Dear Earthlife Africa Community

Wow! What another whirlwind year 2023 has been. This year started off with the worst news – the environmental justice movement (and Earthlife Africa Johannesburg) had lost another giant, our very own Nomalizo Xhoma… a warrior woman, an advocate for people and the Earth, and a skilled and respected organiser. But we take comfort in her legacy and endeavour to ensure that her spirit lives on through all of us in our commitment to promoting human and environmental rights. Hamba Kahle!

In keeping with this human-centred approach to #ClimateChange, this year, Earthlife Africa expanded our #EcoMapping initiative to the Eastern Cape. We are leveraging this powerful tool – which is also known as the People’s Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) – to help communities around Jeffreys Bay, Humansdorp, Oyster bay, Kariega and Gqeberha understand and protect their precious ecosystems. By mapping out our natural resources, biodiversity, and vulnerable areas, we gain valuable insights to help communities make informed decisions, especially when new developments are proposed. Past maps were created through storytelling from elders from the surrounding communities, and we learned from the fishing communities on the importance of protecting the marine ecological balance that is embedded in their livelihoods, cultures, traditions, and their spirituality. Participants noted that: “Biodiversity of our area is important for the preservation of our heritage, cultures and traditions and for protection of our livelihoods.”

In a bid to engage communities who have been severely impacted by climate change, Earthlife Africa Johannesburg, along with SAFCEI and Gary M Koekemoer from NoPENukes, spent #AfricaDay2023 in #Kariega #EasternCape. People had many questions and observations of their own, about government’s poor energy decisions – such as the proposals for offshore oil and gas, Karpowerships and the possible resurgence of plans for new nuclear in the province – which, they believe, are not in the public’s interest and will worsen #climatechange. This is always great to see because #SouthAfrica needs citizens to be actively involved in decisions that affect them. This is why we remain so committed to our work because to get citizens active on environmental and energy justice issues, requires proper education, information sharing and meaningful public participation.

In June, the short-film MMSEZ – The Promise of Progress and Peril was launched to 150 youth, women and traditional and religious leaders. The proposed activities which will form part of the #MusinaMakhadoSEZ will have significant impacts on water use, air quality, and #climatechange. Local communities’ concerns include a loss of biodiversity, in addition to sacred and heritage sites, and changes to many aspects of their lives.

A campaign that will always be dear to us as environmental defenders… In October, around the anniversary of the slaying of community activist Fikile Ntshangase, we joined many organisations to commemorate and honour the lives of those land and climate justice activists, and whistleblowers who have been assassinated. We called on government actors – The Presidency of the Republic of South Africa South African Police Service and Dept. of Justice – for protective legislation and to acknowledge the significant role played by our Human Rights Defenders in ensuring that the Constitutional rights of the poor and vulnerable are protected. South Africa is experiencing an increase in the rate of killings, threats and other acts of intimidation. #DefendtheDefenders #NothingAboutUsWithoutUs #Light4Defenders

Eastern Cape Combined Environmental Forum had a march against the destruction of their environment on the 24th of September 2023.

And not sure if you’ve heard, but #EnvironmentalDefenders really disrupted some fossil fools’ AGMs, this year. In June, we protested Standard Bank, in solidarity with our comrades in #Uganda and #Tanzania who oppose the #EACOP – the world’s longest heated crude oil pipeline project – because it will cost the wellbeing of those communities. In fact, we call on all financial institutions to support a sustainable, just and prosperous future, for all Africans. #JustTransitionNow #STOPEACOP #ForThePeople

Then in November, we joined the Vaal Environmental Justice Alliance – VEJA, the Centre for Environmental Rights, Just Share and Greenpeace Africa, among others, to take a stand outside Sasol’s AGM (which was ultimately cancelled)! We call on investors to prioritize the #PlanetOverProfits and demand that Sasol’s decarbonisation plans align with the requirements spelled out in the #ParisAgreement to reduce global #GHG emissions.

This year, Earthlife Africa – in partnership with GenderCCSA and Black Girls Rising – also levelled-up on its recognition of Women in Environmental Justice. We believe, as primary caretakers, that women must be central to the #JustTransition. Therefore, 2023 saw us hosting events in 3 provinces – Gauteng, Limpopo, and Eastern Cape. And in addition to holding space for our women activists, bringing gender issues to the forefront, but we also crowned 4 Women Activists of the Year: Emmy Modise (Lephalale), Matshediso Masita (Gauteng), Tandiwe Londi Nondumo (Gqeberha) and Cindy Masindi (Musina)!

I also want to take a moment to thank Enviropaedia and the Eco-Logic Awards for my Bronze award in the Eco-Warrior category. I am humbled to be recognized with the other outstanding nominees who are doing such wonderful work to #DefendOurPlanet and #ProtectLivelihoods.

 

We have put out several opinion pieces this year:

In this article African carbon markets initiative, a licence to pollute: “The whole concept of #CarbonOffsetting is simply another frontier of capital accumulation and profit-seeking based on yet more exploitation and the externalising of environmental costs. We cannot sell nature to save it.”

Implications of BRICS expansion for Africa’s climate goals: “It is not just the focus on fossil fuels that the new BRICS countries bring that is alarming. Several of the new states have appalling human rights records which has a chilling impact on the ability of environmental activists to operate safely.”

Nuclear power is neither reliable nor ‘green’ and not suitable for the just transition: “Numerous research studies have shown that these life cycle emissions far exceed those of renewable energy sources. This is especially so given the enormous task of decommissioning highly contaminated nuclear power stations which takes decades, and around which little certainty exists.”

Whose just transition is it anyway?: “Will the Just Energy Transition Investment Plan (JET-IP), unveiled by President Cyril Ramaphosa in November 2022, be enough to accelerate an equitable and #justtransition in SA? Will it move the country closer to achieving its climate commitments while also taking the present energy crisis into account? And will our country, in its present state of chaos, be able to secure the funding required to bring the plan to life?”

Leave no one behind: indigenous knowledge systems are needed for adapting to climate change: “The link with climate change is relevant for understanding the vulnerabilities that threaten the values of cultural heritage, but also for the development of adaptation and mitigation strategies powered by the knowledge, experiences, and skills inherited from the past and remain part of our daily lives.”

Dark future looms for SA unless we move with speed to build renewable energy plants: “It is now cheaper to build new utility-scale renewable energy plants than to keep existing fossil fuels plants operating. The cost of utility-scale renewable energy plants with storage is falling so rapidly that these are now less costly to build than new coal plants, which will only get cheaper.”

And finally, I also want to add that we are so proud of our forums and groups for their ongoing commitment to developing as true Earth defenders. No less than 3 members of Grassroots for Climate Action (G4CA) are currently in Dubai to amplify African issues at this year’s COP28. And, our Digital Storytellers have certainly stepped up their game, keeping their online communities (and ours) informed about environmental and climate justice issues, and more.

 

Let’s commit to sustainable practices that respect and restore nature. As we contemplate what lies ahead, I encourage you to seek to prioritize the needs and resilience of communities impacted by climate change and to support those initiatives that create green jobs and foster economic growth.

 

With that, I would like to thank you for your continued support throughout the year. May you have a good break over the holidays, and come back feeling refreshed and revived, ready to take on the challenges that lie ahead.

 

With love and respect,

Makoma Lekalakala