A selection of published work with blurbs. Click on headers to go to full online articles or download PDFs for print articles.
‘Cape Town undertakes controversial experiment to bring affordable housing to the city centre‘ (Citiscope. August 2017). Cape Town is known by tourists the world over as a charming city that hugs the base of the flat-topped Table Mountain and straddles the gleaming Atlantic Ocean, replete with high-end hotels and restaurants. But with a stunning lack of inner-city affordable housing, the city remains an exclusionary urban environment. The city now estimates that it will face an affordable housing gap of 650,000 units over the next 15 years. So, the local government is trying out a new experiment to push back on these trends — a strategy that some say gives private sector developers too much leeway when it comes to providing affordable housing.
‘6 tips to help a ‘smart’ city navigate around privacy issues‘ (Citiscope, June 2017).
From Dubai to Chicago, cities around the world are becoming increasingly “smarter”, using interconnected technologies to improve efficiency and digitize services. The panoply of data-gathering innovations that can underpin the smart-city framework is broad: street lights fitted with license plate readers and gunshot detectors, sensors that detect and count passing smart phones, the ubiquitous presence of closed-circuit cameras in many cities and much more.
But the lightening-fast proliferation of some of these tools has brought with it a host of privacy concerns. Not least is the worry that an increase in data-gathering sensors, audio-recording devices and cameras in urban areas amounts to excessive government surveillance that erodes the space for public dissent.
‘Explainer: The challenges of measuring cities’ progress on the Sustainable Development Goals‘ (Citiscope, March 2017).
Cities have a huge role to play in achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs. Intended to coordinate development efforts globally through 2030, the goals are aimed at alleviating poverty, protecting natural resources and reducing inequality. Every one of the 17 SDGs has something to do with work happening at the city level. One of them — Goal 11 — specifically aims to build cities that are “inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable”.
It’s an ambitious undertaking. But how will progress be measured so that leaders of city, regional and national governments, NGOs, development banks, businesses and philanthropies know if their efforts are moving in the right direction? There are significant challenges ahead in terms of collecting data that all these stakeholders will find useful. There’s also significant opportunities to do it using new technologies and new partnerships that have never been leveraged.
Article provides an overview of some of the major questions and issues.
‘South Africa has been key to putting informal settlements on the Habitat III Agenda‘ (Citiscope, June 2016). Feature article looking at South Africa’s engagement in the Habitat III process and the country’s prioritisation of the issue of informal settlements.
‘Participatory approach key to informal settlements, Habitat III sessions urge‘ (Citiscope, April 2016). Report from the Habitat III thematic meeting on informal settlements, held in Pretoria.
What Melbourne learned cutting emissions from ‘1200 Buildings’ (Citiscope, October 2015). A feature article for Citiscope on the successes and challenges of Melbourne’s 1200 Buildings program, which aims to cut emissions from commercial buildings through encouraging energy efficiency upgrades.
Medicine offers hope for heroin users in Mitchells Plain (Groundup, March 24, 2016). Feature article looks at the success of the opioid substitution therapy programme at the Sultan Bahu Centre, a rehab in Mitchells Plain that is the only rehab in the country where clients can get government-funded OST medication for free.
‘The Healer‘ (online; and in print, Feb 2015) an in-depth, 5,000-word profile of psychiatrist John Parker. He is based at Lentegeur Hospital in Mitchells Plain, an institution at the frontline of treating mental illness in Cape Town.
This story formed part of the ‘City Desired’ exhibition, hosted at Cape Town City Hall. The exhibition merged personal biographies with audio-visual storytelling and interactive technology and invited Capetonians to question and ponder the city’s alternate futures.
Travel feature on Cape Town for EnCompass, Colorado. (Jan/Feb 2016).
If South African cities entered a beauty pageant, Cape Town would win without trying too hard. Framed by the majestic Table Mountain, rising above the point where the Atlantic and Indian oceans meet, the “mother city” is as photogenic as they come. But this town doesn’t rely just on its looks to stand apart.
“Green to the core” (earthworks, Issue 25, 2015) Download PDF: Hemp House
A look at the first house to be built from industrial hemp grown in South Africa.
“New World View” (earthworks, Issue 19, April 2014). Download PDF: New World View_Bruce Kerswill
A profile of Bruce Kerswill, founder of the Green Building Council South Africa and chair of the World Green Building Council.
“Literary green” (earthworks, Sep 2013). Download PDF: earthworks_NELM.
The new National English Literary Museum will be South Africa’s first green museum when it moves to bigger premises that can accommodate its exhibition needs. This new building by the Department of Arts and Culture aims to achieve a 5 Star Green Star SA rating using the new Public and Education Building tool.
“South Africa Battles Drug-Resistant TB” (IPS, Mar 12, 2014).
– Despite an increase in diagnosis times, South Africa is facing a growing drug-resistant tuberculosis (TB) burden as nationally there remains a large gap between the number of patients diagnosed with multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) and those who start treatment.
Between 2007 and 2012, recorded cases of MDR-TB, which is resistant to at least two of the primary drugs used to combat standard TB, almost doubled.
“Changes Coming to South Africa’s Patent System” (IPS, Dec 12, 2013).
CAPE TOWN, South Africa, Dec 12 2013 (IPS) – Paul Anley, chief executive officer of Pharma Dynamics, one of South Africa’s leading generic drug companies, wants to sell a cheaper version of popular birth control pill Yasmin. But he legally cannot because German multinational Bayer has patent protection on the drug in South Africa, even though its initial patent expired in 2010.
Generic versions of the contraceptive are available in the United States and Europe, where Bayer’s patent has been revoked.
Anley says South Africa’s patent system makes it easy for multinational pharmaceutical companies to make minor changes to their products and get multiple patents, each spanning 20 years, and keep generics off the market.
“Multinational pharmaceutical companies undertake a process of what we call patent ‘evergreening,’” Anley told IPS. “They will literally flood the patent office with hundreds of patents for every single molecule or product they sell, and they do it over a protracted period.”
“From Toilet to Tap for Water Scarce City” (IPS, Oct 1, 2013).
KWAZULU-NATAL, South Africa, Oct 1 2013 (IPS) – In a few years, residents of the eThekwini municipality in the port city of Durban in South Africa could be drinking water that was once flushed down their toilets, as authorities are planning to recycle some of the municipality’s sewage and purify it to drinking quality standards.
“We’re going through a crucial water shortage, which is increased by the water demand of eThekwini,” Speedy Moodliar, the municipality’s senior manager of planning for water and sanitation, told IPS.
The municipality relies on the Umgeni river system for water. But demand on the system, which supplies drinking water to about five million people and fuels industry in the economic hubs of Durban and Pietermaritzburg, a town 66 kilometres from the coast, has outstripped supply for the past seven years.
“Saving an Overburdened River” (IPS, Aug 14, 2013).
HOWICK, South Africa , Aug 14 2013 (IPS) – Over the course of a 28-day trek down South Africa’s Umgeni River, which flows from the pristine wetlands of the Umgeni Vlei Nature Reserve to the Durban coastline, Penny Rees, a coordinator for the Duzi uMngeni Conservation Trust, witnessed the polar opposites of river health.
The trust is a nonprofit organisation that works to conserve the Umgeni and its tributary, the Msunduzi river. At the Umgeni River’s source the water ran clean and was good enough to drink for Rees, and the four volunteers who joined her in walking the length of the 232-kilometre river and documenting its health. Further downstream, after the river had wound past agricultural land and urban terrain, the water became sludgy and smelly.
“Sometimes you can smell it, like [we could] in Durban the last time we crossed the river,” Rees told IPS during an interview at her home in Howick, 97 kilometres north of the port city Durban. “You get to know the colour of the water – [it has] this grey, grungy look, and it stinks of sewage.”
The Umgeni River supplies drinking water to more than five million people, and is the main source of water for the cities of Durban and Pietermaritzburg town 66 kilometres from the coast. Rees’s sojourn further highlights the work of scientists who have pinpointed pollution problems in the river.
“Steps to Protect South Africa’s Wattled Cranes” (IPS, Aug 5, 2013).
KWAZULU-NATAL MIDLANDS, South Africa, Aug 5 2013 (IPS) – On a winter’s afternoon in late July, potato farmer John Campbell and the Endangered Wildlife Trust’s Tanya Smith surveyed the Umgeni Vlei Nature Reserve from a hilltop on Ivanhoe Farm in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands.
Separated from Smith’s binoculars by a swathe of golden brown grass, the water pooled in the wetland basin that sources the Umgeni River glistens in the mild sunshine as it winds its way for 265 km to meet the ocean at Durban’s coastline.
“We’ve got two pairs [of wattled cranes] nesting in here at the moment,” Smith, a senior field officer with the African Crane Conservation Programme told IPS. A week earlier she had flown over the wetland for an annual aerial survey of the critically endangered birds. The birds can grow taller than five feet and are characterised by a bumpy red patch of skin between their beaks and eyes.
“Water Debt and Leaks Plague City Residents” (IPS, May 23, 2013).
CAPE TOWN, South Africa, May 23 2013 (IPS) – Nokuzola Bulana has a problem with leaks. The water that drips from the pipes of the toilet outside her home in Khayelitsha, a large semi-informal township on the fringes of Cape Town, South Africa goes to waste and drives up her water bill.
Bulana, a water activist, says she fixed the leaks in January but water on the floor at the base of the toilet, which is inside a stall painted with pink, yellow and purple stripes, and pooled on the ground outside the stall, shows that seepages persist.
In March, her eight-person home used over seven times the amount of water the city of Cape Town gives indigent households for free in a month. Bulana blames the leaks for this.
“Backing a legal rhino horn trade” (IPS, April 18, 2013).
CAPE TOWN, South Africa, Apr 18 2013 (IPS) – In the face of rampant rhino poaching in South Africa, some conservationists and private rhino farmers are lobbying for removal of the international ban on rhino horn trading and the creation of a legal market, to quell poaching.
“The trade ban is creating a situation where rhinos are being killed unnecessarily,” Duan Biggs, research fellow at the Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions at Australia’s University of Queensland, told IPS. “It’s taking resources away from other conservation efforts, and is leading to the situation where there’s a pseudo war taking place in the Kruger National Park.”
“California’s carbon market may succeed where others have failed” (High Country News print version, April 5, 2013).
Most weekdays, a long line of rail cars delivers thick slabs of steel to a factory about 40 miles east of Los Angeles. Deep in the bowels of California Steel Industries, the slabs are toasted until they glow white-hot and then rolled into thin sheets used to make shipping containers, metal roofing and car wheels.
The plant churns out more than 2 million tons of flat rolled steel each year, using enormous amounts of natural gas and electricity and releasing over 190,000 metric tons of climate-altering carbon dioxide annually. Now, California Steel and many other businesses have to pay for their carbon emissions under California’s new cap-and-trade law, the first of its kind in the nation.
Last November, the company participated in the state’s first auction of carbon allowances, purchasing an undisclosed number, each worth one metric ton of carbon dioxide and selling for $10.09. The online auction went fairly smoothly, says Brett Guge, executive vice president of finance and administration at the company. But for Guge, the long-term challenge is finding ways to meet California’s ambitious greenhouse-gas reduction targets (down to 1990 levels by 2020) while remaining profitable.
“Underwater forest reveals story of historic megadrought” (High Country News print version, Dec. 24, 2012).
A curved tree saw in his gloved hand, a scuba tank on his back, Phil Caterino worked quickly to slice through a pine branch 100 feet below the surface of a small tarn south of Lake Tahoe. Bubbles streamed from the regulator in his mouth, rising through the blue alpine water and green flecks of algae in Fallen Leaf Lake. That autumn day in 1997, Caterino briefly considered what would happen if he accidentally nicked the air hose running to his mouthpiece, or cut his orange dry suit, letting the 39-degree water rush in. “I’d be at the bottom of the lake, dead in about five minutes,” he mused.
Having dived some 400 high-altitude lakes over the course of 30 years — often reciting a protective Washoe prayer beforehand — Caterino, director of the Lake Tahoe-based environmental nonprofit Alpengroup, doesn’t shy away from occupational hazards. He surfaced a few minutes later, branch in hand. Even though the tree it came from had been stewing underwater for 800 years, it still smelled pungently of sap.
“Can the oyster industry survive ocean acidification?” (High Country News print version, Dec. 10, 2012).
For four frustrating months in 2007, Mark Wiegardt and his wife, Sue Cudd, witnessed something unsettling at their Oregon oyster hatchery: tank bottoms littered with dead baby oysters. Usually, the larvae are grown until they’re three weeks old and a quarter of a millimeter in size — 10 million bunched together are roughly the size of a tennis ball. Then they are shipped to 50-some growers in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. But that summer, the oysters died before they were ready to ship. Whiskey Creek Shellfish Hatchery struggled to fill a third of its orders.
“You have good and bad weeks, but this was a blanket kill on everything we tried to do,” recalls Wiegardt. “We thought we were going out of business because we couldn’t make the larvae grow.”
It turned out that “corrosive” seawater, which makes it harder for young oysters to build shells, was largely to blame. Like the atmosphere, the world’s seas are burdened by our fossil fuel use and deforestation. The ocean has sponged up a quarter of the carbon dioxide humans have produced since the Industrial Revolution, steadily lowering its pH. Today’s seas are 30 percent more acidic than their pre-industrial ancestors. By the turn of the century, scientists anticipate they will be 150 percent more so — a trend that led National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) chief Jane Lubchenco to call ocean acidification climate change’s “equally evil twin.
“Running Toward Empty“ (Two-part feature co-authored with Tom Yulsman and published at Climate Central, Jan 18, 2011).
None of the river basins in the West garner more attention than the Colorado. The waterways of the basin drain nearly 246,000 square miles of territory. They also serve nearly 30 million people in seven states and Mexico, including residents of Los Angeles, Phoenix, Tucson, Las Vegas, Denver, and Albuquerque, and irrigate more than three million acres of crops and pasture. The Colorado River quite literally is the lifeblood of this region. But now, an emerging new reality in the river basin has both scientists and water mangers concerned about the future. It is unfolding thanks to ever-increasing demand for the Colorado’s water, combined with drought — which may become more frequent and severe in the future thanks to climate change from human activities. And so without long-term changes to water use, the challenge of matching supply and demand in an increasingly parched region will only grow more acute.
“Are Regulators Doing Enough to Prevent Bee Die-Offs?” (New West, March 15, 2011).
A veteran Colorado beekeeper is challenging the Environmental Protection Agency to remove a widely used pesticide from the market until there’s proof it isn’t contributing to bee die-offs. Is he jumping to conclusions or catching the EPA using flawed science?
“How Non-Native Shrimp Transformed The Ecosystem at Montana’s Flathead Lake” (New West, Jan. 21, 2011).
A recent study highlights how the introduction of the opossum shrimp in the 1960s and 1970s created a ripple effect in Flathead Lake that continues today. It’s a thorough survey of how a single wildlife management decision can change an entire ecosystem.
“Rocky Mountain Wildfires Set to Intensify“ (New West, June 12, 2011).
A NASA global wildfire model does not cast happy projections for the forests of the West in future. As global temperatures increase and the West becomes drier, fire activity in the region could increase by 30 percent to 60 percent from present day levels by the turn of the century, according to NASA scientist Olga Pechony, who designed the model with colleague Drew Shindell.
“Climate Change Looms Large for Rare Glacier National Park Bug” (New West, April 18, 2011).
Number 260 and waiting: the meltwater lednian stonefly and why it’s standing in line for protection.
“Challenges of a Colorado Local Food Initiative” (New West, May 12, 2011).
Even in a county that’s largely supportive of local farmers, getting a quarter of your produce locally can be difficult.
“Pills and profits. How the patent laws are making big pharma millions” (The Big Issue, Jan 2014). Download PDF: Pills and profits_The Big Issue
SOUTH Africa doles out loads of patents to pharmaceutical companies every year – in 2008, government registered 2 442 of them. Brazil, by contrast, granted 278 between 2003 and 2008.
This article looks at what’s going on with patent law in South Africa. Patents are granted for 20 years, but the allegation is that pharmaceutical companies extend their patents by tweaking their drugs and gaining longer patent protection through a process called “evergreening”. This keeps cheaper generics off the market for longer.
An industry representative denies this, saying the term “evergreening” creates a false impression, and that the patent system provides incentives to improve drugs. Activist groups like the TAC, however, says the law “makes us very vulnerable to frivolous patents and abuse.”
The patent law in South Africa is being re-examined right now, so change is likely to be on the cards.
“Healing South Africa’s Ills. Is National Health Insurance the Answer?“ (The Big Issue, July-Aug 2010).
“A furor erupted when government announced its plans to introduce a national health insurance for South Africa, with critics slamming the plan as a pipe-dream that will put an impossible strain on taxpayers. But, with the cost of private health care skyrocketing and the public health system still overburdened, Brendon Bosworth looks at whether a national health insurance scheme could be a viable solution.”
“Testing Time for White Sangomos. Shamans or Charlatans?” (The Big Issue, July 2010).
“It’s no longer that unusual for non-Africans to consult sangomas but some still consider it taboo that white people can become a traditional African healer. Brendon Bosworth visited experts on both sides of the fence to get the full story.”
“Mother City Makeover: Are Homeless People Being Forced Out” (The Big Issue, April-May 2010).
“With less than six weeks until the 2010 FIFA World Cup kickoff, the mother city is in the final throes of an extreme makeover. But does making the city pretty for World Cup visitors mean removing “unsightly” homeless adults and street kids too? Brendon Bosworth investigates.”
“Out in Africa: the Persecution Continues” (The Big Issue, Feb-March 2010).
“There has been a global outcry over Uganda’s anti- homosexuality draft bill. If passed, it could spell life imprisonment for homosexuals or, in some cases, a death sentence. But this is just one piece of an ugly portrait. Africa is a hostile place for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and intersex (LGBTI) people. Brendon Bosworth investigates the rise of homophobia on the continent.”
“Written on the Body: Tattoos Go Mainstream” (The Big Issue, Feb 2010).
“Long gone are the days when tattoos were the sole preserve of vagabonding sailors, white supremacists and hardened criminals. So long gone, in fact, that it’s trite, even a little embarrassing, to mention it.”
“Into Africa“ (February 2010).
“South Africa to Angola. A 6,800-mile trip to explore the wave-rich coast African West Coast, where memories of war still haunt the present.”
“Escape from Agadir. A Letter from Central Morocco.” (June 2009).
“A faint smell of feces rides ahead of the morning breeze, washing up from the river that trickles past my apartment and sullying the crisp air. Romantic visions of the sweet smell of saffron percolating with the shrill hail of morning prayers have long been forgotten.”
“Shaun Thomson: Bustin’ Down the Door” (December 2008).
“The extraordinary life and times of South Africa’s surfing Revolutionary.”