earth day protest

Environmental activists highlighted the issue of food sovereignty and climate change at an Earth Day protest in Durban. Photograph: Lyse Comins

Earth Day Latest: 14 million South Africans go to bed hungry

Environmentalists have called on the government to take climate change seriously and to focus on building just food systems on Earth Day.

earth day protest

Environmental activists highlighted the issue of food sovereignty and climate change at an Earth Day protest in Durban. Photograph: Lyse Comins

As food prices continue to rocket, placing access to nutritious food out of reach of desperately poor South Africans, environmental activists have called for a more just food system during an Earth Day protest in Durban on Thursday. 

South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA) activists highlighted the need for governments to repair the damage caused by monocultural mass food production and to take the science regarding climate change seriously. The Earth Day protest was held on the steps of the Durban City Hall.

SDCEA project officer for development infrastructure, Shanice Firmin, said eThekwini Municipality had released its Renewable Energy Policy last year but had not indicated the progress it had made in implementing it.  The municipality has set a target of a 40 percent renewable energy supply by 2030 and a 100 percent renewable energy supply by 2050, including renewable energy technologies such as solar, wind, small scale hydropower, biomass and waste to energy option

“For the first time in recorded history, atmospheric carbon dioxide levels reached a record of more than 420 parts per million. The window of opportunity for us to act on climate change and ecological breakdown is becoming ever narrower,” Firmin said,

“Persistent warming and the breakdown of ecosystems indicate that emissions targets set for 2050 are too far away for the transformative and systemic change that is needed now. The Climate Justice Charter is a pathway towards a deep just transition. It places the needs of workers, the poor and the most vulnerable at the centre of decarbonisation, systemic change and capabilities building,” Firmin said.

Activists demand food and climate justice on Earth Day 2021

Formin said communities across the country would be taking to the streets, engaging in dialogue and approaching their local municipalities on Earth Day to hand over the Climate Justice Charter, the Climate Science Document and the People’s Food Sovereignty Act, along with the following demands:

  • Climate science must be taken seriously. Just as the government has depended on the latest science in its response to the Covid-19 pandemic, we demand that local governments respond in accordance with the climate science in their response to the climate crisis. 
  • The Climate Justice Charter be adopted: On 16 October 2020 we called on parliament to use section 234 of the constitution and adopt the Climate Justice Charter. Parliament’s lack of responsiveness confirms the need to intensify the climate justice struggle. On this #EarthDay we call on local governments and SALGA (SA Local Government Association) to endorse the Climate Justice Charter (#AdoptCJC) as we demand a climate conscious local government (#ClimateJusticeNow).
  • Adopt the People’s Food Sovereignty Act. Monocultural industrialised agriculture has failed.  Thirty million people are food stressed and 14 million go to bed hungry every night in South Africa. This food crisis cannot continue. Adopt the People’s Food Sovereignty Act to help build a more just food system in communities, villages, towns and cities. 
  • Take active steps to end corruption. Corruption is destroying our democracy. It is undermining service delivery in communities. It is setting us back in the fight for climate justice. We stand by the Constitutional Court and all criminal justice institutions acting against the corrupt. Looters and criminals must go to jail. We call on local governments and SALGA to remove and punish the corrupt. 
  • Support Community Just transitions. Such just transitions are about decarbonising, building life sustaining systems and capabilities to deal with climate shocks. In this regard the following demands are important: 
  • Unlock the commons for small scale fishers and informal traders. They feed our communities and are part of the solidarity economy and food sovereignty system. Give small scale fishers and informal traders their rights in our cities and towns; 
  • Democratise the water commons so communities can control water systems and affirm their rights; 
  • Support socially/community owned renewable energy systems, invest in climate jobs, clean energy mass transport systems and eco-housing; 
  • Support community and workplace led deep just transition planning. 
  • Support the need for a universal basic income grant (#UBIGNOW)