Dr Desmond D’sa keynote address at the World Social Science Forum 2015

Honourable Minister Ms Naledi Pandor of Science and Technology, Chairpersons and co- chairs of the Social Science forum, the MEC Mr Ravi Pillay, Chairperson on the Human Resource Science Council Ms Olive Shisana, all dignitaries, ladies and gentlemen.

The last time I spoke here I was at this venue (ICC) for the UNFCCC (COP17) (Conference of polluters) oh sorry sorry, I made a mistake haha. I was actually thrown out of this venue for my convictions and speaking truth to power. I hope this does not happen today.

We have just hosted the World Forestry Conference at this venue and despite the fact that the secretariat and government informed us that as civil society we have access to this conference, the huge cost of entering at R4000 denied us the opportunity to actively contribute as citizens.

We gather at this venue at a time when the biggest global challenge of the climate crisis is impacting the most on the poor and marginalized of people of the South and in particular our beloved continent and yet we are not responsible for this crisis that is affecting us the worst. Those responsible both Government and multi- National Corporations of the north and the elite of the South continue to place money and profit at the forefront of their daily businesses. The world is changing rapidly and we are all aware that the patterns of contemporary change are complex and the consequences that affect us are very clear. When one looks at global relations through environmental and community issues, it becomes much more clear that climate change and the protection of the environment in relation to the poor and the marginalized is a profound matter of injustice imposed on people by those who continue to benefit the most. The adverse effects of climate change harm the weakest and the poorest and the pain is felt only by them and that is why they continue to cry out for justice.

The benefits of economic development are often more immediate, important and obvious to a city, a country and the developed world which satisfy many of their priority needs and desires of huge business moguls and enterprises. The benefits of environmental protection and social enhancement of communities are the least priority of these Governments and their fellow suffragettes, the business moguls. Natural resources, biodiversity and access to flora and fauna are being destroyed in the hope that they can be planted elsewhere. There has been an increase in poverty, droughts, food crops being destroyed and lack of humane services of sanitation, housing, sustainable jobs and basic services, yet they bear the brunt of climate change and the ever evolving world where the top billionaires continue to enrich themselves at the expense of the planet and people. While these natural resources become scarce and threats to human health are ever present, we are fed with false and fake solutions that are discussed behind closed doors of these United Nations processes.

In South Africa, Operation Phakisa will allow the exploration for Oil and Gas on our beautiful and untouched coastline with its magnificent beaches, scenery, and abundance of marine life and ecosystems will be cut up into blocks for the greedy to explore for the Oil and Gas for the North. This development will increase Climate Change and will devastate our coastline while making huge profits and providing skilled jobs for the oil corporations of the North.

Massive development catered for economic concerns in this particular project plan the Durban Dig-out port and back of Port will no doubt have enormous impacts, certainly negative ones on too many sectors such as rapid and irreversible conversion of prime agricultural land, evictions of residents that have previously suffered under the apartheid government, living loss of numerous unique plant and
animal communities, and increased pollution of water and air resources. It goes without saying that development often has substantial impacts on the quality and quantity of a community’s air, land, water, health and well-being, social and biological resources; yet, economic development often takes precedence over environmental and community protection. This will be the case with the Durban Dig Out Port headed for Durban.

Those that are attending the UNFCCC COP21 in Paris must carry the message that industrial plantation’s will never be forests and will never reduce Green-House Gas emissions that is currently responsible for Climate Change. The investments of trillions of Rands in the nuclear industry will further exacerbate climate change and move much needed funds from providing access to water, sanitation, jobs, houses and food sovereignty. These mega investments are for feeding profits to multi-national corporation’s and to allow the North to continue to plunder and loot the African continent and the South of their resources. In South Africa we have experienced huge developments and increased production by over 50 % whose profits are shipped to the wealthy North of London, New York, Melbourne stock exchanges and in its wake we have seen poverty, unemployment increase by 50 %.

The issue of inequality and injustices continue to affect the global south and relations and dignity must be in the forefront of our restoration efforts if we want people to be all equal. We continue to see that inequality is driven by those who have greed and money as the main objective. We need to disempower that relationship to ensure a just, fair and non-racial equal society is honoured. For this to happen equity and justice and solidarity must be our goal and objective at all costs. In a world we all seek to live in harmony, peace and unity.

As you gather here as world scientists and scholars you must reflect deeply into the role that you have played in this crisis and chaos and destruction. Some of you have allowed yourselves to be propaganda machinery and messengers for these oil cooperation’s and Governments despite the fact that you know that this system needs to be changed and is responsible for two thirds of the poverty and inequality in the world. We as community scholars and activists, urge you to work in the interests of all humanity and the planet and not only for those who use you as consultants. One thing we must not forget is that nature will not wait for us to respond and will act with or without us.

Our plea to you is to speak out without fear or favour

Thank you
Desmond Mathew D’sa
Goldman Environmental Prize Recipient (2014)