'Coal kills' - activists ask big business to forget profits and put environment first

COAL KILLS - also in South Africa
Picture: XR - Extinction Rebellion

By Amy Gibbings - 30. January 2020

A group of activists gathered outside of the 15th Southern African Annual Coal Conference (SAACC) in Cape Town on Thursday to protest the continued investment in the country's coal mining industry.

The non-violent demonstration was organised by environmental activist group Extinction Rebellion Cape Town who were joined by other small community justice groups, united in their fight against coal mining.

"For far too long, we have accepted that coal is part of our economy, but climate change has already cost South Africa 10% of our GDP," said David Le Page, the co-ordinator of Fossil Free SA.

According to Le Page, air pollution from coal production and corruption within the fossil fuel industry have also cost the South African economy dearly.

"These are huge costs that people are not talking about," he said at the gathering.

He implored civil society, business and the government to divest in fossil fuels and rather divert that money into the "creative potential" of wind and solar energy.

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"Around the world people are talking about a 'green new deal' where we address the climate emergency and we address the inequality and poverty that has for so long been taken for granted and at the same time by creating jobs in renewable energy, by creating jobs in ecological restoration, by creating jobs in sustainable agriculture," said Le Page.

Thembeka Majali, the programme officer for 1 Million Climate Jobs Programme for the Alternative Information and Development Centre, said it was worrying coal was still the most affordable energy source for South Africans.

NO FUTURE IN COAL - Activists demonstrate at coal  conference  Picture: XR

"If this is the case, [the] government must explore other renewable energy alternatives and in areas whereby they are already affected by the closure of coal mines, the closure of coal plants, explore the possibility of converting those into solar farms where communities can also benefit," she told News24.

"The Green Bishop", Geoff Davies, said it was time the church stood behind important initiatives like Extinction Rebellion in the face of this "crisis" where industry and business have failed to intervene.

"Business, coal and oil are not listening and we have got to say, forget your profits, and there's huge profits in oil we know that, forget your profits and turn to the well-being of people and the planet," he added.

Coal is top air polluter and silent killer.

ECOTERRA added: The average number of death from outside air-pollution is much, much higher worldwide than any of the virus scares, which get so much attention. Coal is one of the top contributors and air pollution is the real global health emergency for people and nature. In South Africa latest ailable statistics from 2017 show that 19, 451 people met an untimely death due to outdoor air pollution.


Jane Morton's 24-page booklet and 45-minute presentation 'Don't mention the emergency?' is in high demand. The booklet is now out in its second edition. You can download it as a PDF for free.

» See video recording of Jane Morton's presentation

» Download PDF


... and another silent killer unleached by Big Industry:

Buried in Earthskin

Short Synopsis of Buried in Earthskin: (50mins documentary in English and Afrikaans with subtitles.)

A metaphorical vision of a malignant tumour in the earths’ skin, sets Helena on a road trip, following the route the waste disposal trucks take from Cape Towns nuclear power station. Listening to the stories of workers, women from indigenous rural communities living near the dump, international experts and government ministers, Helena realizes the significance of her vision. She sees how political and electrical power go hand in hand, and how marginalized indigenous peoples pay the ultimate price for decisions made (about where we get our electric power) for the sake of political and financial power.

Buried in Earthskin: Screenings since completion: (June 2009)

While We Were Sleeping film event: The Labia Cinema – Cape Town (2009)

Oakland International Film Festival (2009) USA

10TH International Social Communication Cinema Conference, Kolkata, India (2011)

Encounters International Film Festival (2010) South Africa

Broadcast (repeating)  Mzantisi Magic (A channel of MultiChoice Satelite TVAfrica) 2011-2012

Cape Town Community TV (2011)    (Repeating broadcasts)

The International Uranium Film Festival in Rio de Janiero (2012) Here the film won a Special Achievement Award.

Uranium Film Festival tour of India (2013)  Covering 11 Indian cities.

Green Unplugged International Film Festival (online) 2013 – You can watch the whole film on this link.


Directors Statement

Helena KingwillThis film is based on a true personal event, which proved to me scientifically that trusting ones in intuition can save ones life. I dreamt that I had cancer in my leg. When I woke I went to the doctor, who diagnosed a malignant tumour in the skin of my calf. (Melanoma) Fortunately, it was discovered just in time, before it could spread into my veins.

The motivation for the journey of investigation I took in this documentary, was based on a metaphorical vision of nuclear waste as a malignant tumour in the earth’s skin, which is threatening to spread into her veins. (It is easy to forget that we are part of nature and that our bodies are microcosmic reflections of the earth.)

Buried in EarthskinI had heard a rumour that the underground water in Namaqualand was being poisoned by nuclear waste. I set off on a road trip to investigate and met some amazing people along the way, like the women of the Namakhoi tribe, who live close to the earth, and are so intuitively wise to her ways. The ancient earth- wisdom of the elders of the earth’s first people’s is so simple and clear. The Navaho elders say that Uranium is a poison from the depths of the earth, which should never be removed, and that if it is, it will unleash terrible danger. It echoes the Greek parable of Pandora’s box. Never open it, or all ills will be loosed on the planet. It is so tempting to those who wish to have power over others to open that box, but they can never take full responsibility for what they have unleashed if it is stronger than them. In making this film, however, I tried to focus on keeping it as balanced and scientifically investigative as possible, so as not to be discredited by those in the industry who do not take things like intuition seriously. It was also my intention to give back some power to the marginalized communities the poorest of the poor who have the greatest wealth of earth Wisdom by giving them a voice. It was a great delight that it was screened in Rio on the year of the Earth Summit Rio+20, because the journey of raising funds for the film began at the World Summit in Johannesburg 2002, and my vision for the film, was to have it screened in the context of such an event.

It received a “Special Achievement” award at the Uranium Film Festival in Rio, (this award was given specifically in acknowledgement of the way that I had listened to my “native instincts”, so it goes to show that it pays off to believe and trust in one’s intuition.)  The film then went on to travel with the festival to Berlin and 11 cities in India.  As a result of this, it was selected for the Green Unplugged Film Festival online and is now permanently available through them.  To watch the whole film online by clicking on this link.

Enjoy. Helena Kingwill

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