The Dirty Energy Week - Challenging Climate Gangsters: groundWork Update, Day one – 22 November 2011

To Cook a Continent: Destructive Extraction and the Climate Crisis in South Africa – some reflections from Nnimmo Bassey at the opening of the Dirty Energy Week!

Africa is central to the climate change debate. SA is known to be one of the largest contributors of GHG emissions. It emits more than 40% of Africa's GHG.

Climate negotiations package issues in way to show that the world is going green, but one cannot call criminal acts "green" when their resources are up for grabs which also leads to conflicts and wars in some countries. Such acts are continuing all over "Oiled Africa" ranging from Durban coast and entire coast line of Africa to Rift Valley and Nature Reserves to fracking on Karroo. Oil found all over continent and concessions given, explorations, will lead to conflict.

The Stone Age did not end because there were no more stones! Oil age must end because we demand change and shift to a future not built on dirty energy. Destructive activities in South Africa, which has most coal fired national grid on the continent, and more being built has devastation on the rest of the continent. Mining activities are highly energy intensive, and the corporations are provided with cheaper energy than the citizens.

Coal coated townships, pipeline routing through poor areas, are a continuation of apartheid. To support our energy intensive lifestyles, we dig platinum for fuel cells, uranium to feed nuclear, copper for electric motors. There is a serious crisis on four fronts: ecology, health, biodiversity, exploitation, and empowerment. Mere talk will not save climate, and more dollars will not rebuild continents. It is time to end dirty energy now! Leave the oil in the soil, leave the coal in the hole, and leave the tar sands in the land!

Larry Summers mentioned once about Africa being under populated and under polluted. It shows the thinking behind oppressive activities. In Africa, we face genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and aggression and now ECOCIDE is added to the list. Individuals behind the corporation's greed need to be held personally accountable, so that they rethink before Shell and other corporations continue destroying our land. The choice we have now is either "Agonise or organise!"

Climate Change and Energy: climate change and its connections with broader social justice struggles, understanding the common forces that drive social injustice

"What are the conditions that affect your work and what are the forces behind creating those conditions? How does this relate to energy and climate change?" Activists from all settings shared their experiences, from communities near coal mines, dumps, incineration, oil and gas extraction (along chain of extraction, consumption, disposal) that affect their water and health.

People are dispossessed of their own bodies. They identified the following common forces behind the conditions in which they struggle to exist:

Capitalism unites forces against us, and corporations work in Africa with total impunity

In South Africa as well as in other parts of Africa, the chemical industries are polluting the environment. thus affecting the drinking water quality. The water is fundamental human right and should be given to all South Africans. People have to buy the water when they are already paying high price for electricity. South African economy depends on big industries, and thus government doesn't want to take them on. Whereas, the industries are not held accountable for what damage they do/ have done to people. They operate with total impunity on Africa continent. The communities are for climate justice and fair solutions, and large industries must pay the price of climate impacts and pollution.

Opaque processes and information deficits

Communities from South Durban said that in case of accidents and toxic spills, hardly any information is shared. In Angola, oil extractions have led communities to be isolated from their own lands, and have no right to decide development on their own lands. Story is the same from Ghana, where oil is in the sea, and there is no national legislation to protect the local fishing communities. The abandoned fishing villages tell a story of total failing by the governments, corporations and the international community.

Even the farming sector is seeing varied impacts of climate change, but there is hardly any awareness or information sharing about climate change and its local impacts. There is minimal engagement of companies with people. Communities lack access to information about what is happening. There is no physical access of communities to areas where these dirty industries are located.

Dispossession of local of local communities all over Africa

Mining is the most destructive forces on African continent. The Mpumalanga area used to be food basket of South Africa, and now all this fertile land is converted into mines. The food is lost and the water is contaminated and there is no avenue to address communities. The nexus between the governments and cooperation's is the major challenge facing many societies in Africa. The oil production been happening in the Niger delta for 150 years and it has destroyed lives and livelihoods of communities.

Corrupt political regimes and weak institutions

Repressive regimes or one party dominant democracy, with no real choices. Weak institutions expose people to "grasping talons of corporations". Poor political leadership or backgrounds focused on needs of capital. Municipality not responding to challenges to stop pollution or to treat problems once they are created, eg polluted water and treatment, or to protect people's rights, even if constitutional. Many leaders personally benefit financially from the same companies, which are polluting local communities, risking lives and livelihoods. There is strong greed, nepotism and corruption.

False solutions and sneaky tactics

Large industries and government do not attend to ecological damage and promote false solutions including greenwashing, carbon credits, and REDDS. Tactics is to divide and conquer, such as adopting a guise that they are on the same side as activists. No transitional plan to live in a more sustainable way. Communities demand a paradigm shift to see impact on people.