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Peak oil is coming to get you August 28, 2007

Posted by Andreas in "The Economy", Climate change, Environment, Global warming, renewable energy, Society, Sustainable Living.
1 comment so far

Jon Rynn posted this interesting story about peak oil on Gristmill recently. I’m re-posting it here, because I think it neatly sums up some really fundamental issues we will all have to deal with pretty soon:

How bad is peak oil, really?

by Jon Rynn

Recently we’ve had a couple of discussions here at Gristmill concerning various aspects of peak oil; that is, the assertion that very soon (if it hasn’t happened already) the global supply of oil will peak, and even though demand is going up, supply will start to come down, so prices will skyrocket.

It seems to me that some of the contention in these discussions boils down to the question: would it really be so bad if the oil started running out? After all, we would stop mucking up the planet with the pollution, carbon emissions, and infrastructural damage we have been inflicting for these hundred-years-plus of the petroleum age.

Wouldn’t it force humanity to live within our means if gasoline was $10 or even $20 dollars per gallon, as it will eventually be?

As it so happens, I’ve recently been investigating the question of what kind of civilization we would need to have if we wanted to live without fossil fuels, and I wanted to know how we are currently using oil in order to understand how to live without it.

Using government data detailing the use of oil, in dollars, the conclusion I came to was this: over 90 percent of petroleum in the U.S. is burned by internal combustion engines. So the question needs to be reframed: would it really matter if we couldn’t use internal combustion engines?

The answer, in the long run, is that it would be much better if we didn’t use internal combustion engines. But that leads to another question: How do we get from here to there, and how will that transition affect the planet?

There are two major groups of problems stalking the biosphere: the first is global warming, the second is a set of problems that I will refer to as “ecosystem destruction,” that is, the destruction of forest, ocean, freshwater, grassland, arctic, and cropland ecosystems. Either of these problems will lead to something close to a Desert Earth.

The problem of peak oil for the biosphere is that the current global civilization will become so hysterical and single-minded about keeping the oil or oil substitutes flowing that it will greatly exacerbate both global warming and ecosystem destruction. There are three main sets of problems to which peak oil could lead:

First is the problem of biofuels. Let us assume, for the sake of argument, that a small amount of biofuels could be grown sustainably — that is, without ecosystem damage. This would probably account for about 10 percent of our petroleum use, roughly the amount used for feedstocks for chemicals and other nonengine activity.

That means that in a vain attempt to keep engines running, vast areas of cropland, grassland, and forest would be turned to growing biofuels unsustainably, destroying not only the replaced ecosystems but also, eventually, even the biofuel plantations. In addition, as poor countries get priced out of the oil market, they may turn to their own ecosystems for sources of energy.

Second, we have the specter of converting coal to liquid fuel, which will double the carbon emissions of conventional oil. We can also include in this category things like the oil sands of Alberta, Venezuela, and the western United States, which besides being horribly destructive ecologically will throw huge amounts of pollutants and carbon into the atmosphere. James Hansen, the NASA climate scientist, has stated that we could prevent much of the ill effects of global warming by using even the rest of the available easy-to-reach petroleum, as long as we didn’t use most of the available coal, and if we didn’t use these other “unconventional” sources of petroleum.

Third, and most unpredictable, we don’t know what will happen as oil becomes much more expensive. In particular, there could be a series of very ugly wars (what wars aren’t ugly?); we may be seeing the first phase of this in Iraq. Aside from the horrible human toll, the ecosystem and atmospheric damage is bound to be high. This, I think, is the main point Michael T. Klare has been trying to make in his recent discussion of the effects of peak oil.

In addition, we don’t know the exact effects of peak oil on the world economy, but because the U.S. is so dependent on oil for transportation, the consequences for the average American are bound to be severe. Besides the pain and suffering, I fear for the consequences such stress will put on our democracy, as the anger that may attend choosing between getting to work and eating will be fertile soil for demagogues of various sorts.

All of these problems are avoidable, I believe, but prevention requires time. Fortunately, I suppose one could say, the concern over global warming has spurred a wide-ranging discussion of how to change society in order to use less fossil fuels. But as Dylan said: “All along the watchtower,” the “hour is getting late.” There must be some kinda way outta here. But what is it?

Since so much oil use has to do with transportation — about 70 percent in the U.S., according to my research — it would seem prudent to aggressively plan for and advocate policies encouraging plug-in hybrid vehicles, if not all-electric vehicles, on the one hand, and to do the same for a comprehensive system of electrified mass transit on the other (including high-speed rail and light rail).

What makes this most difficult is that there needs to be a “third” hand — increased density and mixed use of residences, shopping, services, and working, so that less transport is needed in the first place. That is more difficult because it involves building new buildings or retrofitting old ones and reinventing the use of space in cities, towns, and suburbs — and it may involve some radical changes to suburbs.

Then there are the other uses of petroleum, perhaps most critically in agriculture, which could involve a wholesale change from industrial agriculture to localized, more labor-and-knowledge intensive organic forms of agriculture.

So, how should my peak oil questions be answered? Of course it would be better for the environment if we weren’t burning petroleum. I’m not sure many people would miss the internal combustion engine (by the way, a horribly inefficient mechanism, made possible only because of our use of oil).

The big question remains, how do we move from one sort of society to another? Will we tear up the rest of the earth’s ecosystems in the process? Will we emit even more carbon dioxide? Will we wind up killing each other over what’s left?

Or, will we build on the work being done by global warming activists, mapping out and envisioning a new society not based on liquid fuels?


Nuclear power is expensive and undemocratic August 23, 2007

Posted by Andreas in Nuclear Power, rant, South Africa.

Advocates of atomic energy frequently lament that renewable energy sources are not economically viable and can only survive because of massive government handouts. In reality, it’s the renewables that are nuclear’s poor cousins as far as public spending goes.

According to Public Citizen, the US consumer advocacy organisation, the “high capital costs and long construction times make new [nuclear] reactors prohibitively expensive unless they are heavily subsidised by taxpayers. [….] The [nuclear] industry was created by government. Through subsidies, tax breaks, a government-sanctioned exemption from insurance coverage and other supports, government has propped up nuclear power ever since”.

From 1947 to 1999, the US nuclear industry received over US$115 billion in direct taxpayer subsidies. Government subsidies for wind and solar energy for the same period only amounted to US$5.7 billion.

From 1948 to 1998, US federal spending on research and development amounted to US$74 billion for nuclear and only US$14.6 billion on renewables.

The situation in South Africa is similar. Eskom has a budget of R6 billion for atomic energy that dwarfs the R4.5 million equivalent for renewable energy sources.

A 2002 UK Cabinet Office report found that nuclear power costs more than on-shore or off-shore wind electricity per unit generated. The competitive-looking price of atomic electricity frequently quoted by its supporters typically don’t include the huge costs of decommissioning old power stations, the as yet unsolved problem of disposing highly radioactive wast, 0r the fact that nuclear fuel prices will rise substantially as high-grade ores become exhausted worldwide.

In addition to being very costly, nuclear power is deeply undemocratic. Around the globe, there has been very little public debate or consultation about the pros and cons of the “nuclear renaissance” we are told is on the cards for the near future. In fact, the process has been driven almost exclusively by governments and the nuclear industry itself.

In the US, the blueprint for the government’s energy policy, the Nuclear 2010 program, was drawn up by a panel of 13 people, 10 of which are either directly employed by the nuclear industry or have been consultants to it.

Between 1995 and 1998, companies, labour groups and other organisations who are members of the Nuclear Energy Institute, the lobbying organisation of the US nuclear industry, have contributed almost US$12.8 million to the political campaign coffers of members of Congress, while nuclear industry political action committees spend more than US$260 000 on the Bush/Cheney election campaign.

In South Africa, the government is essentially synonymous with the nuclear industry. Eskom is a state owned enterprise with the SA government as its sole shareholder. In 1999, Eskom established the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor company, PBMR (Pty)Ltd, the only non-government investor in which is the US nuclear energy giant Westinghouse with a share of 15%.

There has recently a limited show of so-called public consultation, but government officials are essentially presenting the South African public with a nuclear power fait accompli. Minister of Minerals and Energy, Buyelwa Sonjica declared recently that “the days of talk shops on nuclear issues among peers are over… We are going to invest in nuclear research and development as well as nuclear manufacturing capability”.

And it looks like the public will be carrying most of the bill for our indigenous atomic energy program: Public Enterprises Director-General, Portia Molefe, recently suggested that government (i.e. tax payers) should be willing to consider paying the full cost of the pebble bed modular reactor project.

Israeli Anarchists August 21, 2007

Posted by Andreas in activism, anarchism, Israel and Palestine, Politics.
1 comment so far

Anarchists Against The Wall is a really courageous group of Israeli Jews trying to make a difference:

Anarchists Against the Wall (AATW) is a direct action group that was established in 2003 in response to the construction of the wall Israel is building on Palestinian land in the Occupied West Bank. The group works in cooperation with Palestinians in a joint non violent struggle against the occupation.


Check out their website here and read a recent story about them here.

Book Review: UN LUN DUN by China Miéville August 17, 2007

Posted by Andreas in Book Reviews.
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My rating: 8.64 out of 10 – loved it!

When Zanna and Deeba, two girls from London, stumble upon their city’s mysterious alter ego, UnLondon, they have no idea that they are predestined to figure prominently in its future and are about to embark on the most breathtaking adventure.

UnLondon, you see, is an abcity – a fantastical parallel universe to the real thing, similar to other abcities like Parisn’t, Helsunki, Sans Francisco, Lost Angeles and, I am now convinced, Nohannesburg and Cape Down. It is a non-place that could only have been conjured up by the twisted genius mind of China Miéville – populated by the most outlandish and phantasmagorical characters and scene of an epic battle between good and evil.

While J.K. Rowling has at times been charged with cobbling together her Harry Potter saga from bits and pieces out of the existing canon of fantasy fiction, Miéville can never be accused of lacking imagination and originality. For me, he has been one of the finds of the decade as far as new writers go. He’s my undisputed king of steampunk and weird fiction, his work, a delicious combination of postindustrial sci-fi and swash-buckling organico-goth fantasy.

UN LUN DUN is a book for “younger readers” and makes no claims to be anything else, but the parallels with Miéville’s other books, particularly the amazing Perdido Street Station, are obvious. UN LUN DUN is funnier and substantially lighter on the existential angst and moral ambiguity fronts than Miéville’s “grown-up” fiction, but it’s still a brilliant read for people of any age. I couldn’t put it down.

Read it – you’ll never look at your own city (or at broken umbrellas, empty milk cartons and giraffes) the same way again.

Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge and the Breath of Fresh Air August 16, 2007

Posted by Andreas in News, Politics, Society, South Africa.

My good friend Peter wrote this piece on the Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge debacle. I really like it, so here it is as a guest post:

The events of the past few days have made me realise that fresh air has been in short supply in South African politics these past few years. We got great gales of it in April 1994 when the people came out en masse to vote in the first ever democratic elections. The air then positively crackled for months, nay years, with the sheer possibility of everything. In air like that one could imagine seeing forever.


During recent years, however, the air thickened – not suddenly but gradually, imperceptibly. The open debate and difference we celebrated in the early years of the ANC government were quietly stifled. We gasped at individual examples of the government’s refusal to brook dissent within its ranks but we barely noticed as the bright flowers of mutual care and social invention in the service of others suffocated in the corner while the grand train of government whooshed past, sucking to itself all the oxygen of available public attention.


The stench of corruption, on the other hand, had become hard to avoid. We’d all become accustomed to hold our breath when entering certain conversations or turning on the news, to the point where we were at risk of passing on to future generations the ability to seal one’s nostrils instinctively in the presence of government officials.


No – breathing was becoming tough in Mbeki’s South Africa. Until today.


To understand the power of what has happened, first a little background. Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge, Deputy Minister of Defence from 1999 to 2004 and of Health since then, is a hard-working, head-down, loyal member of the ANC – and, like many other ANC MPs, a senior member of the South African Communist Party at the same time. Nobody doubts that she deserves whatever prominence and leadership she has been accorded by virtue of her service to the anti-apartheid cause under harsh circumstances and in particular her unflagging advocacy of women’s rights.


She also happens to have a quality of personal integrity whose depths – at least in the public domain – are only now being properly fathomed. Though she has never been accorded much in the way of limelight, serving quietly behind more public Ministers, she has won the loyalty and devotion of most of those who have worked with her or come to know her. Then at the end of last year, with the widely unpopular Health Minister in hospital for a serious operation, Nozizwe was granted just enough space in which to make it clear to the public – long angered by the government’s half-hearted response to the AIDS epidemic – that she believed progress was too slow and promptly set about working with the NGOs to speed things up. The public made her a heroine and she very nearly lost her job.


Then a month ago she paid an unannounced visit to a hospital in one of the poorest parts of the country and was clearly shocked by what she saw. In particular she referred to the loss of over 250 babies in the past year – many through lack of resources or negligence – as “a national emergency”. Most ordinary citizens knew instinctively she was right. Mbeki and his Health Minister set out to declare her wrong. Once again she must have felt her bosses’ hot breath on her neck.


So when, last week-end, a national newspaper trumpeted that she was in hot water with the President for having undertaken a trip to Madrid with her 19-year-old son and an advisor from her office that the President had not authorised, my own and many others’ reaction was to think, “How foolish. She should have been more careful. She must have known the knives have long been out for her.” It seemed out of character for her to flout the regulations and the principles of good governance, but we’ve become so used to our politicians letting us down that we were prepared to believe that even she might have become the latest addition to that sorry list.


Then on Wednesday night we heard that, after refusing Mbeki’s request that she resign, she was fired. At last the game was out in the open. Public outrage erupted. Yet there were still nagging doubts as to whether she had in fact done wrong. Surely Mbeki, whose Cabinet is renowned as a place of forgiveness, where indiscretion or incompetence are rarely ever met with dismissal, would not fire her without due cause?


How wrong we were – and how happy we are to have been wrong! In a move that in itself signaled a fundamental break with the closed-rank tradition of the ANC, she called a press conference for today (Friday), to tell her version of events and answer questions. How the President and his Health Minister must have squirmed as they sat by their radios.


What did the public get? Fresh air. Great buckets of it. She threw open the doors and let the breeze of truth and the fragrance of accountability waft through the land. Here is a woman who, after serving eight years under a centralizing, all-controlling President, is not afraid of him. Rather, she trusts the people and her own sense of what is good for all of us. So she challenged Mbeki and his cohorts to explain exactly how they came by certain leaked documents from her office and how it was that she was told she had presidential clearance to fly just hours before a letter of refusal left Mbeki’s office, causing her to turn around at Madrid airport as soon as she became aware of it and, quite correctly, fly straight home again.


Using moderate language and in her steady, warm voice she let us understand that the knives had indeed been out for her for a while and that doing her work had become almost impossible. As she spoke and we listened, courage once more stalked the land, unlocking hearts, minds and lungs. Meanwhile, in the noses of our imagination we could detect the President starting to sweat. Was it possible, after so many years, that our generally dapper Emperor was not fully clothed?


Every great fairy story has a moment like this, when a table is turned and we the people, too long asleep, awaken to the call of one whose heart is pure. We suddenly remember we are glorious in our humanity, that our gift is to be brave and virtuous. We just needed a heroine to name the wicked step-mother’s poisoned apple for what it is. We knew it all along – we always do. But in our hearts we were timid and we allowed the heavy, pompous air that drifts down from the castle to lull us into lethargy.


As night falls on the Kingdom there is a wildness in the wind. Everything has changed.


Simons Town, South Africa
Friday 10th August 2007

Just Nuke’em August 14, 2007

Posted by Andreas in News, Nuclear Power, South Africa.
1 comment so far

OK, this may just be a case of semantics and perhaps there are mitigating excuses along the lines of “Sorry, but English is only our 3rd language”, or perhaps they just have the sickest sense of humour out there, but the fact that the German company that’s helping the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor company build their Pilot Fuel Plant at Pelindaba near Pretoria is called Nukem Technologies (I kid you not) just doesn’t sit quite right with my own sensibilities. What do you think? Here’s the news story.

Oh and while I’m at it (again) – here’s an uplifting (NOT) little story about Libya’s remaining uranium stockpile… charming.

The Dawn of a New Nuclear Age? August 13, 2007

Posted by Andreas in Environment, Nuclear Power, Politics, Society, South Africa.
1 comment so far

Wrote this for August version of The Big Issue. Read this and then buy the real thing on the street.

The Dawn of a New Nuclear Age?

For decades any self-respecting Bond-villain either manufactured or at the very least stole atomic weaponry. But they were always thwarted. In a recent episode of theTV drama series 24, the villains (now terrorists) made and detonated a nuclear bomb in California. Is this pure fiction about to become reality?

On the 62nd anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (6 & 9 August 1945, respectively) and at a time when the power of the atom is in the news more than at any time since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster and the end of the
Cold War, the reality of a suicide nuclear bomber is a pertinent question. The answer will come as a shocking surprise.

Some experts believe that the threat of a nuclear attack by rogue governments or international terrorists is inevitable. Recently, MIT professor and author Hugh Gusterson wrote in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists that “Russia has enough highly enriched uranium lying around to make tens of thousands of Hiroshima-type bombs… Expecting none of Russia’s uranium to get into terrorist hands is as realistic as expecting the United States to end illegal immigration or the heroin trade. Borders are porous, and the folks
guarding all that uranium in Russia are not paid very well.”

Since the ‘90s about 40kg of weaponsusable uranium and plutonium have been stolen from nuclear facilities in the former Soviet Union. In 1997 a Russian team of inspectors found the I N Vekua Physics and Technology Institute in
Sukhumi, Georgia, abandoned and 2kg of enriched uranium missing. A year later Russian security forces stopped workers at a nuclear facility in Chelyabinsk Oblast from stealing 18.5kg of similar material.

Nuclear security issues are not just a problem in Eastern Europe. In 2002, the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) fined the owners an atomic power plant in Connecticut US$288 000 (R2m) for failing to account
for two missing nuclear fuel rods. This year undercover investigators from the US Government Accountability Office
set up a bogus company and obtained a licence from that same NRC that allowed them to buy radioactive nuclear materials for a so-called “dirty” bomb.

Nobel Peace Prize winner and Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Mohamed El Baradei says “the IAEA’s Illicit Trafficking Database has, in the past decade, recorded more than 650 cases that involved efforts to smuggle [nuclear and radioactive] materials”. He told the Washington Post that “a terror group could acquire a stolen nuclear weapon, or enough material to develop a crude nuclear weapon”.

Al Qaeda is known to have tried to obtain nuclear materials and in September last year called for nuclear scientists to join its ranks. In November, British intelligence officials said they believed that Al Qaeda is determined to attack the UK with a nuclear weapon: “we know the aspiration is there, we know the attempt to get material is there, we know the attempt to get technology is there”.

To build such a weapon might be easier than most of us imagine. It has been estimated that 19 appropriately skilled people with access to about US$10-million (R70m) could assemble a nuclear device in a year – a proposition certainly not out of the question for someone like Osama bin Laden.

The prospect of unpredictable governments and ruthless international terrorists arming themselves with atomic weapons are not the only worries. Security experts are increasingly nervous about possible attacks on nuclear power facilities and radioactive materials in transit.

A 2004 UK Parliamentary Office of Science and
Technology Report entitled Assessing the risk of terrorist attacks on nuclear facilities makes for sobering reading. “Nuclear power plants were not designed to withstand some forms of terrorist attack, such as large aircraft impact… Published reports suggest that, in a worst case scenario, the impact of a large aircraft on certain facilities could cause a significant release of radioactive material with effects over a wide area.” In the aftermath of 9/11 these are chilling revelations.

The planned increase in the number of nuclear power plants will lead to increased production and transportation of radioactive materials and a growing number of hard-to-secure nuclear targets for direct terrorist attack and theft of nuclear weapons-usable plutonium and highly enriched uranium. In July 2006, Tom Parry, a reporter for the UK Mirror, planted a fake bomb on a train transporting highly radioactive nuclear waste while it was parked at a North West London railway depot.

Fans of atomic energy tend to gloss over the connection between nuclear weapons and nuclear power, but in the words of Nobel Prize-winning nuclear physicist Hannes Alven, “the military atom and the civil atom are Siamese twins”. Indeed, there are signifi cant historical, technological and geopolitical links between the two.

The various components of a civil nuclear program, including uranium enrichment facilities and nuclear power reactors, are capable of producing the materials necessary to build
nuclear warheads. According to El Baradei, “if a country with a full nuclear fuel cycle decides to break away from its nonproliferation commitments, a nuclear weapon could be only months away”. Which is precisely why the USA is so agitated about Iran’s attempts to establish a civil nuclear power infrastructure.

The fact that such geopolitically significant countries as Russia, India and most importantly China have embarked on massive atomic energy investments which guarantee them access to many nuclear weapons in the future, means
that there is not a snowball’s chance in hell that the USA would even consider throttling back its own nuclear power project.

This is not to say that every countryhas chosen the nuclear route. In July,German chancellor Angela Merkel reiterated her country’s commitment to phase out nuclear power entirely by 2021. In Germany this decision was only reached as a result of massive and sustained popular discontent over atomic energy.

Whether or not a similarly public outcry will convince our own government to choose a non-nuclear future is yet to be seen. To what extent South Africa’s ambitions as a regional and African power player have influenced the government’s present atomic energy drive is diffi cult to estimate.

Globally and locally, it would appear though, that the nuclear fat lady has already sung.

Still think there’s no connection between civil nuclear power and nuclear weapons? Here’s a recent story that suggests otherwise.

Darfur 101 August 8, 2007

Posted by Andreas in activism, Film screening, Politics, Society.

Until embarrassingly recently I was one of those people who had heard about stuff happening in Darfur – bad stuff, no, very bad stuff – but who wouldn’t really have been able to tell you exactly what this bad stuff was and who was doing it to whom and why.

Living in Africa, I decided that I couldn’t just not know about what sounded like a massive catastrophe. So I did some research and ended up writing this very basic primer on the crisis in Darfur for Women24.com:

So, tell me about… Darfur
Not sure what’s happening in Darfur? This’ll help.


Darfur (the ‘homeland of the Fur’), is the arid and remote western region of Sudan that has been the site of an ongoing and very bloody civil war since the early 2000’s

Approximately 7.4 million people inhabit Darfur, which is divided into three federal states.The vast majority of Darfurians are black African Muslims, but several Arab ethnic groups also inhabit the region. Since independence from Britain in 1956, the Sudanese state, including the government, military, judiciary and administrative bureaucracy, has been dominated by a small Arab elite drawn mostly from three tribes living alongside the Nile north of the capital Khartoum. Until the end of the millennium, the multi-ethnic and multi-lingual population of Darfur coexisted in relatively peaceful harmony.

The Conflict:
Accusing the Sudanese government of marginalising Darfur through racist policies of neglect, predominantly black African rebels belonging to either the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) or the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) started attacking police stations, military convoys and army outposts in Darfur in 2003. The Sudanese army responded with massive and ruthless air and land offensives on rebel strongholds, frequently resulting in civilian casualties.

The ethnically Arab Janjaweed militias, supported and armed by the Sudanese government, also started to fight the rebels. These brutal militias (Janjaweed means ‘devil on horseback’) have been accused of numerous atrocities against civilians, including mass killings, torture, burning of whole villages, public mass rapes, abduction of women and children, sex slavery, theft and destruction. Negotiations between the government and rebel groups have resulted in several ceasefire agreements, none of which have brought an end to the fighting.

The Consequences:
The situation in Darfur has been described as ‘the world’s worst humanitarian crisis’, ‘ethnic cleansing’ and ‘genocide’. The underlying reasons for the conflict are complex (spot the Chinese oil pipe, for one thing) and although atrocities have been committed by both sides, the Sudanese military and the Janjaweed have been the main perpetrators of war crimes.

Accurate figures on the human toll are difficult to establish, but as many as 2.5 million people have been driven into overcrowded and unsanitary refugee camps, including several in neighbouring Chad. Between 700 and 2000 villages have been totally or partially destroyed. The United Nations estimates that up to 450 000 people have been killed in Darfur in recent years as a result of violence and disease. The Sudanese government contests these figures, saying that only 9000 have died

The International Response:
The African Union maintains an ill-equipped, poorly funded and hence mostly ineffectual peacekeeping force of 7000 soldiers in the region. The UN Resolution 1706 of 2006, calls for a 17 300 strong UN peacekeeping force, but implementation has been suspended indefinitely because of opposition from the Sudanese government. A number of UN, non-governmental and humanitarian aid organisations are active in Darfur and Chad, but their work is severely hampered by the remoteness of the region and the obstructionist tactics of the Sudanese government.

The USA maintains a set of limited sanctions against Sudan dating back to the country’s support of Osama bin Laden and together with the UK has threatened to impose new sanctions.In May, the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague issued warrants of arrest for a Janjaweed leader and a Sudanese government minister. Denying the authority of the ICC on the matter, the Sudanese government has refused to hand over the two men.

Shocked? Want to know what can YOU do?

Find out more:

Watch The Devil came on Horseback, a documentary on the crisis in Darfur which is being “buzz screened” by While You Were Sleeping and the Labia on Orange in Cape Town on 10, 11 and 12 August 2007. Click here for more details. It premieres at the Tri-Continental Festival in September 2007.

Get involved:

Join with like-minded South Africans, and find out about divestment (like “clever sanctions”) by clicking here.


  • Savedarfur.org
  • Human Rights Watch
  • Amnesty International
  • Darfur-Awareness
  • Check out the Facebook group While You Were Sleeping.
  • One connection I didn’t really make nearly forcefully enough in this short article is the role of resources in the Darfur crisis and particularly the role of (you guessed it) oil. Here’s a link to a really good story about exactly that.

    Darfur documentary in Cape Town August 6, 2007

    Posted by Andreas in activism, Cape Town, Film screening, History, Politics.

    The Devil Came on Horseback, a haunting documentary about Darfur, to be shown in Cape Town

    The Devil Came on Horseback, a must-see documentary about the tragedy taking place in Darfur, will be shown at the Labia on Orange cinema in Cape Town on Sunday 12 August at 6.15pm, on Monday 13 August at 8:30pm and on Tuesday 14 August at 8:30pm. These buzz screenings are brought to you by While You Were Sleeping in collaboration with the Tri Continental Film Festival.



    The Devil Came on Horseback exposes the genocide in Darfur, Sudan as seen through the eyes of an American witness, former U.S. Marine Captain Brian Steidle, who served as an unarmed military observer with the African Union from 2004 through 2005.

    Shaped by Brian’s personal journey – using on-the-ground video and more than 1,000 of his exclusive photographs of the emerging crisis in Darfur – the film reveals the horrors of a government waging a dark war on its citizens, creating a gripping and uncompromising expose of this ongoing genocide.

    Just 27 years old, Brian was unprepared for what he would experience – daily he witnessed the brutal slaughtering of men, women and children yet was unable to intervene – and for what he would learn about Sudan and its government. Armed with a pen, paper and a camera, Brian’s only defense was to document the evidence and capture proof of an Arab government bent on destroying its black African citizens.



    Pic by Brian Steidle

    Ultimately frustrated by the African Union’s inability to take action, Brian resigned and smuggled more than 1000 photographs back to the United States. Haunted by what he witnessed, Brian became driven to expose the images and stories behind this ongoing genocide, with the hope of compelling international intervention.

    The killing in Darfur continues today. In fact, 2007 is estimated to be the deadliest year yet in Darfur, as the violence spreads and humanitarian groups begin to leave the area.

    We are very proud to have received permission from the film’s directors to show The Devil Came on Horseback in Cape Town and share their hope that it will inspire and empower people to get involved and become active in bringing peace to Darfur, and to motivate international leadership to create foreign policy to respond effectively to this crisis before it becomes even worse. Come and find out what’s going on in Darfur and what you can do about it.

    The screenings on August 12, 13 and 14 will be followed by a facilitated audience discussion. Tickets are R20 and can be reserved by calling The Labia at 021 424 5927. Reserving tickets is strongly recommended to avoid disappointment.

    This event is presented by:

    ● The Labia,

    While You Were Sleeping, a Cape Town-based non-profit film collective committed to bringing progressive, non-mainstream documentaries with important social and environmental messages to South African audiences,

    ● Shikaya, a non-profit organisation that works with teachers to create a South Africa in which every learner is inspired to become responsible citizens in our democracy, valuing diversity, human rights and peace,

    Tri Continental Film Festival, and

    ● Stand Up, a UCT social awareness and action group.

    The Devil Came on Horseback will premier at the Tri Continental Film Festival in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban and Pretoria from 14 September to 11 October 2007.

    A small selection of progressive books will be on sale at the venue.