||Patrick Bond delivers paper on climate and the blue economy, Wits University, 2 August
The Blue Economy, Climate Change and Resistance to Ocean Commodification
By Patrick Bond
In October 2014, South African President Jacob Zuma announced that by 2020 $7 billion in investments will be made in 30 offshore oil and gas rigs by Total, ExxonMobil, Shell, Anardako and other drillers, in search of 9 billion barrels of oil and 60 trillion cubic feet of gas. A plethora of platforms will accompany the National Development Plan’s proposed refinery boom, including a $25 billion South Durban port-petrochemical complex expansion and a new $8 billion Port Elizabeth PetroSA refinery. Yet the same week, Zuma enthusiastically pledged “the biggest mitigation buffer against climate change. We can save our country and the world for future generations.” The glaring contradiction can be explained by a helter-skelter process that unfolded in July-August 2014 at Durban’s Riverside Hotel: a ‘Big Fast Results’ methodology borrowed from Malaysia. More than 650 experts and officials took part in brainstorming what is an envisaged $18 billion annual ‘Blue Economy’ ocean commodification. But the resulting Operation Phakisa (‘Be Quick’ in Sotho) illustrates not only haste-makes-waste public policy without substantial ocean-user and environmentalist inputs; it also suggests that if you ‘see like a state,’ then the existing negative ‘general public perception’ about oil and gas exploration is explained by the public’s alleged ‘general lack of knowledge’ and ‘lack of understanding’ regarding South Africa’s admirable governance systems, especially relating to fossil fuels. It is not merely a South African malady. Across the world, similar Blue Economy efforts are underway, at a time scientists and environmentalists are observing unprecedented ocean fragility, rampant pollution, dangerously high acidity, rising sea levels, threats to fisheries and the extinction of aquatic species. Given that the ocean is such a vital carbon sink and that climate change will move to runaway stage as the Arctic and Antarctic suffer ice melt, the Blue Economy dynamic and related ‘false solutions’ associated with oceanic engineering are tempting, but most likely disastrous. Uneven South African social resistance to the most damaging aspects of Blue Economy politics include climate activists, community movements, fisherfolk, recreational ocean users (boaters and surfers), beachside residents and eco-tourism advocates, and those envisaging an eco-socialist future for the country and earth.
Climate Crisis and Just Transitions
Democratic Eco-Socialist Alternatives for South Africa and the World
Democratic Marxism Series - Volume 3
31st July - 2nd August 2015
Venue: South West Engineering Building, Post-graduate Seminar Room, WITS
Background and objectives
The fist volume in the Democratic Marxism series delineated a set of themes that need to be researched to contribute to the renewal of Marxism as Democratic Marxism. This included the relationship of Marxism to democracy, commodification of nature, transnational class relations and crisis, Marxism and its relationship to critique, feminism and ecology and Marxism in Africa. The volume produced was entitled: Marxism’s in the 21st Century- Crisis, Critique and Struggle. The second volume in the series has taken this further with a focus on capitalism’s crises, class and left agency today.
This volume will be published by October 2015. The third volume in the series will explore the theme of ecology as it relates to the climate crisis, the greening of socialism and democratic eco-socialist alternatives in the South African context.
Capitalism is an exploitative, patriarchal, productivist, ecologically destructive and imperial system. It is also the cause of human induced climate change which has necessitated the imperative of a transition in societies and on a planetary scale. The climate crisis is worsening with the UN even admitting we are heading for a 3.6 degree rise in planetary temperatures and an uninhabitable planet by the end of the century if we do not drastically address carbon emissions. Essentially capital as a geological force is poised to destroy a multiplicity of human and non-human life forms.
So, why has the UN process failed to achieve climate justice ? What does this mean for Africa? What are the challenges and limits facing climate justice activism in this context? How do we use the crisis as a transformative moment to bring about national and a global just transition to ensure we sustain human and non-human life and go beyond capitalism?
Moreover, 20th century socialism with its modernising, patriarchal and productivist logic is not up to the task of confronting the climate crisis. Hence the feminisation and greening of socialism is imperative. How does eco-feminism understand socialism today? What are the lessons of greening socialism that can be learned from Bolivia, Ecuador and Germany? Finally, the just transition debate has taken root in South Africa. Neoliberals in the ruling class are attempting to use the concept to advance a shallow conception of the just transition to secure a green neoliberal capitalism that will secure the interests of the wealthy in South Africa. The National Development Plan epitomises this approach and is buttressed by other policies like the New Growth Path which calls for ‘green growth’ and ‘green jobs’. Thus this volume will seek to articulate a conception of the deep just transition and present Democratic Eco-Socialist alternatives as the content for such a deep just transition in South Africa that would ensure the interests of workers, the poor, the precariat in particular and humanity and nature in general are secured.
The objectives of the workshop:
Climate crisis and capitalism: Is the climate crisis a crisis of capitalism and capital? How does imperialism fit into this? How should we think about agency and the ‘just transition’ as systemic transformative responses?;
Greening Socialism: What are the experiences from other parts of the world in terms of greening socialism? What political economy critiques and concepts have to the fore to clarify the articulation green socialisms? What are the symbolic, strategic and policy choices being articulated? How do
these green socialisms relate to the just transition?
Democratic Eco-socialist Alternatives from South Africa: How is the left
greening socialism in South Africa? What are the systemic transformative
alternatives being articulated and struggled for at the grassroots to achieve
this? How does this link to a deep and transformative just transition?
Obtain activist and scholarly responses to the draft book chapters;
Map a way forward for the completion of the third volume in the Democratic Marxism Series.
Friday: 31st July
9.45 : Welcome and Objectives – Vishwas Satgar, Series Editor.
Theme 1 :The Climate Crisis Is A Crisis of Capitalism
Chairperson: Jacky Cock
9.00 – 10.00: The Limits of Capitalist Solutions to the Climate Crisis: Dorothy
10.00-11.00: Imperial Eco-cide and the Climate Crisis- Prospects for Just
Transitions: Vishwas Satgar
Theme 2: Greening Socialism
Chairperson: Vishwas Satgar
11.30-12.30: Buen Vivir and Transition in Ecuador : Alberto Acosta and Mateo
12.30 – 13.30: Rights of Mother Earth and Transition in Bolivia: Pablo Salon
14.30 – 15.30: Green Socialism in Germany : Mario Candeis and Tadzio Muller
15.30 – 16.30 : The Climate Crisis and the Struggle for African Food Sovereignty:
17.00: End of Day 1.
Saturday : 1st August
Theme 3: Democratic Eco-Socialist Alternatives and the Just Transition in
Chairperson: Christelle Terreblanche
9 – 10.00: The Climate Crisis and a “Just Transition’: An Eco-Feminist-Socialist
Perspective : Jacklyn Cock
10 – 11.00: Carbon Democracy versus Democratic Eco-Socialism: Michelle
11.30 – 12.30: Degrowth and the Just Transition: Devan Pillay
12.30 – 13.30: Rethinking Energy Technology -Beyond Nuclear and Fracking:
Chairperson: Nnimmo Bassey
14.30 – 15.30: Carbon Budget and Citizens Rights: James Reeler and Saliem Fakir
15.30 – 16.30: The Utopian Shimmer of a Universal Basic Income Grant: Hein
17.00: End of Day 2.
Sunday : 2nd August
Theme 3 Continued: Democratic Eco-Socialist Alternatives and the Just
Transition in South Africa
Chairperson: Jacklyn Cock
9. 10.00: Reclaiming the Water Commons: Ebrahim Harvey
10-11.00: The Blue Economy, Climate Change and Resistance to Ocean
11.30-12.30: Ubuntu and the Struggle for an African Ethical Alternative: Christelle
12.30-13.30: Confronting the Climate Crisis Through a Zero Waste Society: Muna
Chairperson: Vishwas Satgar
14.30-15.30: The Struggle for Food Sovereignty and the Solidarity Economy
Alternative: Andrew Bennie and Athish Satgoor
15.30 – 16.30: Public Transport for All and Climate Jobs: Jane Barret
Way Forward - Vishwas Satgar and Jacklyn Cock