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Astrologically speaking, our celebrity celestial diviners, such as Susan Miller, have predicted a month of emotional upheaval and revealed secrets. This April is going to see both a solar and a lunar eclipse, which supposedly means that difficult truths will be revealed and old emotional attachments will be purged. Irrespective of your astrological beliefs, the GCI will see to it that at least some of us face some difficult truths. Indeed, I take it as a tenuous blessing for our upcoming Green Week.

Green Week is a time of festivity, celebrations, picnics, and live bands on Jammie Plaza. But it is also a time of remembering the importance of these events. Certainly, their purpose is fun. But that is only one side of the coin. The other side is awareness – our aim is to remind the people of UCT that the world needs to change. With growing interest in matters of environment, ecology, and sustainability, we also take it as an opportunity to celebrate the involvement of good-hearted people in this cause that directly affects all of us. All the logistics can be found on the Facebook page, and a nice summary of the essence of our year’s main event can be found here.

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Often, the idea of “greening” the planet has been cast in a very negative light. Many people see it as the concern of the few – those with the money and the means to direct their energy towards lofty ideas that have little grounding in the immediate future. In this way, many arguments for “development” have been fortified by the claim that the immediate needs of human beings – particularly the poor – outweigh the needs of the environment. This rhetoric holds that heavy, industrial development will benefit communities in need more than environmentally directed idealism. On Saturday 22 March, I had the opportunity to experience a celebration that presented some strong arguments against this line of thinking – a celebration that showed how human concerns and environmental concerns are intrinsically interwoven.

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Do you ever feel like the quest to save this planet is futile? Do you ever feel like there are too many evil oil corporations, heartless CEOs, and corrupt politicians, with too much power? Do you ever feel like a David fighting an army of Goliaths? Never fear. For you are not alone.Image

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You know what university life is all about? I mean, apart from the stress and homework? Obviously, it’s all about the crazy experiences you won’t be able to tell your kids about until they turn 18. It’s about sneaking into girls’ reses, it’s about toga parties, it’s about beer pong, it’s about being hungover in morning lectures, and it’s about cycling through your city, naked.

Yes, there are few better ways to show your love for nature than to show your true nature. And by ‘true nature’, I mean your naked body. And by ‘naked body’, I mean your naked body all glammed up with excitement and gorgeousness to celebrate this excellent event. But, while the World Naked Bike Ride is an epic excuse to tick something off your varsity bucket list, it is also a very real statement.

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WSES Arrival Day

Hey all

So today Caitlin and I arrived in Lausanne to be met by the welcome team at the main train station. Along with us were the delegates from Portugal, India and Japan. All a really cool bunch of people. So after we all checked into the hostile and got our welcome package, we made a mass move to the University of Lausanne for the welcome ceremony. The ceremony consisted of the welcome by the chairman of the organising committee of the 2012 WSES, then the Dean of the University spoke to us followed by the professor of the Doshisha University who was in charge of the very first WSES. The mayor of the city of Lausanne and the EX-FOEN Director followed. All of their speeches were informative  and while being different, centered around a main theme. They all focused on us delegates and how we have to blaze a trail. They all mentioned the current state of the planet whether it being economics, finance or the environment. They simply but it no means weakly, remind us why we are here and what an amazing opportunity this is and that we must take full advantage of it.

Its going to be a great summit full of so much information and learning and I know I speak for Caitlin when I say that we are both really excited!

Here is a picture from M. Philippe Roch’s presentation (EX-FOEN director) regarding consumption. Just something to think about it.

Green at Heart

Caitlin and Keke

The 5th World Student Environmental Summit (WSES), this year, is taking place at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland. As stated from their website, 2012.wsen.org, the theme is “Let’s change!” The site states “without radical change in the behaviour of mankind, the environment – and by way of consequence, mankind itself – will undergo irreversible change.”  Three levels of change will be addressed at the summit, international, societal and individual. The potential and limitations of concepts, movements, strategies etc will be discussed. 80 delegates from around the world are anticipated to make their way to Lausanne for the summit. UCT’s GCI has sent two of its members, Treasurer Caitlin Melidonis and Marketing Head, yours truly, Keketso Motjuwadi to represent the university at this great event. The summit consists of workshops, conferences and presentations all with a variety of topics. Each delegate has signed up for a number of workshops that will take place in groups ranging from 17 to 26. At the end of each day, Caitlin and I will recap the days activities in this blog for you to read so that you can be part of it all. I know that I speak for Caitlin when I say that we are extremely excited to attend this event and will do our very best to represent our organisation, university and country and show the rest of the world just how groovy we are. So watch this space!

Green hugs and bugs,

Keketso and Caitlin

sUStainability includes US.

Green Week 2012

This year, the GCI’s biggest environmental week falls in April, the 16th – 20th, We are often asked “What is Green Week?” or “Whats the point of it?”. Green Week (GW) is the time where opportunities to be exposed to environmentalism, sustainability etc; are concentrated in the form of film and documentary screenings, talks, discussions and where the chance to be involved in these events is easily accessible. GW aims to interact with both spheres of the university. Students/staff to academia and beyond. The GCI believes that for change to happen, all need to contribute. So we encourage you to take an hour out of your day and go to a talk or screening and learn more about the world we live in and what you can do to help it. The human race are a species and we need to look out for each other after all the environment is the framework in which we all live and work in.

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This blog post comes via “http://www.wwf.org.za“. I read this article and thought that it was interesting. It was posted on the 22nd of February 2012 here.

WWF South Africa (WWF-SA) welcomes the fact that Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan’s budget speech continues to reinforce the need for South Africa to find ways to deal with our carbon emissions and to diversify our approaches to dealing with energy constraints – but calls for greater urgency in moving to a low-carbon and sustainable economy.

“Although we don’t have clarity on how carbon taxes will be implemented, we welcome the explicit acknowledgement of the need to price carbon emissions and the phasing in of a tax instrument for this purpose,” says Saliem Fakier, Head of WWF’s Living Planet Unit.

“We recognise the need for a carbon tax that is sensitive to South Africa’s socio-economic context, individual tax payers and sustainable growth of the economy. Carbon pricing affects everybody but increasingly carbon emissions are being priced and incorporated into business. Internationally there’s a growing trend to penalise the carbon intensity (or `carbon footprint’) of products and services and we need to ensure that we start to reduce our carbon intensity so that South African goods remain competitive,” says Fakier.

Minister Gordhan also made provision for the incremental increase in the levy for electricity generated from non-renewable energy. WWF believes that this is a good approach to make people more aware of the need for energy saving. But more importantly there is a far more explicit commitment to allocate portions of this revenue towards promoting household energy saving and the continued roll-out of a million solar water geysers.

WWF also welcomes the continued commitment towards the scaling up of renewables energy infrastructure. Fakier adds, “We believe that both in the interim and long term renewables allow greater flexibility in our energy mix and ability to meet growing demand while at the same time stimulating green economy growth. We are willing to work with government in ensuring that the delivery of renewables is cost effective, continues to build our energy security and support the green jobs target”. 

WWF recommends that government consider the deployment of public works programmes that not only create jobs but also improve and enhance affordable energy solutions and access in poor rural and urban communities. We are disappointed that this has not received sufficient emphasis despite increased allocation of funds for other community job creation programmes.

South Africa needs to have a shared vision to work together in finding ways to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels. We accept that this cannot be done immediately but we would like to see continued provisions through greater annual budget and public sector spending toward achieving this vision. 

WWF-SA further welcomes commitment to invest in wastewater treatment plants in certain areas, but reiterates our call for this to be treated as a national priority. More than half of South Africa’s wastewater treatment plants operated by local government are failing their own discharge standards and polluting rivers and estuaries. 

We welcome the additional allocation of funds to the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries to improve agricultural support services. This is a positive step in supporting compliance and best management practices in the country’s agricultural industry. 

Finally, we welcome government’s investment in Working for Water and Working on Fire, which promote the health of the country’s ecological systems and alleviate poverty through job creation, particularly for local communities.

What country currently has the highest carbon emissions? Which world famous veteran primatologist owns a stuffed monkey toy goes by the name “Mr. H”? And Which African country’s national park has the greatest variety of wildlife in Africa? Don’t know? Well I’m afraid you’re not alone. Global Warming didn’t either.

If you were at the GCI’s most recent event you would know that a langur is a monkey, China has the highest carbon emissions, Dr. Jane Goodall carries Mr. H wherever she goes and the Kruger National Park has the most wildlife diversity in Africa. These were just some of the questions posed at GCI’s Pub Quiz hosted by the GCI in the Post Grad Pub at UCT. Students started trickling in slowly around six pm on the 16th of February and by 7 the venue was bustling with 12 teams of four people each and a unique team name to rouse some green competitive spirit, all jostling for the awesome GCI prizes on offer for the winners. With Hemporium vouchers, free trade chocolate, Backsberg organic wine and BOS organic rooibos ice team up for grabs the competition was fierce. But if the competitors thought they had their sustainability knowledge up to scratch they may have had second thoughts when faced with questions like “Which Vampire Diaries actor spoke in front of the US congress last year to urge support for Multinational Species Conservation Funds Reauthorization Act of 2011?” Just like the GCI, it looks fun and feels fun, but you have to work hard for your rewards. It’s Ian Somerholder by the way.

Finally, the results were tallied up and Alcoholics Anonymous came out of nowhere to win the day, even surprising themselves. Lightly Salted were awarded with the most entertaining answer, which equated UCT recylcling tonnage to and some other nonsensical variables. But even if you didn’t know which country passed the world’s first ever laws which granted nature equal rights to humans (Bolivia), no one lost out completely. Since we all know that there is no quicker her way to a student’s heart than free food, some delicious snacks were provided. Vegetarian obviously.

Check out the video from the quiz here and look out for more fun GCI events in the future.

– Sarah Corry

GCI Events Coordinator

“…we are nature, literally, in every molecule and neuron. We contain clay, minerals, and water; are powered by sunshine through plant life; and are intricately bound to all other species, from fungi to marsupials to bacterial. In our lungs are oxygen molecules breathed by every type of creature ever to have lived on earth, along with the very hydrogen and oxygen atoms that Jesus, Confucius, and Rachel Carson breathed” – Paul Hawken, Blessed Unrest

I remembered the first time I fell in love yesterday. I was 14, and the object of my attention was not a human – but a horse! The relationship between horse and rider is something incredibly special, something that isn’t easily described to those who haven’t experienced it. I was trying to pinpoint why this bond is so strong and so unique – which started a thought-train which took me back to Descartes.

Yip, Cartesian Dualism; the separation of the mind from the body and the resultant enlightenment dichotomy created between “nature” and “culture”. These have had a huge impact in the way most of us think about and view the world and “the environment” – even that term I think threatens to separate us from the reality of the object itself, as if The Environment was something separate, tucked away, inaccessible to most of us.

Of course, the environment is us, we can’t escape it. We gain everything from it and all our waste stays here with us. It’s the separation, I think, which has resulted in us – perhaps unconsciously – living unsustainably. After all, we’ve been taught to “throw away” our rubbish, when there is no “away”.

Maybe that’s why the horse-rider scene is so special: it’s a working metaphor, a symbolic representation of humans and nature working together – on the same level – as one unit, so that it’s no longer human and nature, but one, unified object. There it is: a reminder that we are nature, when we are conscious of it. And if we are nature and belong to the world as much as it belongs to us, it is in our interest to rethink the way in which we live so that we can sustain it and make a better life for all.

Sustainability includes us because we’ve got the world we’re on and an immense opportunity to re-imagine and re-create a place that connects and values all things.

 

– Kate Pallet

GCI Chairperson

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