The Centre for Civil Society based within the School of Built Environment and Development Studies invites you to the seminar Liberal and Radical Approaches to Environmental Justice Campaigning by Alice Thomson, Desmond D’Sa and Patrick Bond with film-excerpt screenings including This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein.

Date: Wednesday 1 April 

Time: 12h30 – 14h00

Venue: CCS Seminar Room 602, 6th Floor, MTB Tower, Howard College, UKZN

Topic: This seminar explores a major strategic dilemma for Environmental Justice activists. Are we working most effectively in the spaces available within and outside of conventional environmental management? Activists are becoming frustrated with filing objections to a seemingly endless stream of Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) which are now being contested with great technical and legal sophistication, and occasional public participation and media coverage. Increasingly, though, Pretoria’s Department of Environmental Affairs is following a mandate of fast-tracking mega-projects, especially those associated with extractive-oriented infrastructure. There appears to be great difficulty in evoking climate change mitigation and other dot-connecting concepts within EIAs. In short, the Department of Environmental Affairs now appears to be a “captive regulator.” As if to advertise the worsening balance of forces, last month Minister Edna Molewa broke environmentalists’ hearts by granting a five-year waiver on air pollution regulations that should have transformed Eskom, Sasol and dozens of other major emitters. And as for the growing attacks by the mining industry on communities, EIAs are now being fast tracked through the Department of Mineral Resources: a graveyard for environmental justice. How do environmental activists run effective campaigns with insider tactics – especially EIAs – if the road to reform has such large and growing potholes? Are current strategies appropriate when so many people and our environment are sacrificed for the sake of relentless capital accumulation, and when government appears dominated by individuals with such close (and unpunished) links to mining disasters as do South Africa’s president, deputy president and minister of mines? Is civil disobedience a logical antidote, in terms of raising the costs of business-as-usual and moving the debate more explicitly from legal and regulatory processes to ordinary people’s lives and commitments? Is the Environmental Justice message getting out to the broader society sufficiently clearly at a time South Africa’s economic and energy problems appear to dominate national worries? In other words, is ‘liberal’ reformism exhausted and are radical strategies now needed?  

Speakers: Alice Thomson is a new Dennis Brutus Community Scholar at CCS, and a long-standing activist with Earthlife Africa. Desmond D’Sa is the co-ordinator of the South Durban Community Environment Alliance. He won the 2014 Goldman Environmental Prize for rallying the communities of South Durban to successfully shut down a toxic waste dump that was exposing residents to dangerous chemicals. Patrick Bond is the director of the UKZN Centre of Civil Society and author of several books on environmentalism and capitalism.

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