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Save the Sea Point Promenade February 28, 2008

Posted by Andreas in activism, Cape Town, Press Release, Society, South Africa.
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Here’s an invitation from Seafront for All to a UCT Centre for African Studies Discussion Forum on proposed developments for the Sea Point Promenade:

“The Cape Town City Council has awarded a tender to a developer to erect a 52-bedroom hotel and a multi-storeyed shopping centre at the Sea Point pavilion. If allowed to go ahead, it will destroy one of the most precious and inclusive public open spaces in Cape Town. The Sea Point open air swimming pools and pavilion are used by thousands of Capetonians – poor and rich, black and white. Now, like many of the best parts of Cape Town, it is being taken from the people of Cape Town and sold off to a rich elite.

The Centre for African Studies is hosting a forum on Wednesday, March 5, from 6pm to 7.30 pm. Anti-development activists, environmentalists; thinkers and journalists will debate how best to fight off this development.

We will also be looking at how important public open spaces are to the emotional and cultural health of a city – and what sort of Cape Town we want. A seaside resort for the global rich? Or a vibrant, diverse African city?

Come and be part of the debate.”

All welcome.
Drinks and snacks will be served.

Venue –
The Gallery
Centre for African Studies
Oppenheimer Institute Building
Engineering Mall
Upper Campus
University of Cape Town

Time 18:00
Date March 5th, 2007

Here’s a map of UCT (the Centre for African Studies is in cell B2).

Going to a Celine Dion concert is… February 26, 2008

Posted by Andreas in Life, rant, South Africa.
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always a bad idea!

Politics = Oil February 21, 2008

Posted by Andreas in "The Economy", Climate change, Environment, Global warming, Politics.
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Check out this cool interactive online tool that shows the relationship between Big Oil and the politicians contesting the next US presidential election.

oil money

Would be interesting to see the same sort of thing for campaign contributions from Big Coal, Big Pharma, Biotech, the nuclear and automobile industries, etc.

Nuclear power pundit Patrick Moore in SA February 20, 2008

Posted by Andreas in Climate change, Environment, Nuclear Power, renewable energy, South Africa.

You may have heard that Patrick Moore, a co-founder of Greenpeace and reborn supporter of atomic energy, will be visiting South Africa in March. You may even have received an invitation looking something like this:



3 MARCH – 7th MARCH 2008.

At the invitation of the Nuclear Industry Association of South Africa (NIASA) in association with the Universities of Witwatersrand, Pretoria, North-West, Western Cape and Stellenbosch as well as the MTN Science Centre in Cape Town, Dr. Patrick Moore, world-renowned ecologist, environmentalist and co-founder of Greenpeace, will tour South Africa during the week of 3-7 March 2008 to present a series of insightful public lectures on Global Warming and the Search for Sustainable, Clean Energy.”

Dr Moore, once an ardent opponent and activist against nuclear energy will discuss the impact of global warming and present his views on the challenges and the respective roles that nuclear power, renewable sources and energy efficiency can play in producing a cleaner electricity supply and ensuring a sustainable energy future.

Dr Moore now spends much of his time with his team from Greenspirit Strategies Ltd. advising industry, environmental and social agencies and governments around the world, about sustainable and environmentally safe, alternative energy supplies – refer to the attached biography.

The schedule of public meetings is as follows:

Monday 3 March: 18:00

Great Hall, University of Witwatersrand

Tuesday 4 March: 15:00

Sanlam Auditorium, North-West University, Potchefstroom Campus

Wednesday 5 March: 14:00

Aula, University of Pretoria

Thursday 6 March: 17:00

Main Auditorium, University of the Western Cape, Belville

Thursday 6 March: 19:30

Auditorium, MTN Science Centre, Century City, Cape Town

Friday 7 March: 13:00

University of Stellenbosch, Jannasch Hall, Conservatoire of Music, Victoria street, Stellenbosch

The public meetings are free and open to the public.

That all looks very interesting, doesn’t it. Unfortunately it only tells part of Patrick Moore’s story. I’ve written about him (here and here) previously. Here are the relevant bits:

I recently came across two really good articles (here and here) about how the nuclear power industry in the United States is conducting a massive public relations campaign to make atomic energy palatable.

The industry spends millions of dollars on “media outreach”, lobbying federal officials and in helping to establish and fund pro-nuclear groups such as the Vermont Energy Partnership, the New York Affordable Reliable Electricity Alliance, the Massachusetts Affordable Reliable Electricity Alliance and the Clean and Safe Energy Coalition.

The Clean and Safe Energy Coalition employs Patrick Moore as one of its co-chairs. As a co-founder of Greenpeace (he left the organisation in 1986), Moore is frequently quoted in the press and by pro-nuclear pundits as an environmentalist who has come to his senses and now supports nuclear energy as a green solution to global warming. The fact that his salary is paid by the atomic energy industry is less commonly mentioned.

Having been in the doldrums for decades after the nuclear accidents at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, the atomic energy industry in the USA, in a now rather familiar strategy, has been spending millions of dollars on political lobbying, establishing pro-nuclear organisations and “media outreach”. In 2006, the Nuclear Energy Institute, representing the US atomic energy industry, launched the Clean and Safe Energy Coalition, which is co-chaired by Patrick Moore, one of the founders of Greenpeace.

Moore, who left Greenpeace in 1986 to start a consulting firm that has worked for the logging, mining, biotech and nuclear industries, is frequently quoted in the media as an environmentalist and former Greenpeace activist who has come to the conclusion that atomic power is our only solution. The media also very commonly forget to mention that Moore now happens to be employed by the atomic power industry.

In a pro-nuclear article in this year’s January to June [2007] issue of the South African glossy magazine Greenprint, for example, Moore is quoted as a co-founder of Greenpeace, while his financial attachment to the industry he promotes is not mentioned.

So yes, Patrick Moore was indeed a founder member of Greenpeace, but let’s not forget how he’s been making his money since leaving that organisation.

Chomsky and “The Pledge” February 18, 2008

Posted by Andreas in activism, anarchism, Politics, Quotes, Society, South Africa.
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Last week, I wrote about the new pledge that South African school kids will be obliged to recite every morning. It seems much of the public criticism surrounding the pledge has to do with the content of the thing, particularly the first sentence (“We, the youth of South Africa, recognising the injustices of our past, honour those who suffered and sacrificed for justice and freedom”), which some people consider to be divisive. Frankly I don’t have that problem. I think the text is fairly factual and accurate. I simply have a problem with anybody being forced to regurgitate it over and over again. It’s a blunt attempt at indoctrination.

Here’s Noam Chomsky on the subject (from a 1990 talk entitled “Containing the Threat of Democracy” published in Chomsky on Anarchism; my italics):

A properly functioning system of indoctrination has a variety of tasks, some rather delicate. One of its targets is the stupid and ignorant masses. They must be kept that way, diverted with emotionally potent oversimplifications, marginalized, and isolated. Ideally, each person should be alone in front of a TV screen watching sports, soap operas, or comedies, deprived of organizational structures that permit individuals lacking resources to discover what they think and believe in interaction with others, to formulate their own concerns and programs, and to act to realize them. They can be permitted, even encouraged, to ratify the decisions made by their betters in periodic elections. The “rascal multitude” are the proper targets of the mass media and a public education system geared to obedience and training in needed skills, including the skill of repeating patriotic slogans on timely occasions.

Trashing Mpumalanga’s Lake District February 14, 2008

Posted by Andreas in "The Economy", Climate change, Environment, Global warming, South Africa.
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Here’s another little-known environmental story from Peak Poison, the 2007 groundWork report:

The Mpumalanga Lake District around Chrissiesmeer lies at the headwaters of three major river catchments – the Vaal, the Olifants and the Komati. The lakes are unique because of their unusually clean water, natural beauty and bird life, and have been disturbed only by cattle farming. The area is a window on an ancient geological past, contains many San rock paintings and is a growing tourism destination.

The area also contains the closest coal resources to the mothballed Mpumalanga power plants. The return to service of these plants, together with increased export opportunities, has resulted in 114 applications for coal mining on farms totalling some 22,000 hectares. The planned open cast coal mining will destroy the water catchment. Within 5 to 10 years after backfilling an opencast mine, acid mine drainage starts – spilling acid waters (pH 2.5) onto the surface and bringing with it iron, salts and heavy metals such as manganese, copper and zinc. It will poison the lakes and the soils around them and turn an irreplaceable resource into a toxic waste.

Screw the pledge February 13, 2008

Posted by Andreas in activism, anarchism, Life, News, Parenting, Politics, rant, Society, South Africa.
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South Africa’s Minister of Education, Naledi Pandor, has just unveiled the pledge which “will be recited during assembly in all schools”. Here it is:

We, the youth of South Africa, recognising the injustices of our past, honour those who suffered and sacrificed for justice and freedom.

We will respect and protect the dignity of each person, and stand up for justice.

We sincerely declare that we shall uphold the rights and values of our constitution and promise to act in accordance with the duties and responsibilities that flow from these rights.


Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrica

Sounds reasonable, doesn’t it. Sure, and I’m all for people reciting it as often as they like – with the emphasis very much on the word “like”.

In my opinion, forcing kids to regurgitate this, or any other “pledge”, every morning, whether they want to or not, turns the idea of committing ones self to certain principles into a cheap and meaningless exercise in pop psychology at best. At worst, it’s an attempt at brainwashing.

The whole thing will probably be counterproductive – I know I would have absolutely hated having to recite any formulaic pledge every day. What about kids who refuse to say the pledge? Will they be forced to, will they be punished, or identified as unpatriotic traitors and publicly humiliated?

If the country’s constitution is the issue, then let kids engage with it properly. Let them dissect it and critique it and take from it what they like… make up their own minds and then defend it if they feel that way inclined.

Really meaningful commitment to any idea can only come from a genuine personal investment, never from mindless indoctrination. Let the kids think for themselves – they are well capable of being compassionate human beings without being force fed even the most well-meaning formulae.

Besides, does anyone else find it just a tat ironic for these sorts of decrees to come from politicians – frankly (and yes I am generalising here), a bunch of people up to their elbows in corruption, regularly outed as criminals, who have just gotten rid of one institution (the Scorpions) that kept on exposing their dirty laundry. As far as influencing a future generation goes, I think their actions will speak louder than the words of any pledge.

President Bomber February 11, 2008

Posted by Andreas in Politics, Quotes.
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John Pilger’s assessment of the candidates in the running for the US presidency”:

Barack Obama is a glossy Uncle Tom who would bomb Pakistan. Hillary Clinton, another bomber, is anti-feminist. John McCain’s one distinction is that he has personally bombed a country.

Charming prospects!

More bad news for biofuels… February 8, 2008

Posted by Andreas in Climate change, Environment, Global warming, renewable energy.

Two recent studies show that growing crops for biofuel production could actually lead to increased greenhouse gas emissions.

It’s obvious that producing biodiesel and ethanol by conventional energy- and carbon-intensive agricultural methods, as opposed to sustainable organic ones, greatly reduces their mitigating effects:

Extra emissions are created from the production of fertiliser needed to grow corn, for example, leading some researchers to predict that the energy released by burning ethanol is only 25% greater than that used to grow and process the fuel.

The new studies, however, highlight a more fundamental problem:

Analyzing the lifecycle emissions from biofuels, the first study found that carbon released by converting rainforests, peatlands, savannas, or grasslands often far outweighs the carbon savings from biofuels. Conversion of peatland rainforests for oil palm plantations for example, incurs a “carbon debt” of 423 years in Indonesia and Malaysia, while the carbon emission from clearing Amazon rainforest for soybeans takes 319 years of renewable soy biodiesel before the land can begin to lower greenhouse gas levels and mitigate global warming.

According to Joe Fargione, one of the scientists participating in the studies, “These natural areas store a lot of carbon, so converting them to croplands results in tons of carbon emitted into the atmosphere.”

[T]he second study suggests that producing corn for fuel rather than food could have dramatic knock-on effects elsewhere. Corn is used to feed cattle and demand for meat is high, so switching land to biofuel production is likely to prompt farmers in Brazil and elsewhere to clear forests and other lands to create new cropland to grow the missing corn. When the carbon released by those clearances is taken into account, corn ethanol produces nearly twice as much carbon as petrol.

A sobering thought, considering the SA government’s plans for large-scale ethanol production from corn (maize).

According to Alex Farrell, another scientist involved in the studies,

biofuels could still prove useful in the fight against climate change, but using different approaches – such as focusing on crops for both food and fuel, or new technology for generating biofuels from food waste.

Algae anyone?!

Find out more here, here and here.

All I ever learned at school February 7, 2008

Posted by Andreas in activism, Life, Parenting, Society.
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Fellow blogger LawGeek recently posted a compilation of YouTube clips of people (mostly kids) revealing how to cheat at school. Classic, I think. Reminded me a bit of that Madness song Baggy Trousers: “All I learned at school was how to bend not break the rules” – ok, there might be a fair bit of actual breaking involved here as well… Find the post here.