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4 Great Eco-Documentaries at the Labia September 14, 2010

Posted by Andreas in bees, Climate change, Environment, Film screening, Nuclear Power, Sustainable Living, University of Cape Town.
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While You Were Sleeping and the UCT Green Campus Initiative invite you to watch four fantastic documentaries with important environmental themes at the Labia on Orange cinema in Cape Town from Monday 20 September to Thursday 23 September at 6.15pm.

You can’t afford to miss these thought-provoking and inspiring documentary films covering themes from nuclear energy and over-fishing to oil pollution.

Vanishing of the Bees

Monday 20 September 6.15pm

An eye-opening account of the truth behind the world-wide decline in honeybee populations. Known as Colony Collapse Disorder, this phenomenon has brought beekeepers to crisis in an industry responsible for producing apples, broccoli, watermelon, onions, cherries and a hundred other fruits and vegetables. Commercial honeybee operations pollinate crops that make up one out of every three bites of food on our tables. Filming across the US, in Europe, Australia and Asia, this documentary examines the alarming disappearance of honeybees and the greater meaning it holds about the relationship between humanity and nature. As scientists puzzle over the cause, organic beekeepers indicate alternative reasons for this tragic loss. Conflicting options abound and after years of research, a definitive answer has not been found to this harrowing mystery.

The Nuclear Comeback

Tuesday 21 September 6.15pm

In a world living in fear of climate change and global warming, the nuclear industry is proposing itself as a solution. It claims that nuclear power generation produces zero carbon emissions. Is it time we learned to love the split atom? Or is there a risk that we might be jumping out of the carbon frying pan and into the plutonium fire? The Nuclear Comeback poses the question of whether, by seriously considering the renewed development of nuclear power, we may be gambling with the very survival of our planet.

The End of the Line

Wednesday 22 September 6.15pm

Imagine a world without fish! The End of the Line is the world’s first documentary about the devastating effects of overfishing. Filmed across the world – from the Straits of Gibraltar to the coasts of Senegal and Alaska to the Tokyo fish market – featuring top scientists, indigenous fishermen and fisheries enforcement officials, The End of the Line is a wake-up call to the world.


Thursday 23 September 6.15pm

An inside look at the infamous $27 billion “Amazon Chernobyl” case. Three years in the making, this cinéma-vérité feature from acclaimed filmmaker Joe Berlinger is the epic story of one of the largest and most controversial environmental lawsuits on the planet. Crude is a real-life high stakes legal drama, set against a backdrop of the environmental movement, global politics, celebrity activism, human rights advocacy, the media, multinational corporate power, and rapidly-disappearing indigenous cultures.

Each screening 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 UCT Green Campus Initiative, 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.


The Labia:

021 424 5927

UCT Green Campus Initiative:


While You Were Sleeping:

Andreas Späth

084 772 1056


Where Do I Stand? September 8, 2010

Posted by Andreas in Uncategorized.
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New documentary about youth and xenophobia to be shown in Cape Town

Where Do I Stand? – a documentary film that explores the experiences of seven young Capetonians during the xenophobic violence in South Africa in 2008 – will be shown at the Labia on Orange cinema in Cape Town on Sunday 19 September at 6.15pm, on Monday 20 September at 8:30pm and on Tuesday 21 September at 8:30pm.

When xenophobic attacks broke out across South Africa in May 2008, many found themselves caught off guard, shocked by violence that felt like a violation of the principles of their newly democratic nation. Over two months, 62 people were killed, hundreds wounded and over a hundred thousand displaced. In the midst of this violence, many young people, clad in the bright greens and maroons of their school uniforms, looted neighborhood shops while some of their classmates, refugees themselves, fled to safer ground. Some youth tried to find a way to help, but still more stood by, watching from their windows or on television.

Where Do I Stand? is a window into the lives of seven young people who are thinking deeply about their actions during and after the violence, their communities, and the state of their country. They include a Rwandan refugee, a girl wrestling with the reality of foreigners in her township, a boy facing calls of cowardice by friends for not looting, and a suburban girl whose family sheltered their Malawian gardener.

This violence was yet another challenge to a growing country still struggling with the legacy of apartheid – extended poverty, unemployment, and racial and economic divisions. Where Do I Stand? captures the optimistic voices of youth trying to make sense of what they experienced and how they carve out their own places in this complex and divided nation.

Where Do I Stand? Is a 37-minute-long documentary by director Molly Blank produced in partnership with Shikaya. For more information consult the official website.

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, Shikaya, an organisation that works with teachers to inspire and support young South Africans to become responsible democratic citizens and future leaders who value diversity, human rights and peace, Molly Blank, the film’s director, 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.


The Labia:

021 424 5927

Molly Blank:

021 448 9642



Dylan Wray

021 448 9642



While You Were Sleeping:

Andreas Späth

084 772 1056


A fantasy of falling towers September 1, 2010

Posted by Andreas in Column, Environment, rant, renewable energy, South Africa, Sustainable Living.
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A fantasy of falling towers

(This column was first published on 2010-08-25 at News24 here)

“I remember the moment the Athlone cooling towers fell as though it happened a few days ago. The annoyingly premature detonation. The structures collapsing in on themselves. The dull thud and the puff of dust drifting across the Cape Flats.

I was nine years old at the time.

It was a winter Sunday made for a monkey’s wedding and my dad had taken us boys to Rhodes Memorial where a large crowd had gathered to witness the spectacle. Little did any of us know how dramatically this event would change South Africa, symbolically signalling the end of the age of coal.

Watching those towers collapse all those years ago made me who I am today. I’m Benjamin Späth, environmental demolition engineer, and for the past three decades I’ve made a living by blowing up coal-fired power stations.

Of course the demise of King Coal didn’t just happen overnight. The government and politicians of the day were too invested – philosophically and financially – in a carbon-intensive energy future. Since the industrialised countries had gone this route, wasn’t it our right to do the same? Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan summed up the attitude in a Washington Post op-ed piece, saying that we had no choice but to rely on coal.

Eskom, already one of the world’s champion CO2 emitters, had plans to build new coal plants in ecologically sensitive areas and declared the need to open at least 40 new coal mines. Ever willing to fund dubious mega-projects, the World Bank granted Eskom a $3.75bn loan, most of it to fund the controversial Medupi power station which was going to add 25 million tons of CO2 to our national carbon footprint annually.

But we put a stop to all that. The impetus came from the communities living in the vicinity of power stations and coal mines, whose health, environment and livelihood where threatened by the degradation of their water supplies, mercury pollution and acid mine drainage. It came from activist-driven organisations like groundWork and Earthlife Africa and it came from young people who had had enough of seeing their world and their future being trashed.

There were some hotheads who threatened to start demolishing power stations immediately, but most of us knew that there was preparatory work to be done. We started organising at our universities and school and in our townships, suburbs and villages. We took to the streets demanding that government stop its climate-changing coal madness.

Communities came up with innovative energy descent strategies to wean themselves of coal and oil. Researchers started making breakthroughs in tapping and storing South Africa’s tens of thousands of megawatts of potential wind energy and hundreds of thousands of megawatts of solar power. Soon we forced government to halt the construction and de-mothballing of coal power stations. Faltering parastatals like Armscor and Eskom were reinvented to drive the establishment of a local renewable energy research, manufacturing and service industry.

I joined the First Environmental Demolition Brigade straight out of school. Mpumalanga’s Kriel and Hendrina power stations were the first to go, on the back of a massive, nationwide energy efficiency drive. The cancellation of sweetheart deals, which had provided the world’s cheapest electricity to some of its richest multinational corporations for years, allowed us to flatten more. Some we left standing as reminders of history’s folly – like the Matimba Towers in Limpopo, now a world-famous climbing and bungee-jumping destination.

Huge numbers of coal miners were re-trained to kick-start the new green economy, building community-run micro renewable power stations and installing tens of thousands of affordable solar water heaters. Thousands of 2MW wind turbines were erected along the Cape coast in short thrift and the first of several massive off-shore wind farms opened in 2018. In 2021 Upington became the global capital of concentrated solar power. Coal shipments have long been replaced with exports of green electricity and quality South African thin-film photovoltaic panels.

Through all of this we continued to demolish dirty old coal power plants until the very last one tumbled this weekend, on the 22nd of August 2050. I remember standing at Rhodes Memorial on the same day in 2010, asking my dad what was on his mind. ‘Nothing much, Ben,’ he replied. ‘Just a silly daydream.’”