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Book Review: Little Brother by Cory Doctrow May 28, 2009

Posted by Andreas in Book Reviews.

Yes, Little Brother by Cory Doctrow of Boing Boing fame is a kid’s book. That doesn’t mean it’s not a lot of exciting and fun reading for adults as well.


US teenager Marcus gets into trouble with the law – with the überscary Department of Homeland Security to be exact, but he’s not about to take the government’s bullying nonsense lying down. His troubles start when he runs foul of his school’s electronic surveillance system. And if you think that’s an unlikely scenario, check out this…

Little Brother is one of those books that shows that young adult literature can explore serious politics without being patronising. A progressive thriller for young people. I just wish my kids were a little older. Ah well, they’ll just have to wait a couple of years before I highly recommend it to them. You can download the text for free here.

South Africa resuscitates nuke programme May 26, 2009

Posted by Andreas in Cape Town, Environment, Nuclear Power, South Africa.
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When Eskom appeared to stop it’s plans to build more nuclear power stations in South Africa at the end of last year, those of us who oppose this expensive, dangerous and environmentally costly form of electricity generation heaved a big, but temporary sigh of relief, knowing perfectly well that the monster would be back soon enough. So here it is: the national power utility is hoping to build not one, but three new conventional atomic power plants.

According to Melanie Gosling, Eskom is:

asking to be allowed to combine authorisations to develop Nuclear-1, Nuclear-2 and Nuclear-3 power stations at all three coastal sites earmarked for the nuclear programme. The three sites are Bantamsklip near Pearly Beach in the Overstrand, Thyspunt near Oyster Bay in the Eastern Cape and the Koeberg site of Dynefontein 30km north of Cape Town. At the start of the environmental impact assessment (EIA) the three places were to be assessed as alternative sites for the proposed Nuclear-1. […] The application includes the “roll-out dates” for the first three nuclear power stations: site preparation for Nuclear-1 will start in January next year and the nuke will come online in July 2018; site preparation for Nuclear-2 will begin in January 2013 and come online in July 2020 and Nuclear-3 site preparation start in January 2015 and come online in July 2022.

Great. We’re told that South African passports can’t be trusted, but we’re asked to put our faith in Eskom’s load-shedding hands when it comes to running a fully-fledged nuclear power programme…

If you’re looking for a juicy project encompassing both politics and the environment into which to sink your activist teeth, helping to stop this lunacy should be near the top of your agenda.

Cat-proofing veggie beds May 21, 2009

Posted by Andreas in Gardening, Life, Organic Food, South Africa, Sustainable Living, Urban Agriculture.
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I built a couple of raised beds for growing veggies in a small corner behind our house some time ago. The main problem with them has been that our cat, Perry, has been using them as her toilet. Not good for growing food and really smelly, too! She has her own “facilities” right next to the beds, but I guess she finds them less convenient, so I set about trying to cat-proof the beds.

I cleaned up the beds and installed shade netting to keep Perry out of them. Here's the culprit inspecting my handiwork

I cleaned up the beds and installed shade netting to keep Perry out of them. Here's the culprit inspecting my handiwork

Veggie garden in cat exclusion mode! Of course in summer the shade netting will also help to keep out the scalding sun.

Veggie garden in cat exclusion mode! Of course in summer the shade netting will also help to keep out the scalding sun.

My efforts seem to have been reasonably successful, although keeping the cat out of the beds completely is never going to happen. I did sow some stuff in the beds and we’ve already harvested some beans.



Some suburban farming principles May 7, 2009

Posted by Andreas in Cape Town, Gardening, Life, Organic Food, South Africa, Sustainable Living, Urban Agriculture.
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Nothing complicated here, just a couple of principles I’d like to follow as I start getting into this urban agriculture thing in our garden. It’s all a bit daunting at the moment as we head into winter and the whole garden goes into hibernation. Here goes:

DIY – I’d like to do as much of my gardening myself and don’t want “experts” to do the job for me. I’m very open to advice, suggestions and help, of course 😉

Organic – no synthetic fertilisers or chemicals in this garden! I’m hoping to broadly follow the principles of permaculture in my approach.

Sustainable – In our climate that means being particularly mindful of water requirements, but also of other inputs such as compost. I also want our garden to be fairly low-maintenance… I’ve got a job, you know.

Cheap – I’d like to use as many cheap and free resources as possible and am hoping that Freecycle and the Cape Town Talent Exchange (a local alternative currency system) will help achieve that goal.

Beautiful and functional – I’d like our garden to be a place that the whole family enjoys spending time in, while at the same time offering habitats for wildlife (I’m talking mostly birds, reptiles and insects here, not antelope and such…) and providing us with a steady supply of healthy, organic and fresh fruit and vegetables.

That’s about it for the moment. Will add more if I can think of any…

Book Review: Strangely Like War by Derrick Jensen and George Draffan May 5, 2009

Posted by Andreas in Book Reviews, Environment, Sustainable Living.
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We recently spent three nights camping in Nature’s Valley, one of our favourite spots in the world. An infestation of particularly voracious mosquitos aside we had a brilliant time on the beach, on and in the estuary and hiking in the forest. This was probably both the best and the worst setting to read Strangely Like War: The Global Assault on Forests by Derrick Jensen and George Draffan.


The book is a wake-up call for anyone who loves forests and who has yet to realise the desperate state they’re in all over the world (note I’m not including tree plantations here – they are industrialised monoculture deserts that don’t qualify as forests). Read this if you think things have changed in recent times. For fans of Derrick Jensen, like myself, the book goes some way towards explaining his politics and philosophy which you may have come across in his more recent work.

We spend a couple of blissful hours walking in relatively pristine indigenous forest, one of the most revitalising and life-affirming experiences you could ever wish for. Our little hike ended on the beach and a look back revealed that what we had been walking in is merely a narrow fringe of original, indigenous forest that remains, the rest having fallen to tree farms and other agriculture, roads, etc. Driving back home along the N2, I was constantly wondering how much of this area was once covered in forests and reflecting on what humans had done to the place.

Strangely Like War is a must read for anyone who cares about the Earth’s forests. It’s a depressing read, I admit, but, like all of Jensen’s books, it will make you look differently at what we are doing to the planet.