Green Purr

February 6, 2014
by Helen

Renewable Energy Festival – Green Point Urban Park, Cape Town

Firstly, a Happy and Wonderful New Year!  Personally and professionally, last year was a year of great change.  This year is going to be one of challenge and growth, which I’m incredibly excited and optimistic for.

To start off the new year (or rather, ease into it) a “renewable energy festival” will be taking place in the beautiful Green Point Urban Park in Cape Town.  Its a clever initiative to educate the general public about renewable energy in a friendly, fun, entertaining and relaxed space.  The organisers have ingeniously taken advantage of the great summer weather and the lovely accessible park to educate adults and kids about climate change and sustainable energy sources.   I’m sure it will be enlightening for many.

Renewable Energy Festival 8 Feb 14


Happy Weekend!



August 7, 2013
by Helen

Weekly Finds 3 – 2013

Some interesting finds on the web:

  • Modern urban living necessitates the innovative use of space.  This Living Light is an ambient light that is powered by moist soil and doubles as a hanging garden made from sustainable materials – no electricity required.
  •  As the biggest African CO2 emitter and one of the largest per capita emitters of the world, South Africa needs to curb its greenhouse gas emissions drastically. In the current economic climate, can a Green Economy work in SA?
  • Pink houses are the new green house.  Only using the correct blend of the red and blue spectrums of white light in vertical farms allows for sufficient light for plant growth and energy savings in terms of power usage and cooling required.
  • The Mirror Project in Norway aims to use mirrors as an artificial sun to create light in the town square of Rjukan.  The valley of this area only receives sun for 7 months of the year.

May 17, 2013
by Helen

Nuclear Power in SA

Nuclear power isn’t the answer to the world’s energy problems, in my humble opinion (which is admittedly not speaking from the most educated point of view on the topic).  I also, humbly and as uneducatedly, would venture to say its definitely not the answer to SA’s energy problems.

A study done for the New National Planning Commission (NPC) has stated that nuclear power should be delayed because current modeling suggests the country will only require nuclear power as late as 2040 or  as early at 2029.   This new information will be included in the updated Integrated Resource Plan for the country and will very likely start a heated debate on the topic between government, the public and industry.

On the one hand the Energy Department’s director-general Nelisiwe Magubane says that cabinet will not back down on the nuclear build program. On the other hand, the study by the NPC shows that energy demand has been low because of slow economic growth and rising energy costs so no extra capacity is needed.  It also stated that is doesn’t favour nuclear power for future capacity needs because of, among other reasons, the rising costs of building nuclear power plants.  It states that alternative low emission, renewable sources (solar, thermal, wind and gas) could be installed in less time and cost.

Maybe all the red tape and the delay in finally making a decision will allow the price of renewables to drop further and the price of goal/nuclear to rise to a point where the choice will end up being purely economically slanted towards renewables?  One can hope 🙂




April 14, 2013
by Helen

Allan Savory: How to green the desert and reverse climate change – TED talk

Desertification is a major environmental problem.  It threatens food security, biodiversity, water security, soil availability and health.  There is tons of literature regarding the causes and solutions.

Surprisingly and counter intuitively, practices we have commonly thought will prevent desertification may be wrong.  This interesting TED Talk by Allan Savory shows how we may be going about preventing desertification in some areas completely wrong.  I’d have to do a little more research on how exactly this works, but their experiments show great results.




April 9, 2013
by Helen

Weekly Finds 2 – 2013

This week’s interesting articles found on the web:

  • It looks like a giant tennis racket but its actually a bladeless wind turbine.  No more mass deaths of birds and bats by wind turbines? Amazing.  Unfortunately the article doesn’t specify how efficient the design will be, or how it compares to wind turbines in terms of cost  and how exactly it works.  I don’t think this is an entirely new concept though, but I’m not too optimistic it will work on a commercial scale.
  • Maybe I’ve been spending too much time under a rock, because I really didn’t realise how well Bokashi Bran works.  You collect organic wastes in a bin, sprinkle some Bokashi (Bokashi is Japanese for: fermented organic matter) powder on it, once full let it stand for 2 weeks, then bury the contents and wait for 7-10 weeks.  The result:  nutrient rich, healthy, composted soil.  The miracles of micro-organisms!
  • Ever wondered how to make a green wall in your own home? Here is a very easy to follow tutorial.
  • Renewable energy is getting easier and easier to justify.  This is one of many articles reporting how the decreasing price per unit of solar and other renewable energies is driving increased demand.  In New Mexico, the price of solar power may soon beat coal power prices.
  • While this article on whether reducing work hours can reduce carbon emissions puts it a little too simplistically in this dog-eat-dog capitalist world, reducing work hours slightly can save energy in terms of the commute to work and back and the electricity needed to run buildings.
  • A self sustaining ecosystem in a bottle that has been watered only twice since 1960.
  • Green spaces in cities are important for biological reasons, aesthetic reasons and human health (both mental and physical).  This article discusses a study showing the correlation between the lack of trees and increased human illness.


March 19, 2013
by Helen

Water Week 2013

Figure 1 NWRS 2012: 18

Its National Water Week in South Africa (18-22 March) and World Water Day on 22 March. 2013 has also been declared the United Nations’ International Year of Water Cooperation by the UN’s general assembly.

South Africa’s climate is mostly semi-arid (but it varies from dessert to sub-humid). It experiences an average rainfall of about 450 mm/a, which is almost less than half of the world average of 860 mm/a and the country has a comparatively high rate of evaporation. This means we have a limited amount of fresh water to begin with and pollution, mismanagement and waste causes further scarcity we cannot afford (NWRS, 2004:15).

“South Africa could face a “near crisis situation” with its water supply within the next decade if urgent steps are not taken, Water Affairs Minister Edna Molewa says.” Times Live article, 28 February 2012. This is worrying news in terms of food security for the country because the agricultural sector uses about 60% of all water resources.

In the National Water Resources Strategy of September 2004 (Chapter 2:39-40) tables show the potential deficit of supply in water for 2025 if no development in water infrastructure is actioned. A base scenario and a high demand scenario show a deficit of 234million m³/annum and 2044 million m³/annum respectively. The tables also show the positive relief of this situation if steps are taken to develop and improve water infrastructure. From the official information available, one is inclined to think that South Africa is facing a water crisis unless immediate action is taken in prevention thereof.

The implications of a shortage of water in South Africa are many:

  • our energy sector cannot operate without water (Eskom uses about 330 million m³/annum of water a year and Sasol uses about 120 millionm³/annum) (SAPA, 2012. Eskom, Sasol warn on Vaal water supply)
  • our food security will be threatened if supply to agriculture is curbed. Spin off factors such as soil erosion from barren fields may cause increased erosion, siltation and spread of alien vegetation, exacerbating soil infertility and food security, increased food and water prices will hurt our economy
  • the mining industry, a major economic contributor (only using 2% of the annual portion) will suffer which will hurt the economy
  • tension in impoverished areas may spark due to competition for water, possibly causing political tension (such as those evidenced in the 2012 service delivery strikes in the Western Cape)
  • outbreak of disease (e.g. cholera) due to poor water quality, social and economic development will be stunted because greater needs will take preference

Water Week will be focused on education and awareness for the wise use and protection of this precious resource.



March 8, 2013
by Helen

Astronauts Returning To Earth

Beauty can emotionally affect us.   Even the most intelligent and academically focused of us! And its not always a superficial affect.

This video is so heartening.   Its amazing how we can appreciate something much more when we see it from a distanced perspective.  When seeing the earth from space, these astronauts experienced a philosophical shift on what the planet means for us.

Happy Weekend!

February 21, 2013
by Helen

0.8°, 1°, 2 ° – extinct?

An article by Bill McKibben which appears in the 2 August 2012 edition of the Rolling Stone sheds some light on how easily we’ll meet that 2degree increase of global temperature that is possibly the tipping point of human existence.

The article highlights that the fossil fuel industry will have to change now (essentially we have to stop burning fossil fuels asap) to avoid catastrophe and discusses how the methods of attempting to change their current modus operandi hasn’t worked.

Its a long article, but its worth the read.

From the article:

“We have five times as much oil and coal and gas on the books as climate scientists think is safe to burn. We’d have to keep 80 percent of those reserves locked away underground to avoid that fate. Before we knew those numbers, our fate had been likely. Now, barring some massive intervention, it seems certain.”

‘Not long ago, the Chamber even filed a brief with the EPA urging the agency not to regulate carbon – should the world’s scientists turn out to be right and the planet heats up, the Chamber advised, “populations can acclimatize to warmer climates via a range of behavioral, physiological and technological adaptations.’ As radical goes, demanding that we change our physiology seems right up there.” Nice, lets just mutate to survive a hotter, less oxygenated world with fewer food sources.

Full article here.