South African Environmental Justice Leader Shares Vision during US Trip

By Isabel Alface, Journalist and Thousand Currents Volunteer

Desmond D’Sa, a key leader in the South African climate justice movement and chairperson of Thousand Currents partner South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA), came to the Bay Area, Seattle, and New York as to share his findings of pollution left by major oil refineries in south Durban, and participate in the ongoing discussion of getting large oil companies to change their destructive ways.

SDCEA, a Thousand Currents partner since 2009 has been instrumental in reducing the toxic releases of refineries in South Durban, proving the links between pollution and leukemia in the community, and building community resistance to apartheid-era laws that treat some communities as sacrifice zone for industrial development.

“I come from a fenceline community that is part of the biggest petrochemical cluster in all of Africa,” Desmond said during a protest outside Chevron’s refinery in Richmond, California.

“What I see here today reminds me of home. And just like at home, it’s all about corporate greed.”

Desmond also noted the importance of connecting local and national issues. How? “Create a holistic approach by linking up legislation and policies and understand them so you can bring them down to a local level. This ensures grassroots organizations can hold the government and corporations accountable,” Desmond said during a radio interview on KPFA.

Desmond has also been using his time here to discuss and prepare for the upcoming Cop 17 United Nations conference that will be held in Durban, South Africa from November 28 – December 9, 2011.

“Leading up to the next United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, in Durban, South Africa, it’s important to highlight the victories that South Durban Community Environmental Alliance has had, and to build bridges with communities in Richmond who are fighting the same fight,” said Rajasvini Bhansali, Executive Director of Thousand Currents.

“This is a reminder for us in the global North that what happens here affects the lives and livelihoods of people in places like South Durban.”

Curious to learn more? Here’s a wrap-up of Desmond appearances during his visit:

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