Is long-wave theory useful for anticipating sustainable futures?

written by: Mark Swilling on Tuesday, 01 July 2014. Posted in News

Is long-wave theory useful for anticipating sustainable futures?

The Centre for Studies in Complexity and STIAS hosted a colloquium on Anticipation: Complexity and the Future on 18 March 2014. Mark Swilling presented a talk that reflected on the emerging literature that applies long-wave theory to an understanding of the future. While some of this literature is extremely useful (for example the book entitled Factor Five by Ernst von Weiszacher and colleagues), most of it overly simplifies what is going on with dangerous consequences for how we then anticipate the future. This talk proposes a synthesis between the literatures on global metabolic transition perspective, Kondratieff cycles and techno-industrial waves of development. Click HERE to view the talk on YouTube.

From Acccra to Rotterdam

written by: Mark Swilling on Sunday, 29 June 2014. Posted in News

From Acccra to Rotterdam

Eve and I recently returned from a trip to Accra and Rotterdam. The purpose of our visit to Accra was to meet with our University partners in the Africa Climate Change Adaptation Initiative (ACCAI) funded by the Open Society Foundation. Hosted by the University of Ghana, this two-day meeting reviewed progress made at the various campuses setting up new masters programmes in climate change adaptation over the past few years. Building on this foundation it was resolved to focus future collaborations on food systems research and change. This is consistent with the focus of the African Union funded network that involves the same partners, plus others. The core ACCAI partners include University of Ghana, University of Nigeria Nsukka, Mekelle University in Ethiopia, University of the Witwatersrand and University of Dar es Salaam, plus Stellenbosch University. Besides familiarizing ourselves with Accra as a city, we also visited Agbobloshi - a plastics recycling centre run by informal operators that Green Cross Switzerland recently nominated as one of ten most polluted places on the planet.

After Accra we travelled to Rotterdam where we were hosted by Prof Maarten Hajer, head of The Netherlands Environment Agency. The purpose of this visit was to participate in a public discussion that formed part of the International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam exhibition on the theme Urban by Nature. For a video report and talk by Maarten Hajer, click HERE.

For a copy of the talk and internview by myself, click HERE. The other presenters included:

Philip Rhode from LSE Cities

John Urry from Lancaster University 

The panel participants plus Eve and researchers from The Netherlands Environment Agency had a formal meeting the following day to discuss the new research project that Maarten Hajer and I are leading for the International Resource Panel on the resource requirements of future urbanization.

IRP Launches Decoupling 2

written by: Mark Swilling on Sunday, 15 June 2014. Posted in News

IRP Launches Decoupling 2

During the recent EU-sponsored Green Week in Brussels, the International Resource Panel launched Decoupling 2: Technologies, Opportunities and Policy Options. Mark Swilling was a contributing author. This report demonstrates that since 2000 metal prices have risen by 176%, rubber by 350%, energy by 260% and food by 22.4% (with some projecting an increase of 120%-180% by 2030). Unsurprisingly, these trends have started to make possible alternatives that make it possible to do more with less (resource efficiency), more with renewables (substitution), and more with less damage (restoration). Decoupling 2 documents these emerging alternatives and argues the case for replicating radical resource productivity improvement on a global scale. Many examples are provided, including the potential to reduce energy and water demand in developed economies by 50%-80% using existing energy and water efficiency technologies; how developing countries investing in new energy infrastructure could reduce energy demand by half over the next 12 years if energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies were adopted now rather than later; and that decoupling technologies could result in resource savings equal to US$2.9 to US$3.7 trillion each year until 2030 if the policy, regulatory and technological innovations were put in place.

Click HERE to download a copy of the report.

The Labyrinth is back and it is beautiful

written by: Louise Bezuidenhout on Friday, 06 June 2014. Posted in News

The Labyrinth is back and it is beautiful


This morning students from the Ecological Design and Sustainable Agriculture modules helped plant 15 Virgilia (Keurboom) trees around the new labyrinth. These trees will in time form a beautiful holding space for the labyrinth. 
A huge thank you goes out to Bryce, Qhinga and all the students who have helped us reconstruct the labyrinth, it looks absolutely stunning and is ready to be walked, and cleaned :), to your heart's content! 

Trisoplast shipment arrives at the Institute

written by: Louise Bezuidenhout on Friday, 16 May 2014. Posted in News

Trisoplast shipment arrives at the Institute

Eighty-three 1-ton bags filled with Trisplast premix all the way from Holland were offloaded at the Sustainability Institute on Wednesday. The forklift and three big trucks caused much excitement for the Lynedoch Primary school children who stumbled upon the offloading process on their way home. The Trisoplast premix will be used to line the new horizontal wetland, located next to the current vertical wetland. 

Trisoplast is a base or surface sealant that was developed in the Netherlands and is widely used to line landfill sites in Europe. A certification company in Finland has certified the product safe to the environment. Maluti Water designed the new wetland and will assist during the construction process. Construction will start in the next couple of weeks, so do pop in!

Lynedoch Youth Programme

written by: Mark Swilling on Monday, 05 May 2014. Posted in News

Lynedoch Youth Programme

Check out the e-zine publication about the Lynedoch Youth programme posted on ISSUU - click HERE for the link. Truly remarkable set of interlinked activities that are changing the lives of young people every day.

Greening African Economies, Abuja

written by: Mark Swilling on Saturday, 29 March 2014. Posted in Academic News, News

Mark Swilling delivers keynote

Greening African Economies, Abuja

The Seventh Joint Annual Conference of the UN Economic Commission for Africa Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development and the AU Conference of Ministers of Economy and Finance took place in Abuja, Nigeria, 27-31 March 2014. Mark Swilling was invited to deliver a keynote address to a Side Event hosted by the UN Economic Commission for Africa to address the theme Greening Africa's Economies and Structural Transformation. Opening remarks were delivered by Carlos Lopes, UN ECA Executive Secretary and Un Under-Secretary General. The Chairperson was Fatima Denton, Director of Special Initiatives in the UN ECA. The Africa Regional Director for UNEP, Mounkaila Goumandakoye, delivered the first talk on 'Towards a Green Economy Roadmap for Africa'. He cited 20 African countries where meaningful progress is being made to formulate and implement green economy policy frameworks. He made it clear that it takes 7=10 years to reap the benefits of these policies. 

The Panel that was invited to respond to the keynote address by Mark Swilling included the following: H.E.K.Y Amoako, Director of the African Center for Economic Transformation in Ghana and former Executive Secretary of the UN ECA; Dr. A. Tekeste, Ethiopia's State Minister of Finance and Economic Development; H.E. Henri Djambo, Congo's Minister of Sustainable Development, Foresty Economy and Environment; Dr. Musheibu Mohammed Alfa, Ghana's Deputy Minister of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation; and Adnan Amin, Director-General of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).  

Text of the Talk by Mark Swilling (for an updated pdf version of the talk below click HERE):

"As an African who spends a lot of time anticipating African futures, I often get asked where I draw my inspiration. I used to refer to two great African texts: Ben Okri's Mental Fight and Wangari Mathai's speech when she received the Nobel Prize. But there is a third that I can put on this short list. I am referring to the speech by Her Excellency Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma at the 22nd Ordinary Session of the Heads of State and Government in Addis Ababa, 30 January 2014. This speech, for those of you who may not have read it, is an email written in 2063 looking back at how Africa had been transformed during the 50 years since 2013 into a peaceful place where everyone can live a good life.

Making sense of undernutrition and overconsumption

written by: Mark Swilling on Monday, 10 February 2014. Posted in News

Agenda-setting for sustainability in the South African food sector

Making sense of undernutrition and overconsumption

The Sustainability Institute continues to generate research on food systems. This is part of a general strategy to build up within the African context an influential body of expertise and knowledge committed to ongoing research on global, African and local food systems. This food systems perspective is very different to the 'food security' perspective that tends to be production-centred and therefore fails to challenge the logics and structure of the global food industry in general and the supermarket-centred value chains. Making sense of undernutrition and overconsumption: Agenda-setting for sustainability in the South African food sector is a new report compiled by the Sustainability Institute for Ernst and Young. Click HERE for a copy.