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The Cost of Price

by Paul Edmunds

I put the question to my interviewee: were the food on my supermarket shelf priced to include the environmental costs of industrial agriculture –the carbon emissions and pollution generated in its cultivation and transport, the lost topsoil, depleted diversity etc – would it be any cheaper than my organically-cultivated heirloom vegetables, produced on a small allotment a short walk from my home in a middle-class Cape Town suburb? It’s a tricky question to answer, and when you throw in the social costs of the reduced nutritional value of the shelf-stable, processed foods which comprise the average South African food basket, it starts to get scary … read more


Slow Thor

by Paul Edmunds

As a student in KwaZulu-Natal in the early to mid-90s, it was hard to miss the exposé by Earthlife Africa and others of mercury contamination and poisoning that erupted around Thor Chemical Holdings, a British-owned company based in nearby Cato Ridge. It came to light recently that despite that publicity, several civil and one criminal lawsuit in British courts, and several undertakings to address the unsafe handling and storage of mercury-containing waste, the issue is still not resolved.

I re-visit this because it seems to embody so many issues coming to the fore as we head dangerously towards climate collapse: the pollution of our environment, the unfair environmental burden placed on developing economies by wealthier countries, and the concordance between human- and environmental rights. Mostly though, it demonstrates a government’s failure to protect its citizens, its animal life and its environment. It also shows corporate malfeasance of the worst kind … read more


Nutritional Values

by Paul Edmunds

In Nutritional Values I speak to Kurt Ackermann, associate in the Global Risk Governance Programme at the University of Cape Town and co-founder of the Oranjezicht City Farm in Cape Town, itself part of the SA Urban Food and Farming Trust. We discuss the value of small urban and agrarian scale agriculture in a landscape of industrial agriculture and food production. The former is not quite the fart against a thunderstorm you may imagine, Kurt argues, and efficiency is not the only measure of value either … read more

Cognitive Resonance

by Paul Edmunds

It might turn out that the opposite is true.

We prefer to see ourselves as deeply concerned with the fate of the planet and her residents. We would love to see a diverse, flourishing world around us; we may even entertain the possibility that we are of nature and not external to it. We would believe that how we consume, travel and invest are small blind spots set against a larger background of this concern. In our critical reflection, this is where we concede to a little cognitive dissonance: where there is tension between what we believe and how we act … read more

Climate change may unleash waves of destruction in SA

by Tiara Walters

That’s hardly news. But this was published in 2007, probably the first major piece about climate change by a South African newspaper. What’s as chilling as the fact that little has changed in the way we behave, is that the outcomes described here are predicated on a 3 degree C temperature rise. The Paris Agreement seeks to limit heating to between 1,5 and 2 degrees C, while SA – given current trends – will warm to between 3 and 4 degrees C in that scenario … read more

Mode Swings

by Paul Edmunds

In Mode Swings I interview Ross Douglas, SA-born founder and owner of Urban Mobility a Paris-based NGO studying transport in cities, focused on reducing congestion, pollution and ultimately carbon emissions. We talk about the future of privately-owned cars, public transport, electric vehicles and the digital interface. We spoke a few months back, but the conversation has gained currency again with the second lockdowns in France right now. But don’t go away! We also get stuck in the weeds talking about autonomous vehicles when I propose that they are today’s personal jetpacks! … read more

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