Our strategy is a response to the world as it is today. When we care look into the future, it is clear that to continue as before is not an option. We have few choices; we can ‘do nothing’ and drift fatalistically into the future or we can ‘do something’ and shape a better world. Our strategy is a starting point to a journey of ‘doing something’.
In adopting a strategy we need to answer the following questions:
If our strategy is successful, will it contribute to a more sustainable world?
Our aim is to contribute to the shaping of a more sustainable world by focussing on the energy transition. We recognise that energy is only one element of this ‘grand revolution’ but we also know that given the essential role of energy in all things social, economic and environmental, that energy is a powerful lever in shifting communities and societies into new directions. The most effective strategies are those that look for leverage in a system; especially leverage points that have the greatest determining effect on the most elements in a network of activities.
What are our aims?
Our overall aim is to have a sustainable Overstrand in 20 years’ time from now as described in our scenarios. The strategic opportunity is the energy transition taking place in many parts of the world. This transition involves the decline of conventional approaches to energy (fossil and nuclear based) and the emergence of renewable energy. We are finding ourselves in a state between conventional fossil based energy economy which by the nature of the energy source exploited requires large centralised power plants (coal, nuclear, oil complexes) and the emergence of the green economy which is based on renewable energy, is de-concentrated and democratic.
We therefore resist and confront the further growth of conventional approaches (specifically nuclear) and promote and build renewables . The politics of transition necessitates us to both ‘decolonise’, ‘decarbonise and ‘manage down’ the fossil and nuclear based energy industry and ‘manage up’ and ‘democratise’ energy through renewables at the same time. ‘A paradigm shift is necessary: ‘from consumptive energy to productive and regenerative energy, from capital-intensive energy to low-cost energy, from labour-displacing energy to livelihood-generating energy’, from the use of fossil fuels to meaningful work’. (See: platformlondon.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Manifesto_energy_beyond_neoliberalism.pdf).
Is the strategy realistic?
We are a small organisation operating in a semi-rural environment with a small economy and high levels of poverty. We also don’t have the resources (finances and human skills) available to a city like Cape Town. This means that we will have to focus on one or two goals and ensure that we achieve these goals.
We also need to be ecologically smart. We consider nature to be smart and use the lessons from nature to inform our activities. Thus we look at our own ecology (the natural as well as social systems) and work with this ecology (build on local knowledge and social organisations). We don’t impose from the top but learn incrementally and creatively adapt and change.
We ‘vernacularize’ our language and actions. In order for sustainability ideas to be effective, they need to be translated into local terms and situated within the local contexts of power and meaning. We, therefore, adopt the local languages, heritage, symbols, culture and practices and realities. We thus adopt Bantamsklip as a symbol signifying our attempts to conserve our most valuable resource (our natural and cultural and heritage) and use it as a call sign to foster support and action for our cause. If we are smart, then our goals are realistic.
Is the timing right?
On a global level and in South Africa as well we are experiencing an energy transition. The proposed nuclear power station at Bantamsklip in combination with continuous load-shedding experienced by all as well as the escalating rise in electricity costs are creating, firstly, doubt in the minds of many as to the ‘Business as Usual’ model. It is becoming clear that the fuel based and nuclear based solutions are not living up to expectations. Secondly, such doubt opens minds to search for alternatives. It is fortuitous that the rapid take-up of renewable energy is happening globally and here in South Africa as we talk. “The race for renewable energy has passed a turning point. The world is now adding more capacity for renewable power each year than coal, natural gas, and oil combined. And there’s no going back. The shift occurred in 2013, when the world added 143 gigawatts of renewable electricity capacity, compared with 141 gigawatts in new plants that burn fossil fuels, according to an analysis presented Tuesday at the Bloomberg New Energy Finance annual summit in New York. The shift will continue to accelerate, and by 2030 more than four times as much renewable capacity will be added”. The timing for ‘doing something’ about renewable energy is right.
What are our methods?
Our goals are to resist and to promote at the same time. Different goals require different methods. As an ecological ‘animal’, our organisation needs to play two different roles at the same time. We have to break-down and build-up; this is transition politics. This reminds us of the transformation of our own society. Resisting the construction of a nuclear plant and promoting renewable energy through the establishment of energy cooperatives are two entirely different things.
The high stakes game: the fossil and nuclear fuel industry. It is a massive industry. Conservatively estimated, taking only oil and gas producers, mining companies and automobile and parts manufacturing companies into account, this industry accounts for annual turnover of US$ 6 945 995 000 000. Thirty nine per cent of the total turnover of the Top 500 companies in the world is oil and gas based. If the oil and gas industry was a country, it would be the third biggest economy on this planet – after USA and China. Entangled in this industry are governments, consumers and workers. We therefore have to engage in the politics of protest; objecting to policies and plans, influence decision-makers and other stakeholders and lobby politicians. We also have to give a voice to the environment and, specifically, our own environment.
Shaping the future: Energy Cooperatives. “The whole relationship of society to energy needs to change. We need to shift power away from the entangled interests of finance and the big companies, and challenge the current monopolised energy system, so that these relationships can become intentional and active, so that energy consumers can become producers, distributors, owners, sharers and collective users of energy. We need to democratise energy. This means commoning resources, dispersing economic power and ending dependence on the multinationals that exploit public resources for private profit.” (platformlondon.org). We promote the vision of an alternative energy future based on renewable energy generation by communities. The method used here is to work with local communities to set up energy cooperatives.
Resilience-based organizing is a movement-building strategy that focuses on improving the ability of communities to meet their needs through shared work, democratic self-governance, and contesting power. The approach departs from traditional campaign-based organizing approaches in which communities pressure a political figure with decision-making power to act on their demands, thereby re-enforcing existing structures of power. Instead, people organize to create visionary and oppositional economies in ways that strengthen community control and are ecologically regenerative. Resilience-based organizing was foundational to black liberation movements such as the Black Panther Party, which had more than sixty ‘self-help’ programs. We see it applied today in Zapatista communities and through the Landless Workers’ Movement in Brazil.