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Archive for the ‘Green’ Category

Read an interview with Larry Swatuk, author of Water in Southern Africa

The University of Waterloo’s Water Institute conducted an interview with Larry Swatuk who recently published his ninth book, Water in Southern Africa.

Here, Swatuk discusses the book, how water professionals and policy makers can be better educated on matters related to water, and the socio-political and socio-economic limitations which challenge water preservation:

Water Institute member and professor in the School of Environment, Enterprise and Development, Larry Swatuk, is the author of a new book titled Water in Southern Africa.

Larry lived for 14 years in Africa, primarily in Botswana, where he was a lecturer at the University of Botswana and associate professor of Resource Governance at the Okavango Research Institute. He has published extensively on issues pertaining to the ‘wise use’ of the resources of the Okavango River basin.

Partly due to his training in political science and international relations, Larry specializes not only in decision-making around the use of water resources, but in the training of decision makers for dispute resolution and negotiation on these same resources.

His current research interests focus on the unintended negative consequences of climate change adaptation and mitigation interventions, a concept he labels ‘the boomerang effect.’

In his new book – the first volume in the Off-Centre series which focuses on the social, political and cultural life of South Africa and the southern African region – he argues that we must learn to see water and the region differently if we are to meet present challenges and better prepare for an uncertain, climate-changing future.

We had the opportunity to ask Larry questions about his new book, challenges facing the world water resources, and why interdisciplinary collaboration is important when it comes to tackling complex water problems.

In your publication, “Seeing Invisible Water Challenges,” you talk about a ‘blue water bias’ that exists that makes a “majority of water professionals and policy makers blind to the significant amounts of green water available for human needs.” How can we better educate water professionals and policy makers on the concepts and applications of green water and virtual water?

There is a great deal of path dependence in science – and in life. We are all creatures of habit who grow comfortable trodding along the same path. Every once in a while there is a break from the routine, an idea or an insight emerges to shake us up. It is interesting to note that virtual water – a concept first articulated by Tony Allan for which he was awarded the Stockholm Water Prize some years back – has had greater purchase across the water world than has the idea of green water. Irrigation engineers, however, are well-versed in green water analysis, and rightly so, for most of the world’s food production depends on rainfall or, in Malin Falkenmark’s and Johan Rockstrom’s words: where the rain drop hits the soil. But policy makers and the private sector remain enamored of blue water perhaps because there is more immediate political and economic pay-off to damming, diverting and draining available blue water. Perhaps also, the systems in place have been designed by powerful actors interested in capturing the available resource which, historically, was the water we could see. Beyond the well-watered parts of the world, ‘developing’ states aimed to mimic their ‘developed’ counterparts by capturing water.

Water, in this context, is power: political, economic and social. In my view, powerful actors will continue to be blind to the benefits of green water, and to the potential hazards of living beyond their own water barriers because of current capabilities to import cheap food (i.e. virtual water). But their blindness need not lead us down the same dark path.It also reveals to us the fallacy of many claims pertaining to the state of the world’s water resources: that we are running out, that we are facing a water war, and so on.

In your new book, Water in Southern Africa, you do not shy away from the fact that the challenges for sustainable water management are immense. Drawing on the southern African experience, you argue that we must learn to “see water and the region differently if we are to meet present challenges and better prepare for an uncertain, climate-changing future.” Can you expand on this thought?

It is fitting that a pool of water acts as a mirror. For, in my view, the state of the world’s water resources reflects very accurately the state of our societies. How water is accessed, used and managed clearly shows us the problems and possibilities not only for resource sustainability, but for social inclusion, social justice, and sustainable development broadly defined.

Too much water use research commences from an ahistorical, asocial largely technical and economic perspective. Put differently, whoever has the money and the power gets the water. So, ‘shortages’ are not biophysical, but socio-economic and socio-political. Let me give you an example from Southern Africa, though it is hardly unique in this regard: the region is often portrayed as a ‘success story’ of inter-state cooperation on transboundary waters. At the same time, all countries in the region ‘struggle’ to provide adequate water for the needs of all of their citizens. Are these two separate phenomena? No, they are not, though they are often presented as such. In the case of the former, there is said to be ‘progress’ deriving from human resource capability, adequate finance and so on. In the case of the latter, there is said to be ‘limited or uneven progress’ deriving from the absence of the same. But, in my view, if we see where the water flows, how, to whom and for what purpose, we can clearly see that these conditions are two sides of the same coin. As the saying goes, the first law of hydrology is that water flows toward money. Without doubt, many water challenges may be met with the application of good science supported by adequate finance and appropriate forms of governance and management. But, as a cursory view of the water world shows us, too few people are served by our current approaches and practices.

Continue reading the interview here.
About the book:

When it comes to water, we are fed a daily diet of doom and gloom, of a looming crisis: wars of the future will be over water; nearly one-billion people lack access to clean water; river basins are closed so there is no more water to be allocated despite ever-growing demand; aquifers are overdrawn to such an extent that a global food crisis is just around the corner and major cities, such as Bangkok and Mexico, are sinking. And let us not forget about pollution or vector-borne diseases.

The challenges for sustainable water management are massive. Yet, as shown in this book, there are many positives to be drawn from the southern African experience. Despite abiding conditions of economic underdevelopment and social inequality, people rise to the challenge, oftentimes out of necessity and through self-help, but sometimes through creative coalitions operating at different scales – from the local to the global – and across issue areas – from transboundary governance to urban water supply. This first volume in the Off-Centre series argues that we must learn to see water and the region differently if we are to meet present challenges and better prepare for an uncertain, climate-changing future.

Water in Southern Africa

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Patrick Bond Suggests Three Possible Outcomes for Eskom’s Power Crisis

Politics of Climate JusticePatrick Bond, director of the UKZN Centre for Civil Society and author of Politics of Climate Justice: Paralysis Above, Movement Below, has written an article for Pambazuka News about the three roads that might be taken out of the current power crisis.

The first, and most likely, outcome is for Eskom to muddle through the current crisis and come out the other side just as flawed and short-sighted as it is now. The second is a complete collapse of the system. The third possible scenario is one in which the country overhauls the power-generation system and redeploys skilled labourers to develop renewable energy sources.

Read the article:

The coming fork in the road provides three distinct directions. The poorly-lit one straight ahead suffers from potholes that force stop-start-reverse maneuvers. Second, the most scary route away from this fork lacks streetlights and appears to be illuminated only by a brief, fiery meltdown – utter grid failure – at the end of the road. Then, no Eskom or municipal electricity supplies will be available for weeks, they say.

In a third direction, looking leftwards, a light flickers at the end of a dangerous tunnel, but to get there safely means slowing the vehicle to a manageable pace and tossing the greediest 1% of passengers out, thus allowing everyone else to at least enjoy basic-needs electricity.

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Patrick Bond to Participate in a Public Dialogue About the BRICS Bloc and South Africa in Cape Town

Politics of Climate Justice: Paralysis Above, Movement BelowPatrick Bond, Director of the Centre for Civil Society and author of Politics of Climate Justice: Paralysis Above, Movement Below will be participating in a public dialogue hosted by the Centre for Conflict Resolution in Cape Town.

Kudrat Virk will chair the discussion, and Anil Sooklal will be speaking along with Bond. The topic to be discussed is “South Africa and the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) Bloc”.

The event will take place at the Centre for the Book from 5:30 to 7 PM on Monday, 16 February.

Don’t miss it!

Event Details

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Patrick Bond Speaks Out About eTV’s “Stasi-style Propaganda” and the De Hoop Dam

Politics of Climate JusticeClimate Change, Carbon Trading and Civil SocietyPatrick Bond wrote an article on Pambazuka News about the internal conflict that has damaged the reputation of eTV.

Bond is the author of Politics of Climate Justice: Paralysis Above, Movement Below and the editor of Climate Change, Carbon Trading and Civil Society.

In the article Bond writes about a deal made between Minister of Economic Development Ebrahim Patel, eTV CEO Marcel Golding and eNews executive Bronwyn Keene-Young to lead the evening news with the story of the opening of President Jacob Zuma’s pet project, the $270 million De Hoop Dam. Golding has since resigned from his post.

Bond writes: “Patel’s ‘ham-fisted attempt at Stasi-style propaganda’ – as the Sunday Business Times described the abuse of power at eNews – makes transparent ‘just how wafer-thin the line really is between powerful people seeking propaganda and the information dished out to the public’.”

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Last week SA’s leading alternative to state broadcasting saw its integrity self-destruct. Personality battles are getting most attention but problems caused by structural conflicts of interests must be raised, investigated and resolved, as a leading example of malevolent state-corporate cronyism.

The biggest credibility crisis ever to hit South Africa’s independent media unfolded last week. Fewer than a half-dozen power-crazed corporate managers have destroyed the waning integrity – and in the process, the ownership structure – of the country’s most popular tv news station, eTV, which had aspired to become Africa’s answer to Al-Jazeera. These men are once-radical trade unionists – now gone to pot.

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Patrick Bond’s Politics of Climate Justice Named on The Guardian’s “Seminal” Top 10 List of Climate Change Books

Patrick Bond

Politics of Climate JusticePatrick Bond’s Politics of Climate Justice: Paralysis Above, Movement Below has been named as on of The Guardian’s top 10 “seminal” books on the climate change movement.

Other books on the list include Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything: Capitalism v the Climate, The End of Nature by Bill McKibben, Climate Politics and the Climate Movement in Australia by Verity Burgmann and Hans Baer, as well as Mark Lynas’ The God Species.

Politics of Climate Justice, which was published locally in late 2011, focuses on world leaders’ responses to climate change through the United Nations’ Conference of the Parties (COP), and concludes that global power blocs are incapable of reconciling the threat to the planet with their economies’ addiction to fossil fuels.

Bond is a professor at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

3. Politics of Climate Justice by Patrick Bond

This 2012 release comes from the popular scholar-activist Patrick Bond, from South Africa. Using examples from countries in the global south he argues that market-based instruments such as carbon trading and the clean-development mechanism are not working. They often have negative consequences for the local population, harm the environment and make little impact on reducing emissions.

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Patrick Bond Deliberates Issues Surrounding the BRICS Nexus in Africa

Politics of Climate JusticePatrick Bond, the author of Politics of Climate Justice, has written an article for Pambazuka News in which he responds to issues raised by Yash Tandon about the role of the BRICS nexus as an anti-imperialist movement.

In the article, Bond addresses the meaning and implications of the neoliberal international capitalist order and clears up some misconceptions about BRICS. He says that these are difficult and complicated issues which need to be carefully chewed through.

Read the article:

In his May 21 article, ‘On sub-imperialism and BRICS-bashing’, contesting what I think are the tendencies in the Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa nexus, Yash Tandon offers a chance to develop arguments further. He makes a few minor errors and misreads some arguments (Note 1). But he (‘YT’) asks some excellent ‘questions for further discussions.’ Right then, my (‘PB’) attempts at answers follow.

YT: 1. What is ‘the South African bourgeoisie’. Who are they? What is the source of their capital? Who owns and controls this capital?

PB: Three answers: 1) the biggest fraction remains white English-speaking, but it is an unpatriotic bourgeoisie which mainly took its money out of South Africa, forever, and which today from London, New York or Melbourne runs the global and domestic operations of Anglo, DeBeers, BHP Billiton, the other mining houses, Old Mutual and Liberty Life in insurance, SAB Miller beer, Didata info tech, Mondi paper, and a few others; 2) the next biggest is Afrikaner capital which decided to stay, especially the Sanlam empire; and 3) the other new black bourgeoisie includes Patrice Matsepe, Mzi Khumalo (in deep trouble for taking money out of the country illegally), Bridgette Radebe, Tokyo Sexwale, Cyril Ramaphosa, Khulubuse Zuma and a few other billionaries, who are allied with both the first bloc of the bourgeoisie within BEE deals, and with the state and parastatals in tenderpreneur projects. All have subimperialist tendencies, but it is the first and third I’d be most worried about, given Pretoria’s military role in the Central African Republic and DRC, on behalf of ruling-elite cronies and a nephew of the president.

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Video: Politics of Climate Justice Author Patrick Bond on Effects of Platinum Strike

Politics of Climate JusticeProfessor Patrick Bond, director of the Centre For Civil Society and author of Politics of Climate Justice: Paralysis Above, Movement Below, speaks to The Real News Network about the implications of the 2014 platinum strike on labour relations in South Africa.

The strike started in January 2014 and lasted four months – the longest and largest mine workers strike in South African history, according to Bond, who is also a professor at the University of Kwazulu-Natal.

Bond says the economy is about to go into a formal recession, and restrictions may be placed on future strikes.

Watch the video:

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Patrick Bond Takes a Look at Nigeria’s New GDP Figures

Politics of Climate JusticePatrick Bond, author of Politics of Climate Justice, has written an article for Pambazuka News about Nigeria’s recently released GDP figures, which theoretically trump South Africa’s.

Bond looks at how the numbers measure up against the country’s actual wealth and takes a critical look at the “neoliberal investment prospects of the 2000s – BRICS, MINT and CIVETS”.

Jim O’Neill – the Goldman Sachs banker who in 2001 coined the idea of a Brazil-Russia-India-China ‘BRIC’ serving as “building bricks of the 21st century world economy” – has another bright idea. He recently announced a new fascination with the Mexico-Indonesia-Nigeria-Turkey countries, which “all have very favourable demographics for at least the next 20 years, and their economic prospects are interesting.” O’Neill is now completing a BBC series on the MINTs, and no doubt will profit handsomely from investments made in these countries’ financial assets, the way any scurrilous marketer does when, brandishing an insider-trading portfolio, he draws naïve consumers to a product with limited shelf life.

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Patrick Bond Believes the BRICS Bloc Paints a Gloomy Picture for South Africa

Politics of Climate JusticePatrick Bond believes the BRICS bloc will in fact prove to be damaging to South Africa’s economy.

BRICS is an association of five major emerging national economies – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – intended to encourage economic growth and social development. Writing for Pambazuka News, however, Bond insists that the infrastructure investments entered into involving South Africa are “mainly aimed at extraction of resources, along neo-colonial lines”.

In March 2013, it was telling that the single biggest deal announced at the BRICS summit was a Chinese bank loan to Transnet of $5 billion; and it is telling that exactly a year later, the largest investment Transnet has ever undertaken was announced: $4.8 billion in locomotive purchases.

Such locomotives were once made in South Africa; now the critical first batch of more than 1000 will be imported from China, through the Durban port.

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Patrick Bond Discusses the Infrastructure Development Bill Hearings

Politics of Climate JusticePatrick Bond, author of Politics of Climate Justice, has written a column for Pambazuka News on the recent Infrastructure Development Bill hearings, which “could give fast-track approvals for mines, oil pipelines and refineries, coal-fired power plants, ports, and new airports”.

Bond wonders whether the mention of improvements to access to water, sanitation, clinics and schools was “snuck in to make the mega-project bias more palatable”?

He stresses that these two types of development cannot be seen in the same light. The latter “needs a new sense of urgency”, while Bond is critical of the Mineral-Energy Complex’s fast-track projects.

What we academics often term South Africa’s ‘Minerals-Energy Complex‘ (MEC) keeps getting away with murder, including economic strangulation. As just one example, in spite of a recent trade surplus, the balance of payments is going into extreme deficit largely because MEC multinational mining houses – especially BHP Billiton, Anglo, DeBeers, Lonmin and Glencore – vacuum out profits to their London and Melbourne financial headquarters. This leaves SA basking not in BRICS prosperity but instead leading the slide of the ‘Fragile Five’: big emerging markets suffering vast capital outflows. Witness the Rand’s crash by a third last year.

Yet the overwhelming bulk of taxpayer subsidies to the MEC will amplify this crisis, via the National Development Plan’s two main Strategic Infrastructure Projects: the Waterberg-Richards Bay coal export rail-line and the Durban port-petrochemical expansion, which are likely to consume far more than the roughly R500 billion now budgeted.

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