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Documentary screening: Black Gold March 25, 2008

Posted by Andreas in "The Economy", activism, Cape Town, Film screening, Politics, Society, South Africa.
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While You Were Sleeping is doing another doucmentary screening in Cape Town. This one’s about coffee:


Black Gold, a beautifully shot documentary that explores the story behind the billion dollar industry which get’s the world going every morning will be shown at the Labia on Orange cinema in Cape Town on Sunday 30 March at 6.15pm, on Monday 31 March at 8:30pm and on Tuesday 1 April at 8:30pm.

Few of us ever consider what it takes to get that precious cup of coffee onto our breakfast tables every morning. You may be interested enough to know that the beans came from Jamaica, Colombia or Indonesia, but did you know that coffee is the most valuable trading commodity in the world after oil and that multinational companies dominate the global coffee industry which is worth over $80 billion.



While we continue to enjoy our daily lattes and cappuccinos, the price paid to coffee farmers is so low that many have been forced to abandon their coffee fields and are facing bankruptcy. Nowhere is this paradox more evident than in Ethiopia, the birthplace of coffee. Black Gold dramatically juxtaposes the abject poverty of Ethiopian coffee growers with the luxurious coffee-house culture of the affluent First World.

It tells the story of Tadesse Meskela who travels the globe in an attempt to find buyers willing to pay a fair price for the 74 000 struggling Ethiopian coffee farmers he represents. Against the backdrop of Tadesse’s journey to London and Seattle, the enormous power of the multinational players that dominate the world’s coffee trade becomes apparent. New York commodity traders, the international coffee exchanges, and the double dealings of trade ministers at the World Trade Organisation reveal the many challenges Tadesse faces in his quest for a long term solution for his farmers.

Watch the trailer:


If you are a coffee drinker, you owe it to yourself and to the millions of poor coffee farmers around the world to find out more about your favourite brew. Do you buy Fair Trade coffee? Did the people who grew the beans for your last cuppa get a good enough price to make a decent living for themselves and their families? Watch Black Gold and hear their story.

For more information consult the official Black Gold website: www.blackgoldmovie.com.

The screenings 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 and 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.

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


The Labia:

(021) 424 5927

While You Were Sleeping:

Andreas Späth

084 772 1056




How much do you spend of coffee each day? And what proportion of that goes to the coffee farmer? Find out with the Black Gold Coffee Calculator


Buy Fair Trade coffee and make a difference!

Dunefield in the way of nukeplant March 18, 2008

Posted by Andreas in Environment, News, Nuclear Power, South Africa.
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We spend a few days in Cape St Francis in the Eastern Cape recently. From where we were staying, you have a clear view of Thyspunt, one of the sites Eskom has proposed for a conventional (i.e. not a Pebble Bed Modular Reactor) nuclear power plant.

This picture of the dunefield is on the front page of the March edition of the St Francis Chronicle (excuse the amateurish cut-and-paste job):


The headline reads:


According to the accompanying story:

Access roads to the proposed Thyspunt nuclear site will need to cross the St Francis mobile dune field and attendant wetlands. This will result in untold damage to the dunes and wetlands, and could impact negatively on St Francis Bay, aggravating the town’s current storm water and flooding problems.


according to Professor Richard Cowling of the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University and a resident at Cape St Francis, […] the (Draft Scoping) Report should have eliminated Thyspunt as a site for the proposed nuclear facility (but of course this didn’t happen).

It’s great to see that there is growing local awareness of the problems associated with atomic energy. It’s unclear to me at the moment, however, whether the opposition of people in the St Francis Bay area is simply a matter of “not in my backyard”, or if it’s a principled stance against nuclear power in general. I hope, of course, it is the latter.

BP as you’ve never seen them before March 17, 2008

Posted by Andreas in activism, Environment, renewable energy, Sustainable Living.
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You know I love The Yes Men. Here’s them giving BP a very subtle revamp (just click on the logo):


Now compare it to the real thing – brilliant!


Obama and Clinton’s nuclear glow March 5, 2008

Posted by Andreas in activism, anarchism, Environment, Nuclear Power, Politics.

If you are following the US pre-election hype and perhaps have a favourite candidate a story by Jessica Lee entitled “The Democrats’ Dirty Secret: Presidential Candidates Backed by Nuclear Power Houses” is bound to put a damper on your enthusiasm unless you’re an atomic energy fan. It also documents the legacy of uranium mining among some of the poorest and most abused communities in the USA. Here are some extracts:

Tiokasin Ghosthorse, a member of the Lakota Nation, explains, “In western South Dakota, there is an unspoken nuclear Chernobyl. There are days when the sky is brown from the dust of uranium mining tailings in the air. This is cattle and wheat country. When the dust settles, no one knows they are being radiated.”


“A few years [ago], there were only 19 of us left from my 1973 high school graduating class of 70 or 80 people. Nine out of 10 of them had died of cancer.”


The New York Times recently noted that in the case of New Mexico, where the nuclear power industry is seeking to restart uranium mining near a Dine (Navajo) reservation, “mining companies walked away from their cleanup responsibilities” of a thousand open mines after the Cold War ended. The Times stated “among the horrors” that resulted were “shifting mountains of uranium tailings; open mines leaching contaminated rain into drinking water tables; wind-blown radioactive dust; home construction from uranium mine slabs; and even the grim spectacle of children playing in radioactive swimming holes and ground pits.”

Obama may appeal because of his ethnic background and Clinton because she would be the first woman president, but both are firmly in the pocket of the atomic energy industry (oh, yes, and of course they and everyone else are also co-owned by Big Oil):

The nuclear industry has helped bankroll the presidential campaigns of both Senators Obama and Clinton. Executives and employees of the Illinois-based Exelon have given Obama at least $221,517 — making Exelon Obama’s eighth largest contributor. Obama’s chief political strategist, David Axelrod, has also served as a consultant to Exelon.

NRG Energy is betting on Clinton. In September, NRG filed an application with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to open the first U.S. nuclear plan in more than 30 years. NRG Energy has given Clinton nearly $80,000 in campaign contributions. The company’s president and CEO, David Crane, is a “Hillraiser” — a Clinton backer who has raised at least $100,000. NRG Energy has also given $175 million to The Clinton Global Initiative run by former President Bill Clinton.

It’s encouraging to note, however, that indigenous activists have an acute understanding of the situation:

“Not one of the presidential candidates has an energy policy that excludes exploitation of indigenous lands,” said Klee Benally, founder of Indigenous Action Media and a volunteer with the Save the Peaks Coalition.

Ghosthorse agrees. “Hillary and Obama are not going to do anything about this. It is not who we elect, it is the system.”


“Politicians do not have the answers and we cannot rely on them to provide the answers in the context of a system that is built on the exploitation of our lands,” Benally said. “We do not just need political action, we need direct action in our communities — because behind every environmental crisis is a social crisis.”

“This is the low-intensity warfare against Native people all of the time,” Ghosthorse said.

Genetically modified crops in your neighbourhood? March 3, 2008

Posted by Andreas in Environment, genetic engineering, Press Release, South Africa, Sustainable Living.
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Do you know if there are any trial fields for genetically modified crops near where you live? According to the African Centre for Biosafety:

Their ability to escape into the environment is well known. Their safety for people with allergies remains in question. Yet we continue to experiment with genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and some have even been commercially released. And yes, they may be growing, undetected, unmarked and right out in the open in a field near you.

How would you ever know? If the Department of Agriculture and the biotechnology industry have their way, you should never find out. Unless, of course, you fall ill.


“Questions around GMO field trials in South Africa continue to be asked – where exactly are they happening, when will there be adequate environmental risk assessment and post–release monitoring, what are the effects on neighbours of GMO field trials and what are the cumulative effects of all the field trials that have happened in South Africa?” says ACB director, Mariam Mayet.


“The latest report contains both good and bad news,” says Mayet. “The good news is that there were significant refusals as a result of anti-GMO activism. More good news is that there were far fewer field trials during 2007 than 2006.”
The bad news is that there were 21 different field sites in 2007, as well as 11 medical clinical trials including GM HIV vaccine and GM TB vaccine. “The 21 field sites involved GM potatoes, GM cotton, GM maize, GM sugarcane, GM groundnuts and GM maize. Trials were conducted by both the gene giants and also public sector research institutions.”
“One of the biggest problems is that neither biotech companies nor the Department of Agriculture are prepared to reveal exactly which fields have been planted with GMOs,” says Mayet. “This is considered ‘commercially confidential information’.”

Find out if there are any trial plots near you by consulting the ACB’s updated biohazards map: