Friday, February 29, 2008

Christian envrionmental theology links

Matt Stone writes in his blog:

I was running some searches on Christian environmental theology and came across a few links which may interest some of you.

Celebrating Christ with Creation - A Theology of Worship for The Season of Creation "We often do theology in a vacuum, detached from the context of daily life, personal experience or common worship. The theological outline in this work arises from two specific living contexts: the environmental crisis facing our planet and our regular worship life in community. More specifically, this outline also provides a theological basis for a new season of the church year, namely, The Season of Creation."

What Are They Saying About Environmental Theology? "In this timely and important work, John Hart offers an in-depth analysis of Catholic Church teachings on the environment and environmental themes."

This Sacred Earth: Religion, Nature, Environment "From Christian ecotheology and Buddhist critiques of economic globalization to religious environmental activism and spiritual practices to celebrate the sacredness of nature, the book includes careful scholarship, groundbreaking theology, historical analysis, and accounts of real world struggles. Fully engaged with both the world's religious traditions and the worldwide environmental crisis, This Sacred Earth is an invaluable teaching resource and inspiring introduction to religion's complex relationship to the environment."

The Place of Environmental Theology: A guide for seminaries, colleges and universities "The Conference brought together participants from various parts of Europe to explore the theology of creation care and how seminaries, theological colleges and faculties, and Christian training courses across Europe could be encouraged to build a concern for the environment into every aspect of the life of Christian communities – in learning and living as the people of Christ."

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

African NGOs call for moratorium on biofuels

afrol News - African NGOs call for moratorium on biofuels: "Uproar is slowly spreading among African civil society organisations and scientists, fearing that the biofuel revolution will bring more food insecurity, higher food prices and hunger to the continent. A petition calling for a 'moratorium on new agrofuel developments in Africa' has so far been signed by over 30 NGOs all over the continent.

Biofuels have already revolutionised agriculture in the US, Brazil and parts of Asia, and if EU energy commitments are lived up to, soon will do so in Europe. Now, foreign investors are queuing at African government offices to realise giant biofuel projects on this fertile continent, promising a new 'green revolution', greater independence from the oil market and even fuel export possibilities."

Patrick Moore - environmental prophet or Judas?


3 MARCH - 7th MARCH 2008.

At the invitation of the Nuclear Industry Association of South Africa (NIASA) in association with the Universities of Witwatersrand, Pretoria, North-West, Western Cape and Stellenbosch as well as the MTN Science Centre in Cape Town, Dr. Patrick Moore, world-renowned ecologist, environmentalist and co-founder of Greenpeace, will tour South Africa during the week of 3-7 March 2008 to present a series of insightful public lectures on "Global Warming and the Search for Sustainable, Clean Energy."

Dr Moore, once an ardent opponent and activist against nuclear energy will discuss the impact of global warming and present his views on the challenges and the respective roles that nuclear power, renewable sources and energy efficiency can play in producing a cleaner electricity supply and ensuring a sustainable energy future.

Dr Moore now spends much of his time with his team from Greenspirit Strategies Ltd. advising industry, environmental and social agencies and governments around the world, about sustainable and environmentally safe, alternative energy supplies - refer to the attached biography.

The schedule of public meetings is as follows:

Monday 3 March: 18:00

Great Hall, University of Witwatersrand

Tuesday 4 March: 15:00

Sanlam Auditorium, North-West University, Potchefstroom Campus

Wednesday 5 March: 14:00

Aula, University of Pretoria

Thursday 6 March: 17:00

Main Auditorium, University of the Western Cape, Belville

Thursday 6 March: 19:30

Auditorium, MTN Science Centre, Century City, Cape Town

Friday 7 March: 13:00

University of Stellenbosch, Jannasch Hall, Conservatoire of Music, Victoria street, Stellenbosch

The public meetings are free and open to the public.

Earthlife Africa wishes to draw our attention to the following

Patrick Moore, former member of Greenpeace turned Industry voice for hire, about whom the following has been said

"Judas Iscariot had the decency to hang himself after betraying Jesus. Moore...can't even be persuaded to shut his mouth" Paul Luke, Business Reporter, the Province Newspaper, BC

"Patrick Moore has gone from being the guard dog of the environment to the lap dog of industry" Tseporah Berman, Greenpeace International

(for more info visit

He is being brought out by the Nuclear Industry Association of South Africa, but he is known as a supporter of several other kinds of environmental atrocities e.g Timber Plantations, GMO's, Mining etc.

It will be important to counter the misconception that Patrick Moore has any concern for the environment and for environmental justice and to shed light on the many ways in which he sells himself to the highest industry bidder by being present at one or both of these talks and protesting his gobbledygook.

If you are interested in participating in Earthlife Africa activities in this regard, please contact us (numbers appear below).

Maya Aberman
Campaign Co-ordinator
Earthlife Africa
021 447 4912

Friday, February 22, 2008

Environmental aspects of the Budget speech

Some comments from Harald Winkler of the environmental aspects of yesterday's budget speech.

Many of you will no doubt have looked at the budget speech already. It includes quite a bit on climate change explicitly, and other items that are directly related:

  • a recognition that climate change may require us to change our growth path (p. 6-7):
  • puts under scrutiny for implementation" options from an earlier paper on environmental fiscal reform, which many of you will have seen - specifically mentions (p. 22) " include the use of emission charges and tradable permits, tax incentives for cleaner production technologies and reform of the existing vehicle taxes to encourage fuel efficiency" (p. 22)
  • announces a 2 c/ kWh tax on non-renewable electricity, generating R2 billion in 2008/9 and R 4 bn in 2009/10, - and gives R60 bn to Eskom (p. 24)

Di Mellon
Secretary :
Southern African Faith Communities' Environment Institute
Ph: 021 7018145

Friday, February 15, 2008

A rose is a rose is a rose -- or is it?

Africa Expat Wives Club: "The Telegraph newspaper yesterday published that the British International Development Secretary, Douglas Alexander, made a statement appealing to romantics to buy Kenyan stems for Valentines Day. Excellent, I thought – until I read on to learn that he was immediately challenged by critics who said surely shoppers should be buying local or organic, or not buying roses at all as they are not in season in Britain. Grrr. I’m pretty sure I do understand the arguments about food miles and carbon footprints but I can’t help still feeling totally unconvinced about boycotting Kenyan produce."

Africa Expat Wives Club: Buy a Kenyan Valentines Rose!

Faith and environment on SAFM on Sunday Feb 17

Radio SAFM’s Programme “Faith to Faith” hosted by Peter James Smith will deal with the topic "Faith and Environment" on Sunday 17th February at 7pm.

The participants will be Rev Tim Gray, Rabbi Hillel Avidan (both SAFCEI Board Members) and Dawn Linder (Secretary for Gender & Environmental Justice SA Catholic Bishops’ Conference).

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Biowatch Bulletin



*** Public discussion forum on pesticide control - 20 February ***

Biowatch and UCT's School of Public Health and Family Medicine Occupational and Environmental Health Research Unit are jointly hosting this discussion. Dr George Ekstroem, an international expert in the field, will lead the discussion.

Wednesday, 20 February 2008 at 17h00 for 17h30

Conference Room 1 & 2, Barnard Fuller Building, University of Cape Town Medical School Campus, Anzio Road Observatory

Please RSVP to or ring Nicci on 021 447 5939 by
Friday 15 February 2008.

*** Launch of Biowatch DVD - SEEDS OF CHOICE - 28 February ***

We have completed a 15 min documentary about our approach to outreach work.

We are having a launch of the documentary on Thursday, 28 February 2008
from 17h30 to about 19h30 at the TH Barry Theatre at the Iziko SA National
Museum in Queen Victoria Street.

SEEDS OF CHOICE will be on sale through our website ( and through our offices (021 447 5939 or after the launch at an amount R100. Free to NGOs.

South Africa requires GM crop permit applicants to advertise their application in at least three newspapers circulating in the area where the GM crops will be released. This is how the public - and that includes organisations like Biowatch - gets to know of a GM permit application.

We don't have the resources to subscribe to all the possible newspapers in South Africa in which these adverts could appear. So, if you spot an advert for a GM application, please let us know by ringing 021 447 5939, faxing 021-447 5974 or emailing

* Consumer Protection Bill - It's anticipated that this bill will be introduced into Parliament in March, according to Parliament's 2008 provisional legislative programme. An early draft of the Bill called for genetically modified (GM) ingredients in food to be labelled. Subsequent drafts, however, omitted this clause. Will it be re-introduced when the bill gets to Parliament? In July 2007 Parliament's Portfolio Committee on Environmental Affairs and Tourism held a public hearing on GM food at which the issue of labelling GM ingredients in food came up repeatedly as an important means of enabling consumer choice.

* Amendment of Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations

The Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism is expected to provide an update on
the EIA streamlining process to Parliament's Select Committee on Land and Environment on 12 February. New EIA Regulations came into effect in July 2006.

* National Environmental Management Amendment Bill

This amended the National Environmental Management Act (NEMA) of 1998 by providing for tools other than EIAs, among others. The Cabinet approved the Bill in July 2007 and Parliament's Portfolio Committee on Environmental Affairs and Tourism held public hearings on the bill in November 2007. The Portfolio Committee on Environmental Affairs and Tourism and the Portfolio Committee on Minerals and Energy will meet jointly on 26 February to try to resolve controversial provisions in the bill related to the competent authority for EIAs in mining.

Biowatch is still awaiting the judgement of Judge Justice Poswa before making a decision about what its next steps will be around an order that it pay the legal costs of Monsanto South Africa (Pty) Ltd., the Minister of Agriculture, the Registrar Genetic Resources and the Executive Council for GM Organisms.

In November 2007, two of the three judges who heard Biowatch's appeal in the Pretoria High Court dismissed that appeal. In the costs appeal judgment, signed by judges Fanie Mynhardt and Mpho Molopa-Sethosa, agreed that Biowatch, in its initial approach to the courts for access to information about the permitting of GM crops, had acted in the public interest, had been substantially successful in obtaining the relief it had sought and had been forced to go to court to get this relief.

Biowatch had appealed before judges Fanie Mynhardt, Justice Poswa and Mpho Molopa-Sethosa for a withdrawal of the order that it pay the legal costs of Monsanto South Africa (Pty) Ltd. and for the statutory bodies to be ordered to pay Biowatch's legal costs. The costs order arose as a result of Biowatch's successful case for the government to provide access to information about the permitting of GM crops.

Major food and clothing retailer Woolworths has committed itself to supporting locally-grown organic cotton. In January Woolworths announced it was setting up a pilot programme to source organic cotton in South Africa.

The programme is a collaboration with ComMark, Cotton SA and Organic Exchange, an international charitable organisation promoting organic agriculture and the Agricultural Research Council's Institute for Industrial Crops. The three-year programme aims to develop a viable business model for organic cotton farming in South Africa.

This year it will involve pilot plots in North West, Limpopo, the Eastern Cape and the Makhathini Flats in KwaZulu Natal - where GM crops (GM cotton) first gained a foothold in South Africa. Demonstration plots in Makhathini Flats will focus on empowering small-scale farmers and research.

Woolworths is the third largest consumer of organic cotton in the world - after USA corporations Wal-Mart and Nike - and has committed to buying the crop from the pilot programme when it is harvested this year. In 2007, Woolworths used 1.8 million kilograms of organic cotton fibre and estimates that it will use about 2.2 million in 2008. But all the organic cotton they use is sourced outside South Africa.

The top 10 organic cotton-producing countries are Turkey, India, China, Syria, Peru, the USA, Uganda, Tanzania, Israel and Pakistan. Global organic cotton products earned 1 billion dollars in 2006 and estimates project a tripling of this amount by the end of 2008, according to Organic Exchange.

USA biotechnology company Arcadia Biosciences is planning to use money paid by green consumers to offset their flights and by companies that go carbon neutral to fund the planting of genetically modified (GM) crops. Arcadia is working with the Chinese government to reward farmers growing the company's GM rice with carbon credits which they can sell for cash.

Arcadia says its GM rice needs less nitrogen fertiliser and that farmers growing it would lower their emissions of nitrous oxide. The Chinese scheme is scheduled to be up and running by 2012. (The Guardian 8 January 2008)

More than half of all fertiliser applied to soil ends up in the atmosphere or in local waterways but agriculture has the potential to change from being one of the largest greenhouse gas emitters to a net carbon sink. So says a new report from Greenpeace International.

Solutions include reducing the use of fertilisers by applying only the amount that crops need, protecting the soil by increasing its carbon content through measures such as cover crops, improving rice production by keeping rice paddies dry out of season, adopting methods that increase yield without depending on fertilisers and cutting the demand for meat, especially in developed countries.

"The future of farming lies in agriculture that works with nature and with people, not against them. Millions of farms on all continents already prove that organic and sustainable farming can provide sufficient food, increase food security, replenish natural resources and provide a better livelihood for farmers and local communities," the report says. The report was written by Professor Pete Smith, a lead author of the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report and his research team at the University of Aberdeen.

South Africa's long-term climate change mitigation scenario study is in its "final stretch", Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk has been reported as saying. Once the study is finalised it will be submitted to Cabinet which will use it as a reference - together with other related climate change documents - to deliberate on legislation to give effect to South Africa's policy.

More than 80% of consumers in the USA prefer to buy dairy products that do not contain the GM hormone rBGh (also known as rBST), surveys show.

Rising consumer demand prompted Starbucks to making all its milk supply free of the GM hormone by the end of 2007, followed by USA grocery retailer Kroger and several major dairies that required their milk supplies to be free of Monsanto's GM hormone.

A report funded by the US Department of Agriculture found that 89% of Americans want mandatory labelling of food containing GM ingredients. A poll commissioned by the GM industry showed only a minority of Americans viewed GM foods in a favourable light. Since 2006, several US federal district judges have slammed the GM regulatory system in the USA and called for a halt on approvals of new GM field trials with weedkiller tolerant bentgrass until more rigorous environmental reviews are conducted and a halt to further commercial sales of GM alfalfa seeds.

About 70% of USA processed food contain GM ingredients. Like South Africa, the USA does not have mandatory labelling of GM ingredients in food.

In South Africa, Monsanto was twice ordered to withdraw adverts claiming that GM food is safe. And South Africa's GM regulator turned down an application to use GM yeast in wine fermentation. A decision on a field experiment with GM grapevines is still pending.

France has introduced a ban on Monsanto's MON 810 GM maize - the only GM crop grown in that country. And European Union environment officials, having determined that two types of GM maize could harm butterflies, modify food chains and disturb life in rivers and streams, have proposed a ban on the sale of the maize seeds. Pioneer Hi-Bred, Dow Agrosciensces and Syngenta manufacture the seeds.

In Brazil, there were no GM approvals in 2007, following a federal judge ruling against the use of maize manufactured by Bayer, Monsanto and Syngenta.

Greece has extended its ban on GM maize seed for a further two years and has banned the import of GM maize. And Cyprus wants to declare itself GM-free, according to its Agriculture Minister.

Most consumers surveyed in the Chinese cities of Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou would not choose GM food (65%) and would not buy GM rice (77%). China is the world's top rice producer and has shelved proposals for commercial production of GM rice for the fourth time since 2004.

Forty-one of the world's largest rice exporters, processors and retailers have issued written commitments to stay GM-free and rice producers in the USA have called for a ban on commercial GM rice growing and all outdoor experimental planting of GM rice. This follows the major contamination incident in 2007 when an experimental and illegal strain of GM rice produced by Bayer was found in rice consignments exported from the USA.

Meanwhile, a non-GM drought-resistant maize variety has been developed in The Philippines. The maize variety, developed by a Philippines scientist was able to survive drought for 29 days.

In Kenya a non-GM maize has been developed to withstand the larger grain borer - one of the most damaging pests for maize. The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT) developed the maize strain.

Other non-GM crops that have been developed include allergen-free peanuts, Striga-resistant cowpeas, beta-carotene rich sweet potatoes, virus-resistant cassava, iron-fortified maize and Pierce Disease resistant grapevines. (GM Watch 8 and16 January 2008)

The exploration of biological material for commercially valuable genetic and biochemical properties has the potential for major benefits - new drugs to cure diseases, innovative food and plant products, technology for developing countries and potentially rich rewards for those providing the biological material and knowledge. But bioprospecting has been bedevilled by mistrust, misunderstanding and regulatory confusion. New negotiations are now underway
to develop an international access and benefit sharing system and to resolve some of the intractable issues.

Biowatch trustee and senior researcher at the Environmental Evaluation Unit at the University of Cape Town Dr Rachel Wynberg and Sarah Laird, director of People and Plants International examine the key policy issues in BIOPROSPECTING: TRACKING THE POLICY DEBATE, an article published in the December 2007 volume of Environment. A copy of the article may be obtained from Rachel Wynberg at or purchased from the journal at

An editorial in the journal Nature has criticised the withdrawal of Monsanto and Syngenta from the International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology.

The Assessment is a four-year project that aims to detail how science, technology and good farming practices can be used to reduce hunger and improve life for rural people in developing countries.

A spokesperson for the agriculture industry body CropLife International told Nature that Monsanto and Syngenta had decided to pull out of the Assessment because their industry perspectives were not reflected in the draft reports.

One of these perspectives is that biotechnology is key to reducing poverty and hunger.

According to Nature, "the views outlined in the draft chapter on biotechnology, although undoubtedly over-cautious and unbalanced, nonetheless do not represent the rantings of a fringe minority. The idea that biotechnology cannot by itself reduce hunger and poverty is mainstream opinion among agricultural scientists and policy makers.

"For example, biotechnology expansion was not among the seven main recommendations in HALVING HUNGER: IT CAN BE DONE, a report commissioned by former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan. The writing for this report included Kenya's Florence Wambugu, perhaps the strongest proponent for biotechnology in Africa," Nature said.

A meeting to agree on the final text is scheduled for April. The writing and review teams comprise some 4 000 experts include scientists, government officials, representatives from seven UN agencies, farmers' groups, non-governmental organisations and industry.
(GM Watch January 2008, Nature 17 January 2008)

Di Mellon
Southern African Faith Communities' Environment Institute
Ph: 021 7018145
Fax: 0866 969666
(H) 021 7974589
cell: 072 2776035
skype: safcei

“Faith communities committed to cherishing living earth.”

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Embryos created with DNA from 3 people - Yahoo! News

Embryos created with DNA from 3 people - Yahoo! News: "British scientists say they have created human embryos containing DNA from two women and a man in a procedure that researchers hope might be used one day to produce embryos free of inherited diseases.

Though the preliminary research has raised concerns about the possibility of genetically modified babies, the scientists say that the embryos are still only primarily the product of one man and one woman."

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

South Africa's Power Crises: Understanding Causes and Assessing Prospects

University of Cape Town

Energy Research Centre

Seminar Series

Anton Eberhard

Management Programme in Infrastructure reform and Regulation, UCT GSB


Phillip Lloyd

Energy Research Centre, UCT

Will be debating

South Africa's Power Crises: Understanding Causes and Assessing Prospects

Chaired by

Kevin Bennet

Energy Research Centre, UCT

This Thursday – 7th February, 1-2pm

In the Level 2 Seminar Room, Chemical Engineering Building, Upper Campus, UCT

(same level as reception)

Friday, February 1, 2008

SAFCEI - members of management committee 2007


The following are the present members of the SAFCEI Management Committee.


Bishop Geoff Davies Anglican/ SAFCEI Executive Director

Mr Peter G Just Buddhist

Mr John Clarke Roman Catholic

Rev Tim Gray Jhb Anglican Diocese/Anglican CSA Rep

Ms Grace Makhudu Anglican

Dr Dorie Moodley Hindu

Rev Andrew Warmback Anglican

Dr Mohamed S Karodia Council of Muslim Theologians

Rabbi Hillel Avidan S A Jewish Board of Deputies

Mr Shaun Cozett Anglican

Prof Ernst Conradie Uniting Reformed Church

Ms Kate Davies Anglican

Archbp Seraphim Kykkotis Greek Orthodox

Rev Pierre Naude Methodist Church of South Africa

Ms Tahirih Matthee Baha'i Faith

Rev Rully Notshe Uniting Presbyterian Church

Mr Madoda Mditshwa African Traditional Religion



Notice is hereby given of the Second Annual General Meeting of the Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute that will be held at St Peter’s Place, Rosettenville, Johannesburg from Monday 31st March – Wednesday 2nd April 2008. The meeting will start with lunch at 12h30 on Monday 31st and end with lunch on Wednesday 2nd April.

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Bishop Geoff Davies

Executive Director
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