight out of the play book of The Project for the New American Century.

Why am I so offended by all this? After all, its no secret that there are many conservative people out there and they do have a right to their opinion on all of these issues.

My problem lies with the companies who fund the FMF to pump out their right-wing propaganda drivel. They include corporations who are “Proudly South African”, who are always on our side as consumers and who have us believe that they are as concerned as we are about the environment. Here is just a small selection:

BP Southern Africa, British American Tobacco, Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, Toyota, Gold Fields Limited, Investec Limited, Pick ‘n Pay, Sasol, Monsanto South Africa, British Airways, Truworths Limited, Southern Sun Hotel Holdings, Microsoft, Independent News & Media, Edgars Consolidated Stores Limited, Natal Witness, etc.

A paragraph from Noseweek is highly relevant here:

Why do they [people who write articles denying global warming] do it? One simple answer is that many of them are paid to, or are linked to organisations that benefit from denialist propaganda. As we’ve previously pointed out, the Free Market Foundation is strongly linked to oil company-funded “think tanks” and PR-generating institutes in the US, and they work in the same way. British journalist George Monbiot has documented at length how the fossil fuel industry has used “free market” advocacy organisations and PR men to deny global warming, using the same strategies that tobacco giants used to deny links between smoking and cancer. […]

I suggest that we all remember the proverbial pinch of salt when reading articles, opinion pieces, “readers’ letters” and experts’ pronouncements about important issues in the local media.