President Zuma’ recent comments on the “nuclear programme” refers.
The narrative provided by President Zuma isn’t true. In a recent address the president suggests it was pressure from the West which lead “the apartheid government to dismantle its nuclear weapons and programmes before the Communist Bloc-backed ANC could take over power at the end of the Cold War.”
The campaign against nuclear energy was part and parcel of the campus revolts and anti-apartheid movement during the 1980s. Environmental groups such as Koeberg Alert and Earthlife Africa, campaigned alongside anti-apartheid activists, linking apartheid and the environment, during successive periods and under the banner “forward to a non-racist, non-sexist, nuclear-free continent”.
Although South Africa’s nuclear weapons programme was ostensibly abandoned in 1989. It was the Treaty of Pelindaba, requiring that parties “will not engage in the research, development, manufacture, stockpiling acquisition, testing, possession, control or stationing of nuclear explosive devices in the territory of parties to the treaty and the dumping of radioactive wastes in the African zone by treaty parties”, which came into effect on 15 July 2009, ratified by 28 countries, which achieved the end-result. The African Commission on Nuclear Energy, was thus set up in order to verify compliance with the treaty,
None of this would have been possible, if the first conference on Environment and Development, held at UWC and attended by representatives from recently unbanned political parties had not accepted environmental justice and sustainable development as policies for our country. It was thus pressure from the broad campaign for environmental justice on the African continent which resulted in the eventual capitulation by the apartheid government and in turn the dismantling of the nuclear programme, alongside subsequent initiatives.
It is no surprise then that South Africa is the first country in the world to enshrine ‘ecological sustainable development’ in its constitution and to willingly give up its nuclear weapons programme. As such our Constitution adopted the peace principles and environmental priorities that defined us as a nation, and this without any intervention required by the Western Powers.
Nuclear is ‘safe and economic’, Andrew Kenny, IOL 2 May 2017 refers
Your correspondent, Andrew Kenny, a self-proclaimed expert and ‘nuclear power consultant’ has been delivering paid sermons and editorials on nuclear energy for the past decade. When he is not attending conferences sponsored by the nuclear industry, an industry in which he claims to be qualified, both as an ‘engineer’ and apparently also a ‘physicist’, Kenny deems fit to declaim on human morality and ethics. Both disciplines in which he is eminently unqualified and unfit to deliver an opinion.
One has merely to examine his 2015 epistle on the white supremacist enclave of Orania to see where his political affiliations and moral standards are housed. The piece was considered unfit for publication by the editor of the Citizen, Steven Motale, who in a letter to Kenny, published by Biznews.com, rejected the piece since it “might be interpreted by many as a tacit glorification of segregation and may be highly offensive to victims of apartheid. I have therefore decided not to publish it.”
That the Independent Group continue to publish Kenny’s utterances, the latest purporting to present the “moral arguments’ in favour of nuclear power, is risible and beneath contempt — given the extensive scientific and medical opinion on the subject matter.
John W. Gofman, Ph.D., M.D., one of America’s ‘most prominent critics of nuclear power’, performed extensive research on the hazards of radiation, and has written several books on the ‘relationship between nuclear energy and public health’. After working on the Manhattan Project he became concerned about the affects of low-level ionising radiation, in particular after the death of two of his colleagues working with various radioactive isotopes, which then sparked his investigation
It is thus Gofman who alerted South Africans to the problem back in the 1980s, in particular the covert nuclear enrichment programme then being conducted by the apartheid state. In an interview published by Mother Earth News, he stated “our data showed the cancer hazard resulting from radiation to be 20 times worse than we, or anybody, had thought: We calculated that, if everyone in the country received the official “permissible” dose of radiation — which at the time was 170 millirems per year — there would be between 16,000 and 32,000 additional cancer deaths a year in our nation.”
In order to accommodate emissions of radioactive isotopes such as strontium-90 (Sr90) and caesium-137 (Cs137) from Koeberg, which currently exceed European safety guidelines, allowable limits had to be raised by the Atomic Energy Board to accommodate the plant. Not to be outdone, the National Nuclear Regulator (formed after the former Council for Nuclear Safety and previous Atomic Energy Corporations of the apartheid state disbanded), proceeded to exempt a range of radioactive nuclides, not normally found in our environment (1) — exempted actions include the release of sr90 and various isotopes of caesium (range Cs131 through Cs138), supposedly resulting in ‘exposure of less than 10 petasieverts (pSv) per annum or less’.
Exactly how this government sanctioned exposure is measured when it comes to the human body and our health is highly problematic and open to discussion. The regulator appears to operate under the strange assumption that human life-span is only one year, and thus we reboot ourselves on an annual basis, setting the clock back to zero every year. There is thus no measure of the cumulative effect of low-level ionising radiation. Urgent research and baseline data in South Africa is required, and I thus appeal to the public and your readers for support in this regard.
Sr90, a by-product of nuclear fission with a half-life of 28.8 years, substitutes for calcium in bone, preventing expulsion from the body, and represents a serious health problem. So far as Cs137 is concerned, it is a long-lived high-energy beta emitter with a half-life of 30.17 years (2), one of two principal medium-lived fission products, along with Sr90, which are responsible for most of the radioactivity arriving in our diet from Koeberg.
The contamination has been measured by groups such as Koeberg Alert, appearing in wheat, dairy and shellfish — in an independent 2002 study conducted by Gerry Kuhn “samples of fall-out dust captured continuously over a 16-week period” were measured and the research is in my possession. Follow-up research is urgently required.
Dr Helen Caldicott, an Australian physician and author of books on the dangers of nuclear energy, ‘Nuclear Power is not the Answer’, ‘Nuclear Madness’, ‘The New Nuclear Danger’ and ‘Crisis without End’, examines the current ongoing crisis at Fukushima, the result of a meltdown and subsequent reaction sequence of nuclear materials called breeding. Physicists are unable to provide a proper and adequate explanation for what is occurring as we speak.
In a recent article Caldicott explains robot photos taken of Fukushima’s Daiichi nuclear reactors “radiation levels have not peaked, but have continued to spill toxic waste into the Pacific Ocean — but it’s only now the damage has been photographed.”
“Every day since the accident began, 300 to 400 tons of water has poured into the Pacific where numerous isotopes – including cesium 137, 134, strontium 90, tritium, plutonium, americium and up to 100 more – enter the ocean and bio-concentrate by orders of magnitude at each step of the food chain.”
Yet it is Kenny who appears oblivious to the impact of the Fukushima disaster, an ongoing environmental and human tragedy of enormous magnitude, brashly stating immediately after the accident, that ‘not one life had been lost’ in the incident. The man now has the audacity to state to the public, that: “unfortunately many technological choices are caught up in politics, ideology and morality” and that “nuclear power has the strongest moral case of all energy sources.”
This is exactly the same justification used for the ‘moral murder’ and slaughter of innocent citizens that was made by the former apartheid state, anything but a moral agent. One must therefore thank organisations such as Earthlife Africa and SAFCEI for carrying forward the torch of our common humanity, enshrined alongside environmental rights and our earth rights in the constitution. We must continue to oppose the untenable nuclear deals being tabled, and in particular by opposing the nuclear colonialism sponsored by various states such as Russia, South Korea, France and USA.
Far from supporting a nuclear industry carte blanche, plants such as Koeberg need to be decommissioned and closed down.
Forward to a non-racist, non-sexist, nuclear-free continent.
David Robert Lewis
Committee for the Rights of Mother Nature
(1) See Annexure 1, NATIONAL NUCLEAR REGULATOR ACT, 1999 (ACT NO. 47 OF 1999
(2) Cs137 beta-decays to barium-137m (a short-lived nuclear isomer) then to nonradioactive barium-137, and is also a strong emitter of gamma radiation. Cs-137 has a very low rate of neutron capture and cannot be feasibly disposed of, but must be allowed to decay.
The Recycle Swap Shop operates from the premises of Hou Moed Centre, within the marginalised township of Zwelihle in the seaside town of Hermanus. Zwelihle’s children often struggle to get their hands on essential items that are often taken for granted by many; like toiletries and stationery, let alone more costly items such as shoes and school uniforms.
In 2003, the situation facing children and their families in the “squatter camp” visited was simply, desperate. The RSS concept was the answer.
Sweden is stepping up its recycling game. A Swedish municipality recently opened up what could be the world’s very first shopping mall dedicated to recycled, reused, and repaired goods.
The new mall, ReTuna Recycling Galleria, is in the city of Eskilstuna, Sweden. And it’s a one-stop-shop for sustainable products. The mall boasts over a dozen different stores focusing on everything from reused household goods to refurbished electronics—as well a restaurant, educational center, conference center, and an exhibition.
Joining France’s countless pastry shops and bakeries is a new kind of shop, which collects unwanted goods, repairing them if necessary, selling or upcycling them if possible, and, if all else fails, properly recycling them. And their numbers are growing.
Ressourceries, which could be translated as “resource shops,” operate something like Goodwill or the Salvation Army, accepting donations of used goods and reselling them at discounted prices. But the ressourceries take it to the next level by just about anything that’s brought through the door.
New York City’s Pop Up Repair Shop was a one-month experiment “aimed at breaking the cycle of use-and-discard goods.” It was the first step of a larger exploration of the issue, led by Sandra Goldmark, a set and costume designer and theater professor at Barnard College. Sandra and her husband Michael Banta, a theater production manager at Barnard, launched the shop using funds from an IndieGoGo campaign, which raised over $9,000.
“The most well-known example of items that are relatively simple to repair are clothes. Putting a patch on some jeans or a jumpers elbow, darning socks, these are some of the simplest repairs that most of us have experienced, if not done ourselves” says Recycling Expert UK
Once seen as a niche part of the fashion industry, being eco-conscious has rapidly become one of the hottest ‘topics’ of our time. From luxury fashion houses to fast-fashion retailers, and everything in between – more and more fashion companies are responding to mounting consumer interest and ‘going green.
There are literally hundreds of online projects involved in recycling and repair in one way or another.
The Bicycle Recycle Project at Seven Hills School in Nevada City, California, provides students hands-on learning of basic bicycle mechanical skills, reinforces the value of recycling, and provides the satisfaction of helping others.
Other recycle projects include an Electronics Exchange where consumer electronics may be repaired and swapped.
Meanwhile, the BBC bemoans the flipside: Why is it so hard to repair anything?
THE announcement of a green-light to Karoo fracking couldn’t have come at a worse time. The very same week, saw the world pummelled by kill the environment ideologue Donald Trump, who two days ago, scrapped Obama climate change policies. Thus Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane was merely walking in the footsteps of Trump’s anti-Earth agenda on Thursday when he made the announcement that could see a less than 10 year resource opened to exploitation by international gas companies at the same time that it jeopardises future generations.
Agriculture and water resources will be affected far longer than the short-term gains to be had. The sudden surge in development projects of dubious origin, but with major environmental consequences, alongside the rush to strip away environmental protections under NEMA, itself watered down by a Ministerial override, is an insult to the guarantees of Earth rights in our constitution, and can be seen as short-term business interests being put ahead of sustainable development goals.
This week also saw strange announcements by Eskom that it was contemplating revisiting its failed PBMR programme which had already gobbled up some R10bn of taxpayers money with nothing to show except a few fat physicists. As the townships remained underserviced and households in Cape Town were being told to save water, the Minister was encouraging the abuse of precious water resources in the Karoo, while Eskom, the national power utility was getting ready for another bout of atomic spend without so much as concern for consumer safety.
The Trumpist drumbeat appears to have taken the Zuma administration by storm, as if suddenly the mantra of ‘ecological sustainability” crucial to South Africa’s unique development path, was no longer so relevant. Does this mean there is now a Planet B? And those melting polar ice sheets are nothing to worry about? The sudden dash back to a previous age of coal and steam, oil and gas guzzling consumer excess is what is most attractive to the likes of Zuma and his neoliberal agenda. Time to start talking in earnest about ecocide?
THAT people like Ivo Vegter get given column space on the strength of an untested book purporting to debunk campaigns against fracking, nuclear power, climate change and environmentalism in general, is a sign of the insatiable rise of right-wing politics, of the kind that has lead to the ascendency of President Donald Trump. In Vegter’s latest missive published by Daily Maverick, the columnist makes the bold claim that “Rich environmentalists oppress poor people.”
In order to support his thesis, he refers to campaigns to save the Sumatran Tiger and rainforest habitat in Indonesia, the battle to counter deforestation, and a supposedly “alarmist film” by one Leonardo de Caprio, whom Vegter labels variously, a “climate change hypocrite” and a rich celebrity with a ‘carbon footprint the size of small countries’ who has merely ‘poked his nose into the fight’.
De Caprio’s film Before the Flood about climate change and presented by National Geographic was an official selection at both the Toronto and London Film festivals. In comparison Vegter’s 2012 book “Extreme Environment: How Environmental Exaggeration Harms Emerging Economies” failed to make any notable book lists and hardly ranks in terms of global sales.
Vegter’s writing has been labelled as “staggeringly naïve and shoddy research“, “elastic research“,” a man who passes himself off as an environmental journalist, but consistently backs the right of those with money and power to destroy the environment” and a “cherry-picker of facts“.
After poo-pooing De Caprio’s fact-finding epic, Vegter turns to geothermal energy, making the point that instead of being seen as a good thing by environmentalists, such projects, particularly in Indonesia, have raised the ire of earth-centric activists wanting to save habitat from human intervention. David Attenborough is thus chief on Vegters hit-list, as any deep green ecologist would be — one who places a higher value on ecosystems than human beings in general and who is thus opposed to our supposed God-given right to destroy nature.
Hence what can only be termed a rather limp but convoluted preface, tame in comparison to earlier postings, (the man’s writing has spawned a veritable cottage industry of conspiracy theory), begins Vegter’s perennial opining on the subject:
“Environmentalists often try to appeal to our common-sense instincts to preserve our world from harm. Nobody would dispute that a healthy, productive environment is desirable, and indeed essential for continued human welfare and prosperity.
“However, in their zeal to oppose environmental degradation, environmentalists routinely overstate their case. When infrastructure or other development projects are proposed, their knee-jerk reaction is to object, and never give ground. Instead of seeking to minimise harm, they insist that no environmental price is worth the benefit of development.
“There are strong incentives for environmentalists to become fundamentalist extremists, who brook no human development that might disturb a supposedly pristine environment. To understand why, allow me to propose four possible motivations: environmentalism as a religion, environmentalism as a political tool, environmentalism as sensationalism, and environmentalism as an industry.”
That Vegter willfully misstates the case, is unable to tackle apartheid and related environmental issues in his own backyard, and thus resorts to cherry-picking issues half-way around the world, issues that readers do not have any immediate interest in the outcome of events, save from what they see on their Nature television screens, is par for the course, for a man who lost the debate on Fracking and Fukushima. Vegter painfully misjudged the geology of the Karoo, made spurious claims without any science about Fukushima, supported Big Oil at the expense of Water, and continues to disregard the environmental struggles of millions of South Africans living in the townships.
His characterisation of environmentalists as nothing less than ‘wealthy oppressors’, must be rejected as insulting and offensive to all activists on the ground struggling for a healthy environment and better conditions for all humans living on the Earth. This week, saw a major climate victory for Earthlife Africa, an organisation with a predominantly black membership, and thus an organisation which carries my DNA, and notably, one to which I contributed its founding charter and principles. Part of the story of the rise of ELA and environmental activism during apartheid can be read here.
While there is no dispute regarding the need for criticism — yes, white conservationists were considered fair game during the dark days of apartheid, and I published profusely on the subject, forcing the Wildlife Society to become the Wildlife and Environment Society — and since as I argued, human beings were intimately part of the habitat, thus saving our climate and ending apartheid, was equally important, both for wildlife and all human beings, especially those who lacked clean water and basic sanitation — Vegter goes too far in his own extreme, and one should add, obnoxious alt-right point of view.
The convoluted dispatch from the self-proclaimed “never wrong” pundit (read: Never right), may also be considered a form of back-peddling, for in admitting the need for some form of environmentalism in geothermal energy, and thus in part a recognition of the energy debate central to climate change, and ergo, a part revision of an objectionable thesis, Vegter’s borrowed critique of shallow environmentalism, not all environmentalism per se, is in reality, an attempt to destroy the environmental movement by incorporating some of its own ideology and criticism.
Thus like the Rupert’s who wish to be seen as pioneers of transfrontier parks, without dealing with their contribution to apartheid, Vegter’s sudden sympathy for the poor, in essence greenwashing, cannot masque an otherwise abysmal career as a proponent of resource exploitation. Such nitpicking is unlikely to bother the strong non-racial green movement which has arisen post-COP17, nor will it remove the guarantees of Earth Rights in our constitution, and the campaign for the inclusion of ecological sustainable development, of which I was one of the authors.
Vegter’s latest views, therefore need to be discarded as nothing less than fallacious and false argument, the utterings of a dyed in the wool racist, and the work of an opponent of science. One has merely to review the latest debates around the Anthropocene, and certainly, my view is that we appear to be at the end of this geological era (1). Far from being “monopolisers of truth” environmentalists, are deploying science – evidence-based research and empirical data in their campaign to avoid the devastating consequences of climate change. Ivo the Terrible, on the other hand, appears to offer nothing more than a theological counter-point, providing a hazardous litany of argument — one of many, self-ordained saints of alt-speak making a quick buck out of roasting the green movement.
(1) NOTE: See this documentary on the great Permian extinction. A 5 degree increase in global temperature caused by massive release of CO2 albeit via basalt eruption and volcanic activity was enough to extinguish all life on the planet. The documentary makes the apt point that the increase in global temperature resulted in the melting of methane hydrate (CH4·5.75H2O) on the ocean floor and thus the release of CH4 which resulted in a further 5 degree increase in global temperature, a trophic cascade if ever there was one.
WHEN the electric icebox was invented, thousands of ice haulers went out of business. At the turn of the 20th century, nearly every family, grocer, and barkeeper in South Africa had an icebox. But ironically, South Africa’s dependence on ice created the very technology that would lead to the decline of the ice empire — electric freezers and refrigerators.
During the early 1900s, these appliances became more reliable, and by 1940, millions of units had been sold. With freezers allowing people to make ice at home, there was little need to haul massive quantities across the country.
We can’t stop progress and if we do, we risk losing far more than jobs, our Earth and our human habitat is at risk. Because of altered circumstances, Eskom has decided to shut down five coal power stations — Hendrina‚ Kriel‚ Komati‚ Grootvlei and Camden. The termination of coal truckers contracts has lead to a furore, with Cosatu labelling it a “hostile act”.
We can’t turn back the clock. This is not simply about Independent Power Producers (IPPs), as 250 medical professionals and medical organisations stated in the Durban Declaration, climate change is a medical emergency. According to the Lancet, climate change is the greatest global health threat of the 21stcentury.
Each year has seen an increase in global ambient temperatures caused by the release of Greenhouse Gases (GHG) associated with carbon and fossil fuel such as coal, with the resulting melting of permafrost and the polar icecaps, retreat of glaciers, thermal expansion of the ocean and most indicators are off the charts. Africa will suffer most from increasing temperatures. Workers will be most affected by associated loss in productivity.
We can’t afford to live under domes with an altered climate, neither can we afford to miss out on the renewables revolution. Far from being a scourge of privatisation, it is one of our country’s few success stories, continuing to attract investment, continuing to produce jobs and the roll-out of renewable energy is very impressive. It represents a paradigm shift, we dare not ignore.
A way must therefore be found to accommodate the major shift in energy priorities and the sudden dislocation of an entire industry. Truckers can truck goods in other markets, we must assist them, but we cannot step back from the icebox analogy and the melting point — we really no longer need a coal trucking route, nor a coal industry and its cost in terms of human life.
One can only suggest Eskom needs to be more strategic in its approach and truckers need to given the resources to regain control over their lives. Government must assist in skills retraining and investing in adult education that will help families deal with the crisis. It must not be mislead by the unscientific opinions and haranguing of union bosses.
Extract Published in Cape Argus, Letters 9 March 2017