Category Archives: Sustainability

Living with tomorrow in mind

No! to the proposed SA nuclear build programme

My written submission objecting to the proposed plan to put into effect the first stages of a plan to build approximately eight nuclear power stations for South Africa

I thank you for the opportunity to comment on the above.
History has shown that:

  • nuclear is hazardous: despite the rosy picture painted by individual apologists for nuclear, and denials and reassurances from corporate and other vested interests, nuclear is not safe (reference: see 1 below)
  • nuclear is unaffordable: extrapolations based on the doubling of the projected costs of constructing the Medupi and Kusile coal power plants translate into a price-tag for the nuclear build programme of between one and two trillion rand, which is unaffordable, reckless and – given poverty and related challenges facing South Africa – criminally profligate (see 2 below)
  • nuclear is inappropriate: extrapolations based, inter alia, on the trebling of the projected time it took to construct the Medupi and Kusile coal power plants (see 2 and 3 below) translate into power becoming available only in 10 to 20 years, by which time, given that solar panels (also in informal settlements) are increasingly ubiquitous, given that energy-saving solutions are now standard building requirements, and given the rapid improvements in green technologies, mean that once nuclear power is finally generated it will no longer be required. This is already happening in the US (see 4 below). Hence a charge of wasteful expenditure
  • nuclear procurement is open to corruption: past and current financial scandals, coupled with the opaque and secretive nature of the recent nuclear procurement process do much to promote cynicism, distrust and anger (see 5 & 6 below)

Therefore I wish to register my objection to and rejection of the proposed nuclear build programme.

Hendrik Jeremy Mentz (20160829)

  1. Nuclear power plant accidents: listed and ranked since 1952 (The Guardian)
  2. Why South Africa should not build eight new nuclear power stations (M&G)
  3. “Urgent” nuclear power? This is how long it takes to build a reactor (htxt:africa)
  4. On rooftops, a rival for utilities (NYT)
  5. DoE claims nuke procurement details classified (M&G)
  6. Key details of SA’s nuclear procurement plan kept under wraps (BDLive)

Is Neil Young rehashing myths about Monsanto?

In a post to his LinkedIn account, entitled: Neil Young: We’re More Like You than You Think, Monsanto’s Chief Technology Officer, Robb Fraley, says of Neil Young’s The Monsanto Years album: ‘If you listen to the new album, you’ll hear a rehash of many of the myths we’ve long heard about our company’.

I listened to the album to try to discover what myths Fraley claims Neil Young is rehashing. Are these perhaps they?

If you click on the indented text below each ‘myth’, you will be taken to the song’s lyrics (sourced from AZLyrics) and if you click on the title in brackets, you will be taken to a video or to a streamed audio of the track in question.

  • Monsanto hasn’t sued farmers?

We’re from Monsanto we own the seeds || (Workin’ Man)

  • Monsanto hasn’t played a part in the Grocery Manufacturers of America’s putsch to block the state of Vermont from passing their law requiring GMO foods to be labelled?

When the people of Vermont wanted to label food with GMOs
So that they could find out what was in what the farmer grows
Monsanto and Starbucks through the Grocery Manufacturers Alliance
They sued the state of Vermont to overturn the people’s will
 || (A Rock Star Bucks A Coffee Shop)

  • Monsanto hasn’t corporatized nature?

Seeds have floated, birds have flown
Seeds have travelled far from home
Seeds are life it can’t be owned
Not even by Monsanto
 || (Rules Of Change)

  • By corporatizing nature Monsanto hasn’t highjacked farmers’ rights to re-use seeds, as farmers have done for generations?

Every year he buys the patented seeds
Poison-ready they’re what the corporation needs, Monsanto
 || (Monsanto Years)

  • Farming practices advocated by big multinational biotech/agricultural corporations (Big Ag) like Monsanto (GMOs/herbicides/chemical fertilisers/pesticides/mono-cropping) haven’t plundered the soil?

Wolf moon thank you for risin’
Big sky I’m grateful for your parting clouds
Seeds of life your glowing fields of wheat
Windy fields of barley at your feet
While you endure the thoughtless plundering
 || (Wolf Moon)

  • Farming practices advocated by Big Ag haven’t displaced indigenous people, small-scale farmers and/or farm workers?

It’s a bad day to do nothin’
With so many people needin’ our help
To keep their lands away from the greedy
Who only plunder for themselves
 || (A New Day For Love).

  • Ordinary people don’t need to take back the power ceded to corporations?

How can we regain our freedom
Lost by our own laws we must abide
When will we take back our freedom
To choose the way we live and die
 || (Big Box)

After following the links above do you agree with Robb Fraley’s criticism that Neil Young is rehashing many of the myths we’ve long heard about Monsanto? Either way, please add your perspective to the comment section below.

Finally, this is vintage Neil Young: raw, melodious, passionate, angry, driving, understated, and compassionate. All the tracks work. On a personal note it’s a relief to discover that the sixties protest tradition still lives. So do yourself a favour: buy the album, which comes with an immediate download, so you can enjoy the album in advance of the CD arriving in the post. By the way, Neil Young’s backing group The Promise of the Real is a worthy complement

Acknowledgement: This is an edited version of my reply to Fraley’s LinkedIn post.

Image: Heirloom Red Inca maize/corn/mealie

What to do if a venomous snake comes into your home

The other day Shire, Kofi (our bull mastiffs) and I were shocked to see a more than metre long puff-adder in the lounge of my son (Matt) and daughter-in-law’s (Sasha) cob cottage in Suurbraak, where I was looking after their small off-grid farming operation. The puff-adder was equally shocked as it hissed, slithered and struck warningly at us. Terrified, I ordered the dogs out of the house; phoned Kria who lives nearby and, when there was no answer, her partner, Tristan, for the contact details of the local snake catcher who was unfortunately in Cape Town. Tristan, however, sent me the phone number of an alternative snake catcher, Nita Wessels, who, unfortunately, had moved to Riversdale, but who gave me the name of François Plaaitjies, who worked for the Swellendam SPCA, and who told me what to do, followed by a cautionary from Nita.

What to do, according to François

According to François puff adders are languid by nature so, using a long pole or stick, gently coax her towards the entrance to a box lined with newspaper and she will go inside. Then shut the lid.

Cautionary from Nita

According to Nita, although puff-adders appear sluggish and lethargic, they have one of the fastest strikes in South Africa and are the cause of most snake bites in the Western Cape. Nita suggests, therefore, that the old wives’ tale of a snake striking backwards stems from the speed of this ‘sluggish’ reptile. Also to remember that for every action there is a reaction. So if you jump around, the reptile will be just as agitated. Always better to reverse slowly until there’s a 2 metre gap, then search for a container.

What happened in my situation

In my experience it’s vital that you keep your eyes glued to the snake’s whereabouts – which proved impossible in my case, being alone, because when I returned with the box (photographed, above), the snake that had originally retreated to the corner of my bedroom, was now gliding towards the front door, saw me, changed direction to under the built-in bench and vanished from view. Luckily I was able to attract the attention of a neighbour, Gari Crawford, who was driving past, and who later courageously joined me and showed me how to make a stick with which to loop the snake (photographed) in order to drop her into a suitable receptacle – a modus operandi that, in the end, we didn’t need to apply.

Unfortunately neither of us could find the snake and so Gari went home while I continued searching the house. In the end after poking around in a hole in the cob that I noticed under the bench: out plopped the snake, which, after initial confusion, proceeded to return up the wall and into the recess.

Garry answered my second call, I again poked in the hole, the snake dropped out and, with a little coaxing from Gari’s stick, slid into the tote box we had prepared. I shut the lid and on François’ advice released the snake on Tradouw’s pass on the way to Barrydale.

Box with snake on Tradouw's Pass
Box on Tradouw’s Pass, containing the puff-adder, waiting to be opened
  1. Be careful.
  2. Back off slowly.
  3. Don’t kill the snake. Snakes perform an important ecological function.
  4. Keep your eyes on the snake all the time because if it vanishes there’s a chance that you might not find it again and forever live in fear.
  5. Therefore there needs to be 2 of you, so if you’re alone, phone a neighbour who can keep an eye on the snake as you go off to find a suitable box with lid, lined with torn newspaper, and to find a long stick.
  6. Don’t panic. Take your time. The snake will most likely stay put.
  7. When it’s time, gently help the snake find the entrance to the box.
  8. Give it time to enter.
  9. When it’s inside, close the lid.
  10. François says that snakes return so drive beyond the village or city fringe to where the snake will find mates and release her.
  11. Feel proud of what you and your partner have done by not harming her.
Puff-adder emerges
The puff-adder’s new mountain home
Nita Wessels

This is the 4th snake I’ve seen since moving to Suurbraak. The other 3 are still out there. A long thin black snake that drank from the pets’ water bowl before returning to the thick scrub near the boundary of the plot, what I think (or hope) is a non-poisonous house snake, and a longer, fatter, puff adder just beyond the boundary fence. I’m very new to this game so if you have questions then please contact Nita Wessels who manages the Askop Reptile Raptor & Game Farm, whom, I’m sure, will be more than happy to give advice –