14 Activists Arrested Protesting Coal in South Africa
Fourteen activists including groundWork's Bobby Peek, Earthlife's Makoma Lekalakala and Greenpeace Africa's Melita Steele have been arrested while protesting at the Eskom megawatt park. Today, three campaigning organizations joined forces to put South Africa’s energy utility, Eskom, under "new management." Activists confronted the utility to publicly highlight that Eskom has failed to deliver clean, affordable, accessible electricity to the people of this country, and demand a shift away from coal. The organizations installed "new management" members Bobby Peek1 as the new Eskom CEO, Makoma Lekalakala2 as the new Eskom stakeholder engagement director and Melita Steele3 as the new Eskom spokesperson.
At dawn, Greenpeace activists dropped a banner at Eskom’s Megawatt Park headquarters reading "Eskom: Under New Management." At the same time, activists locked themselves to the front entrance of the building, and the "new management" members have chained themselves to a table outside the building as part of the protest.
The protest at Megawatt Park comes in the wake of Eskom’s announcement of further electricity price hikes to pay for new coal-fired power stations.
“We are here today because Eskom has clearly failed the people of South Africa, and we are united in calling for a fundamental shift away from coal by Eskom. Whilst government pumps billions into developing new Eskom coal-fired power stations to power industry, community people’s health is increasingly affected by the toxic by-products of coal from industries. This happens during each step of the coal to energy lifecycle. Those exposed to this constant air pollution suffer from chronic respiratory conditions, such as bronchitis and pneumonia” said groundWork director and incumbent Eskom CEO, Bobby Peek.
The "new management" members pledge to put the people of this country first, recognizing that new coal-fired power stations damage people’s health, use up scarce water supplies and do not deliver affordable, accessible electricity to all South Africans.
According to Melita Steele, Greenpeace Africa’s climate and energy campaigner, who now takes over as Eskom’s "new spokesperson," “Water plays a critical role in poverty alleviation and development. However, at the moment Eskom is holding our water resources hostage by burning coal to produce electricity—using staggering amounts of the scarce resource,4 and pushing this country to the brink of a water crisis.5 The reality is that Eskom needs to shift away from coal in a just transition to safeguard South Africa’s future. There are effective alternatives to coal, but there is no substitute for water."
“Eskom’s electricity tariff hikes are going to pay for more coal-fired electricity generation that puts all South Africans at risk. It is this country’s most impoverished who have to pay the real costs of coal: unaffordable, dirty electricity, while BHP Biliton still gets electricity below cost—and the poor have to subsidize ESKOM’s loss of R5.5. billion. It is time for Eskom to deliver clean, affordable, accessible electricity to everybody in this country” said Makoma Lekalakala of Earthlife Africa JHB and Eskom’s "new stakeholder engagement director."
According to the "new management" team, they are prepared to end their protest once they are invited into Megawatt Park to formally take over as Eskom’s official "new management."
From today, Eskom’s "new management" will listen to all South Africans, and finally put the people of this country first by:
• Ending South Africa’s addiction to coal and investing in renewable energy instead
• Providing sustainable jobs for South Africa's workforce
• Averting a water crisis for South Africa
• Providing affordable and decentralized electricity access for all
• Making sure that the people of this country do not suffer from the health impacts associated with coal-fired power stations and coal mines
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By Charli Shield
When an elephant dies in the wild, it's not uncommon to later find its bones scattered throughout the surrounding landscape.
Elephant Burial Grounds<p>Highly social creatures that form deep familial bonds, elephants have long been observed gathering at the site where a peer or family member has died — often spending hours, even days, quietly investigating the bodies or the bones of other dead elephants.</p><p>Although the popular idea that dying elephants are instinctively drawn to special communal graves — so-called "elephant graveyards" — is a myth, their tendency to go out of their way to visit the bones and tusks of the deceased isn't unlike human rituals at graveyards, says animal psychologist Karen McComb.</p><p>"They spend a lot of time touching and smelling skulls and ivory, placing the soles of their feet gently on top of them, and also lifting them up with their trunks," McComb, who's been studying African elephants for 25 years in Kenya's Amboseli National Park, told DW.</p><p>The most striking part of watching an elephant experience loss, Poole recalls, is the quietude. She still remembers one of the first elephant deaths she witnessed; a mother who birthed a stillborn calf. That elephant stayed with its baby for two days, trying to lift it and defending it from vultures and hyenas.</p><p>"I was so struck by the expression on her face and her body. She looked so dejected. It was really like, 'Oh God, these animals grieve…'. It was just so different," Poole told DW. </p>
Witnessing Emotions in Animals<p>Not all scientists are comfortable concluding that elephants grieve. Among the more than 30 reports of elephant reactions to death that Wittemyer co-reviewed in <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10329-019-00766-5" target="_blank">a study published in November 2019</a> were accounts of "enormous variation and nuance" he says. "It can be incredibly involved and intricate for extended periods or can be relatively cursory checks."</p><p>In Wittemyer's own experience, it can be difficult not to attribute some kind of emotional experience to the more involved interactions between elephants and their dead.</p><p>He shares the story of an "extraordinary event" involving the death of a 55 year-old matriarch in Kenya in a protected area that happened to be near his place of work. She was visited by multiple unrelated families while she was dying, including another matriarch that exerted such enormous effort attempting to lift her to her feet that she broke her tusk, which Wittemyer says, is "like breaking a tooth." </p><p><span></span>"It was a remarkable example of this heightened emotional state, it was very clearly a very stressful interaction," he says.</p>
A Different Sensory World<p>One factor that limits our ability to fully grasp the way elephants process and respond to loss is our markedly different sensory experiences of the world.</p><p>An elephant's world is fundamentally olfactory — based on smell. Ours is visual. Previous <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25053675/" target="_blank">research</a> has shown elephants possess the most scent receptors of any mammal, and can <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17949977/" target="_blank">use smell</a> to discern the difference between different human tribes from the same local area.</p><p>That could explain why elephants exhibit such interest in sniffing the bones and tusks of others, as a <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1617198/" target="_blank">2005 study</a> from McCombs highlighted. When presented with the skulls and ivory of long-dead elephants and those from other large herbivores, including rhino and buffalo, McCombs and her team found elephants approached and were specifically attracted to the remains of their own species. </p><p>Without access to the smells an elephant picks up on, Wittemyer says "an enormous amount of stuff" could be missed by humans when studying these behaviors.</p>
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