Could these South Africans save the planet?

Posted by Laura Grant on January 15, 2008
Posted in Green News

Tesla RoadsterBritain’s Guardian newspaper recently compiled a list of the 50 people most able to prevent the continuing destruction of the planet. “It’s not a definitive list and there are no rankings,” the Guardian wrote, “but these 50 names give a sense of the vast well of people who represent the stirrings of a remarkable scientific and social revolution, and give us hope as we enter 2008”.

So Treevolution read them in search of South Africans and found three – an entrepreneur, an activist and a civil servant.

Elon Musk, Entrepreneur
The 36-year-old dot com millionaire is the chairman and major investor of Tesla Motors, which this year is due to release 600 of its highly desirable, limited-edition electric sports car, the Tesla Roadster. The cars are being built by Lotus in Britain, writes the Guardian, and the company’s next project will be a mass-market family sedan that can be fuelled by solar panels located on the garage roof.

The Guardian describes Musk as a South African wunderkind, which is in essence true, because he was born here, but, alas, he left the country in 1988 and now lives in the United States.

Aubrey Meyer, Musician and activist
Meyer, 60, is a South African violinist who now lives in London. He’s on the top 50 list because of an idea he started to develop 20 years ago that he called “contraction and convergence” (C&C). Briefly, C&C holds that everyone on Earth has an equal right to emit carbon dioxide, and all countries should agree to an annual per capita ration or quota of greenhouse gases, writes the Guardian.

Meyer proposed that “each country move progressively to the same allocation per inhabitant by an agreed date. This meant that rich countries would have steadily to cut back their emissions, while poor ones would be allowed steadily to grow theirs, with everyone eventually meeting in the middle at a point where science said the global maximum level of emissions should be set.”

C&C has apparently emerged as one of the favourite theories for curbing greenhouse gas emissions. It has become official policy in India, China and most African countries, says the Guardian, and Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, has backed it publicly.

Mohammed Valli Moosa, Civil servant
This one came as a surprise. Moosa, 50, was South Africa’s environment minister from 1999 to 2004, but, writes the Guardian, “he may play a much greater role in the global environment debate as chairman of Eskom”. More specifically, it is because of the utility’s plans to build “dozens” of pebble bed modular reactors. Valli Moosa is quoted as saying that “PBMRs could be the base of the 21st eco-economy – ideally for desalination plants and creating the raw material for the heralded but slow to appear hydrogen economy”.

Writes the Guardian: “South Africa has some of the world’s greatest reserves of uranium: put them with the technology and it could start looking like a superpower.”

Nuclear energy as a way to save the planet? I’m not convinced.

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