CAPE TOWN CLIMATE WEEK
Justice groups and communities showcase a pathway to burst the bubble of exclusive climate crisis activism
Youth once again took the lead with climate action in Cape Town last week as members of the African Climate Alliance, together with climate justice groups and local communities, gathered to reflect on the complex and multifaceted nature of the climate crisis in South Africa.
Cape Town Climate Week 2023 was a weeklong event initiated by the African Climate Alliance (ACA) from 18-22 September, creating pathways for system change with solutions and climate action events held under five thematic areas: transport, energy and water, food security, finance and “artivism”.
The idea was to break climate justice out of its bubble of being something that only environmentalists cared about and to show the city and its people how these issues affect everyone, every day.
On Wednesday, it was time to get hands dirty with food gardening and food forests. Young and old from across Elsies River gathered at Trinity Place’s local community food garden – created by NPO Feed The Future For Life – to expand it into a “food forest”, which is believed to be more climate resilient and longer-lasting.
This was done by the ACA, Mzansi Organics, Feed The Future For Life and community members while delving into the meanings of food justice and climate justice, and why these issues could not be separated.
Geronimo de Klerk, co-founder of Feed The Future For Life, said they had started right there in the Elsies River community food garden at Trinity Place, supporting several local feeding projects in the area.
Speaking to Daily Maverick, De Klerk said: “In this community, we are facing hunger and unemployment and so much more, but if we look at the greener solutions and make sure we have sustainable jobs, things could be much better.
“That is why we are building sustainability and education in our community by creating food forests and food gardens and making sure change comes from youth within our communities.
“We have a diversity of people here today – we have children, youth and elders involved because we believe that climate change is having the worst impact on us,” he added.
Aghmad Gamieldien, founder of Mzansi Organics – a social enterprise focusing on small-scale farming, and the creation of pocket forests in and around Cape Town – explained that they were planting a fruit forest which was more resilient than a food garden.
“Over time these trees will grow to be high-bearing fruit trees that will reap benefits for the community and beyond. This is the difference that a food forest can bring over the long term. Behind us, we are planting eggplants, peppers, plums, onions and more. There are many different layers of this food forest that are going to feed the community,” said Gamieldien.
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These food forests will also act as carbon sinks, which absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Elizabeth Hartnick travelled from Wesbank for the food forest planting and said it was especially needed with the escalating cost of food.
“For us on the ground, it’s really hectic … but that is why we are here today planting these fruit trees.”
Patsy Fredericks, a resident of Trinity Place, planted her first trees and shared her excitement about the food forest.
“This is something beautiful and sustainable that can go on to benefit generation after generation here in Trinity Place with fruits and vegetables. I also learnt a lot from the people that came to us today, about climate change and its impacts on us,” she said.
Stella Hertantyo, communications manager at the ACA, added that this was the second year that Cape Town Climate Week was being used as a way to showcase system change as a pathway to climate justice.
“We want people to understand that climate justice initiatives are plural and there are many different ways for people to get involved and create a positive impact. There are also so many different connections between climate justice issues and different sociopolitical issues across the city, so it’s not just about caring for the environment, but also about caring for our communities, people and the different intersecting systems beneath the surface of our lives,” she said.
A week of action
On Monday, 18 September, the focus was on transport and the need for spatial justice, re-imagining the way people move around the city.
Before these discussions, a group of 20 cyclists from the Langa Bicycle Hub and the ACA joined up to pedal from Bertha House in Mowbray to Langa to raise awareness of the intersectional relationship between the climate crisis and transport systems and the need for a reimagined public transport system.
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Tuesday, 19 September, was focused on two of the most topical challenges facing South Africa today – energy and water.
Energy and water justice workshops were held at the Isivivana Centre in Khayelitsha, in collaboration with Project 90 by 2030 and the Environmental Monitoring Group, where people of all ages shared their lived experiences and steps they are taking to create positive impacts for themselves and their communities when it comes to issues of water and energy.
On Wednesday, 20 September, the focus was on food gardening and forests for system change, followed by an online and in-person discussion at Kaya Cafe on how advertising creatives and climate activists could collaborate and unleash creativity for climate action.
Thursday, 21 September, zeroed in on the terrible twins: Finance and fossil fuels, with an online panel discussion exploring how the financial sector contributes to the climate crisis and what individuals could do about it, in collaboration with Fossil Free South Africa, Just Share and the Fair Finance Coalition.
On the final day, Friday 22 September, a booked-out workshop was held at Bertha House on “artivism” for intersectional justice, where the Climate Lounge delved into using various forms of art for resistance, movement building, collaboration and healing.
ACA programme manager Mitchelle Mhaka said: “There is a growing community of people who are not only calling but also acting for the change we seek. This week really showed that people are hungry for change and are willing to go out and get it.” DM