Environmental Justice in South Africa
Health of Community, Environment at Odds in South Africa
By Robert Clinton, 2015-07-05
The Mining and Environmental Justice Community Network of South Africa is a "network of communities, community based organizations, and community members whose environmental and human rights are affected, directly or indirectly, by mining and mining-related activities." Its 70 members are united in their mission to not only defend their land and people against the harmful exploitation of mining companies but also empower their communities and promote sustainable industry, goals that are necessary in a nation that is still developing both socially and economically. Earlier this year, the Mining and Environmental Justice Community Network of South Africa (MEJCON-SA), acting as a member of the Civil Society Coalition on the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Bill, finalized a formal statement on mining in South Africa called the Berea Declaration. Their contribution to this declaration is an extension of their core values, and are reflected in it's commitment to "self-reliant communities", "a non-fossil fuel and non-extractive driven plan of development", and "refusal to give consent to any corporation that does not have a transparent community-driven process of negotiation."
South Africa is a contested terrain where economy and humanity are sometimes in odds with one-another, and MEJCON-SA has contributed to the fight to protect the environment in a way that respects the needs of the people. South Africa's economy is based primarily in mining, and they have the highest rates of HIV in the world. Though these two seem to be unrelated, the connection becomes clear when looking at charitable foundations and companies who contribute positively by donating dollars, equipment, and facilities to the fight against AIDS but also often have investments in the mining industry, creating tension between monetary and health development. Groups such as MEJCON-SA seek to put pressure on companies, and legislators, to increase regulation in the mining industry, and in doing so contribute to the overall fossil fuel divestment movement in a nation disproportionally feeling the effects of climate change at the hands of developed nations' actions or lack thereof. Read more about MEJCON-SA's goals, legislative victories, and reports here.
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