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Plenary talk by Mark Swilling

An event that described itself as the Sustain Our Africa summit took place at the V&A Waterfront, Cape Town, on 24-26 October. Sponsored by a significant number of South African companies, the event brought together over one hundred people that the organisers branded as ‘thought leaders’ in the sustainability field. While the main event was opened by Premier Zille, Minister Hanekom addressed the pre-event dinner held at Moyo, Kirstenbosch. The organisers, skilled operators with many years of experience in the marketing world, published a conference booklet called Change Agent and released what they called the ‘Change Manifesto’. In essence, the event was a power networking event for Cape Town’s increasingly influential albeit insurgent community of sustainability activists, many of them with strong links to the business community.

Mark Swilling delivered a short plenary address that drew on themes from Just Transitions. After noting how fashionable it is to say “we are all for sustainability now”, he questioned whether in reality there is a real consensus. He suggested we face a blocked transition arising from the fact that short-termism within the financial markets has not been reversed and the mineral-energy complex remains dominant. However, a green-tech revolution may well be starting to break out. But for this to mature, short-termism will need to be broken