15th Anniversary Celebration of the SI and Lynedoch EcoVillage

written by: Mark Swilling on Thursday, 07 August 2014. Posted in News

15th Anniversary Celebration of the SI and Lynedoch EcoVillage

Over one hundred people from the Sustainability Institute and the Lynedoch EcoVillage came together to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the founding of the SI and the Lynedoch EcoVillage. Eve did a presentation that captured the last 15 years. The twelve founding members were also present. In this collage, from top left in a circulate directio they are as follows: Makke Johnson, Veronica Galant, Bryce Anderson, Manda Mabiba, Ross Van Niekerk, June Stone, Kerneels Claasen, Naledi Mabeba, John Van Breda, Eric Swartz, Mark Swilling and Eve Annecke.  

Si students organise the World Student Environment Network

written by: Mark Swilling on Saturday, 02 August 2014. Posted in News

Si students organise the World Student Environment Network

The 2014 World Student Environmental Network (WSEN) Global Summit was held at Stellenbosch University (SU) from 30 June to 4 July, with attendance from 60 delegates representing over 25 countries. The WSEN is a platform for students from all over the world to come together to discuss the advancement of environmental sustainability in higher education. 2014 marked the first time that the summit was held in a developing country, an important milestone for the WSEN. The theme for this year’s gathering was “Coming back to life”, as decided by the organising committee headed up by SU Master’s student  Gina King and SI Master’s student Jay du Plessis. The theme emphasised the need for humans to reconnect with nature, seeing ourselves not as separate from, but a fundamental part of the web of life. In this respect, the social aspect of sustainability was for the first time one of the more integral parts of the conference, having had mostly a focus on climate change related issues in the past. Mark Swilling gave a keynote speech on the structural transformation and transitions to sustainable development on the African continent, and Eve Annecke held a session on Environment and Ethics along with Johan Hattingh. Mathilda, chef extraordinaire from the SI, provided vegetarian lunches for every day of the summit, also catering for special requests such as gluten free and vegan meals. The summit was a huge success with lots of positive feedback from all the delegates, who enjoyed learning about and discussing environmental and social sustainability issues from a Global South perspective.

The Department of Environmental Affairs and the founding University of WSEN, Doshisha University in Japan, sponsored the summit. For more information on WSEN visit the website www.wsen2014.org and www.wsen.org.

Staff and students participate in International Conference of System Dynamics Society, Delft, The Netherlands

written by: Mark Swilling on Saturday, 02 August 2014. Posted in News

Staff and students participate in International Conference of System Dynamics Society, Delft, The Netherlands

Three of MPhil Students - Paul Currie, Jack Radmore and Megan Davies - who graduated from the Introduction to System Dynamics Modelling module in 2013 presented their work at the 32nd International Conference of the System Dynamics Society in Delft, Netherlands, 20th to 24th July 2014.  Only Paul attended the conference. In addition, two former Executive Students, Karin Kritzinger and Jai Clifford-Holmes, who both attended the Systems Dynamics course in 2013, also attended the conference. 

Dr Josephine Musango of the School Public Leadership and Prof Alan Brent of the Department of Industrial Engineering, also attended the conference.

The theme of the conference was ‘Good Governance in a Complex World,’ and brought together 440 participants. Participants included academics, consultants, practitioners, students, educators, managers and policy-makers from across the globe and encompassed diverse topics such as business management and operations, healthcare, energy, resources, economy, the environment, and new system dynamics applications.

Paul Currie presented a poster paper entitled:  ‘Sanitation technology options in informal settlements: a system dynamics approach’, which he co-authored with Jack Radmore, Dr Musango and Prof Brent. The paper queried the recent protests surrounding poor sanitation in the Western Cape and developed a system dynamics model to investigate the type of toilet technology option that might be most appropriate for widespread implementation. The different technology options were evaluated based on their costs and how they address social aspects such as dignity, privacy, safety, aesthetics, and environmental and public health.  According to Paul, sanitation was not a prevailing theme in the conference and he had the feeling that such a situation as in Enkanini, our case study, in which there are about 80 toilets for about 8000 residents, was beyond what many delegates could handle.

Megan Davies’ poster paper was entitled: ‘A systems approach to understand the effect of Facebook use on the quality of interpersonal communication’, which she co-authored with Dr Musango and Prof Brent. The paper explored the tension between the use of Facebook and the quality of interpersonal communication surfacing from Megan, who is a regular Facebook user. While Facebook has emerged as a substitute for the connection that people lack in interpersonal relationships, the paper provides useful insights and urges Facebook users to see interactions not as alternatives to, but rather as complimentary of, actual inter-personal connections. The value of Facebook is mainly in developing networks of strategic and useful loose connections. Megan’s work was further submitted for review to the Journal Technology in Society.

Jai-Clifford Holmes presented a paper entitled: ‘Using system dynamics to explore the water supply and demand dilemmas of a small South African Municipality’, which he co-authored with Dr Jill Slinger, Dr Musango, Prof Brent and Dr Carolyn Palmer.  System dynamics modelling was used as a boundary object in engaging the Kirkwood community and the Sundays River Valley municipality in understanding how to reconcile the available water supply with the growing demand for potable water in Kirkwood, whilst minimising the gap that currently exists between the current and desired levels of potable water services.

This research output clearly illustrates that system dynamics provides a language and methodology that can be utilised to understand divergent real-world problems that are facing us in the 21st Century.
As the lecturers of the System Dynamics module, Dr Musango and Prof Brent are proud of the students for producing excellent quality work that was relevant to be presented at the prestige international conference of the System Dynamics Society.

Compiled by Josephine Musango, posted by Mark Swilling

Launching WELL - Winelands Early Living and Learning

written by: Mark Swilling on Sunday, 27 July 2014. Posted in News

Launching WELL - Winelands Early Living and Learning

The SI has been working with Andre Shearer, founder of wine export business Cape Classics, to establish a new ECD programme for the farm worker children of the Winelands region. The result is the launching of WELL - Winelands Early Living and Learning. This will provide various kinds of support for ECD programmes in the Winelands. (For local news article click HERE)

Computers for Lynedoch's Earth Club

written by: Mark Swilling on Sunday, 27 July 2014. Posted in News

Computers for Lynedoch's Earth Club

Thanks to a donation from a private philanthropist, the children who participate in Lynedoch's Earth Club after care programme now have high speed internet-enabled laptops. This is their first lesson, starting by learning how to use the mouse. It may take great effort before they can communicate via social networks and access all the benefits of the internet, but with this level of concentration it certainly will not take very long.   

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 click HERE and for video clip 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.