The Future of Energy: Can the war support the transition towards fossil fuel alternatives?

 26 July 2022

On the 3rd of June it was 100 days since Russia invaded Ukraine. In response the CST and SAIIA are launching a series of webinars focusing on the implications of the invasion for the African continent. “The Future of Energy: Can the war support the transition towards fossil fuel alternatives?” Prof Mark Swilling, Co-director of the Centre for Sustainability Transitions, Stellenbosch University and Dr Olena Pavlenko, a Deputy Head of the EITI MSG in Ukraine and President of DiXi Group Think Tank, Ukraine. The Russian invasion of Ukraine has highlighted the vulnerability of national security in energy-dependent countries. Moreover, the EU’s dependency on Russian fossil fuels raises the need to focus on energy alternatives. In March 2022, the EU paid USD 24 billion to Russia for gas, crude oil and coal. Many African countries are looking for energy independence and just transitions. This webinar will focus on the Russian energy system and the debate about the energy crisis and transition in South African transition. This webinar aims to highlight the challenging connection between national security and energy dependency and how the debate around the prospects of just transitions is affected by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.  Prof Mark Swilling, Co-director of the Centre for Sustainability Transitions Dr Olena Pavlenko, a Deputy Head of the EITI MSG in Ukraine and President of DiXi Group Think Tank, Ukraine

IPBES Values Assessment – Decisions Based on Narrow Set of Market Values of Nature Underpin the Global Biodiversity Crisis

21 July 2022

The IPBES values assessment provides guidance to navigate pathways for reconciling a good quality of life with that of life on Earth and advancing the intertwined economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development in a balanced manner. It includes an understanding of the relations between different worldviews and values, a values typology, guidelines for designing and implementing valuation methods and processes, and for embedding the diverse values of nature into decision-making and policymaking.

Join us as Dr. Nadia Sitas takes us through the key findings of the IPBES Values Assessment – Decisions Based on Narrow Set of Market Values of Nature Underpin the Global Biodiversity Crisis.

Dr Odirilwe Selomane | Senior Researcher at CST, Director: Program on Ecosystem Change and Society (PECS)

14 July 2022

In this video, Dr Selomane discusses his co-authoring of a special issue in Science. Without rapid changes to agriculture and food systems, the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change will not be met. Food systems are one of the most important contributors to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, but they also need to be adapted to cope with climate change impacts. Although many options exist to reduce GHG emissions in the food system, efforts to develop implementable transformation pathways are hampered by a combination of structural challenges such as fragmented decision-making, vested interests, and power imbalances in the climate policy and food communities, all of which are compounded by a lack of joint vision. New processes and governance arrangements are urgently needed for dealing with potential trade-offs among mitigation options and their food security implications.

Dr. Odirilwe Selomane takes us through the fascinating topic that is Climate change and the urgency to transform food systems.

100 days of the Russian War in Ukraine: Potential Implications of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on Global governance and financial systems

17 June 2022

The prospects of a third world war, the potential use of nuclear weapons, the humanitarian crisis, and the unprecedented sanctions introduced by different governments raise significant challenges and opportunities to transform global governance and financial systems. Serious questions have been raised about the efficiency of the UN system in maintaining peace and about new ways to counterbalance the global powers. In the past, African countries have called for reform of the UN system and the need to decolonise it. However, currently, there seem to be no strong voices arguing for the decolonisation of the UN system. This webinar looks at the current responses of African countries to the crises of the UN system and how global financial sustainability is affected.

100 days of the Russian War in Ukraine: Disruptions of global food security and food exports to the African region | Prof. Vitalii Dankevych

2 June 2022

Ukraine is among the top 5 world food exporters, with exports from Ukraine to African countries in 2021 amounting to USD 2 327 million – 13% of total exports of agricultural products.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has disrupted the export and production of food products in Ukraine and Russia, and this war is already affecting global food security. Countries in the arid regions of North Africa who import more than 90% of all food from Ukraine and Russia will face the risks of famine and starvation.

This webinar explains the current situation with agribusiness and food export in Ukraine and discuss the potential implications for the African continent.

The Russia-Ukrainian conflict: What does it mean for Africa?  | Dzvinka Kachur, Prof Irina Filatova & Steven Gruzd

24 February 2022

In 2019, the Russia-Africa Summit heralded Russia’s renewed strategic interest in the continent, inviting African countries to rethink the global power dynamic. This discussion looks at:

  • the key factors that define the Russia–Ukraine crisis. They go beyond the first Russian military intervention in 2014, when paramilitary forces were deployed in the East of Ukraine and Crimea was annexed. This includes the new hybrid threats such as disinformation, cyberattacks, and energy diplomacy.
  • the immediate reasons for the escalation between Russia and the West; and
  • the possible implications these events might have for African countries, especially in light of the Russia-Africa Summit planned for November 2022.

Anticipatory Governance: Using a systems approach and strategic foresight to navigate complexity and uncertainty in Southern Africa | Tanja Hichert & Dr Geci Karuri-Sebina

11 November 2021

Anticipatory governance is built on the understanding that complexity and uncertainty cannot be managed but can be better navigated through a systems approach that combines capacities for forecasting and foresighting, visioning, and collaborative and participatory processes, in order to anticipate and respond to the challenges that come with rapid and unpredictable change.

Why Amazon’s River Club Development is not Sustainable | Make the Liesbeek Matter

10 July 2021

Make the Liebeek Matter is a campaign pitted against Amazon setting up headquarters on a unique heritage and ecologically sensitive riverine area along the Liesbeek River. Tauriq and Leslie are leaders of the campaign and share with us the significance of the site and the potential impact of the development which has deep resonance for a history of indigenous struggle.

(Re)imagining youth visions of nature-futures in the Global South | Youth Nature Futures

10 July 2021

In this webinar, the coordinating team from CST and Brazil share reflections on the Youth Nature Futures project, as well as showcasing the wonderful and inspiring artworks that embody youth visions for the future.

Cyclone Idai and community resilience in the Buzi, Pungwe and Save river basins of Mozambique and Zimbabwe | Jaap Arntzen

24 June 2021

The presentation is based on the findings of the USAID funded Resilient Waters Program project assessing the impacts of Cyclone Idai  in Mozambique and Zimbabwe and possibilities to strengthen community resilience.

Rethinking Public Governance for Systems Change | Rushka Ely

10 June 2021

This webinar focuses on lessons learnt from EDP practice, drawing on the example of the Western Cape Government Whole of Society Approach Project, to unpack the opportunities for, and challenges of, implementing innovative governance practices.

WRC opportunities for promoting international collaboration in water and sanitation research, development and innovation | Dr Mamohloding Tlhagale

27 May 2021

In this webinar, Dr Mamohloding Tlhagale presents what new opportunities there are for promoting international collaboration in water and sanitation research, development and innovation. One of these is the newly established Watershare Hub, a Sub-Saharan African Regional Hub.

Recognising Complexity: Practical implications for sustainability research and practice| Rika Preiser

22 April 2021

Acknowledging the complex and adaptive nature of living systems, sustainability research calls for a more integrated approach for studying and engaging with the intertwined nature of human–environment relations. Complex adaptive systems thinking provides a way of bridging the study of social and biophysical sciences to understand the features of these phenomena, the interlinked patterns that emerge and the novelty that is created as a result.

In this talk, Rika shares some principles for recognising the features of complex systems and discusses how these principles can assist us in engaging with sustainability challenges in practical ways.

 ‘Slowly Slowly The Egg Begins to Walk’ — Reflections on the Ethiopian conflict | Nava Derakhshani

8 April 2021

Forty years after the mass famines of Ethiopia, conflict in the region has reemerged in the news. On November 4th 2020, the national government stationed its military in the northern province of Tigray. The internet has been shut down and news has been difficult to access. Nava Derakhshani, spent eight months in Tigray carrying out her master’s research in 2014. In her talk, she shares her research findings on the political, historic, and spiritual ties to sustainability.

Applying Systems Thinking to managing projects | Prof Shankar Sankaran, Prof Nathalie Drouin & Prof Ralf Müller

25 March 2021

Recent evidence shows that better governance practices are helping to improve the overall performance of megaprojects. Despite the United Nations setting 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) to be achieved by 2030, there are severe shortfalls in initiatives from governments, public organizations and private businesses endangering the achievement of targets set for these goals. In this webinar we will explore how we developed the Viable Governance Model for project management and how it could be applied to accelerate the achievement of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

Building systems practitioners one conversation at a time | Samuel Njenga

11 March 2021

In this session, we reflect on more than fifteen years of Samual Njenga’s journey as a student of systems thinking. A key part of that journey has been a quest to build a body of systems thinking practitioners by raising awareness and also equipping others with some tools of systems inquiry and practice. That journey has been assisted by the use of storytelling, fun and play, a heuristic of Systems Thinking in Practice as well as resources that he has acquired from the field of family systems theory.

Developing a community-level water-food-energy nexus project in Mozambique post Cyclone Idai | Zachary Lager

11 February 2021

Despite recognising the fluid, negotiated and complex nature of reality, there is still a propensity to overly rely on rigid and reductionist theories for sustainable development planning and practice. Although there is no simple solution to this problematic tendency, there is an increasing recognition of the need for innovative and emergent approaches that are able to adapt and shift to fluid socio-ecological dynamics through collaborative relationships and social learning.
These approaches require assembling constellations of locally relevant development strategies that address human needs while minimizing environmental tradeoffs and fostering effective ecosystem management. Integrating theoretical strategies from the literature and operational insights that emerged from the lived complexity of implementing a community level water – energy – food nexus development project in rural Mozambique, we will discuss one promising sustainable development constellation that holds the potential to addresses short term needs while fostering the long term socio-ecological conditions needed for flourishing futures.

Business model innovation for an exponential world | Walter Baets

21 January 2021

In the exponential world in which we live, highly interconnected and impacted by many exponentialities (technological, societal, climat, geopolitical), we need to create our future, rather than try to control or manage it. Considering the world, the economy and society, as a complex adaptive system, allows us to build on an ontology (weltanschauung) of belonging, the network, the other, hence a systemic view of problems and solutions.

The complex aspects of innovation are not the technological innovations in itself, neither the start-up culture, but rather building meaningful and impactful new business models (yes or no using exponential technologies), that are economically viable and scalable. We are working with the concept of Living Labs in order to support companies and organisations with business model innovation within the realm of exponentiality. A Living Lab is a space and place, a diverse innovation ecosystem, and a methodology based on design thinking and systems thinking. This approach can be implemented in a physical space, as much as in a virtual space

Games for the Sustainable Development Goals | Reinhold Mangundu and Hans Hangue

3 December 2020

Namibia faces very complex challenges hindering sustainable development. Poverty and income inequality  is rising coupled with other systematic issues such as water scarcity worsening with persistent droughts, land degradation and high unemployment rates. These issues have resulted in many Namibians struggling to survive every day. They however also create an opportunity to rethink our development paradigm.

As a means to deal with the complexity of the lived reality of many Namibians, our presenters have developed creative ways to foster a deeper understanding of how change and transformation could be facilitated. The use of participatory games has proven to be a creative and immersive way to engage students and young people in Namibia to re-imagine how they could engage the challenges of the SDGs.When studying empirical research around simulation games and their use in presenting the complex-nature of systems, the power and function of game rules become notable. Games do not warrant participants to steer systems, but only allow participants to influence them and most importantly,  to explore more options for considering creative and new ways of finding leverage points for bringing about change.

In this webinar, the presenters share their experience of facilitating games in different settings.

Developmental Entrepreneurship: Sensemaking systems change for entrepreneurship-led development | Phumlani Nkontwana, Dr John van Breda, Prof Johan Burger

15 October 2020

While the dominant discourse on African entrepreneurship is about achieving momentum (sustained traction) and maturity (local intensity and density), there are emerging views that locals have a poor sense of control (human agency) in determining the directionality of the future of entrepreneurship. Data collection exercises in three African countries (Kenya, Rwanda and Ghana) look to validate or invalidate these emerging claims through stories of not only entrepreneurs but also support organisations and policymakers. During this webinar, the empirical results are discussed as explored in the ongoing PhD studies of Phumlani Nkontwana.

Financing South Africa energy’s transition (1994 to 2019) | Dr Chantal Naidoo and Dr Nthabi Mohlakoana

1 October 2020

In this webinar the discussants present work on the sustainability and climate breakdown that highlights an ‘interregnum’ – the tense, uncertain period where old systems are dying but hold firmly to power, while new systems struggle to emerge as dominant. During such transition periods, what role exists for the financial system? This talk contributes to this question by introducing new theoretical perspectives and case work of how policymakers and financial intermediaries engaged in financing South Africa’s energy transition (1994 to 2019).

Imagining transformative biodiversity futures: A new action agenda for biodiversity conservation | Dr Laura Pereira, Dr Federico Davila and Dr Michelle Lin

17 September 2020

Biodiversity research is replete with scientific studies depicting future trajectories of decline that have failed to mobilize transformative change. Imagination and creativity can foster new ways to address longstanding problems to create better futures for people and the planet. This seminar will provide an overview of the process and results from the Biodiversity Revisited Initiative, focussing specifically on the output of a Commentary in Nature Sustainability on imagining transformative biodiversity futures. The speakers will present an overview of the role that futures thinking and imagination played in enabling the Biodiversity Revisited team to propose a new research and action agenda for biodiversity conservation. They will then each describe a possible future world before opening up for discussion with the broader group.

In this webinar Laura, Federico and Michelle lead a short talk followed by a discussion around their recent paper resulting from the Biodiversity Revisited Initiative (it can be downloaded here).

A roadmap to redefine humanity’s relationship with the ocean | Prof Mark Swilling, Tanya Brodie Rudolph and Dr Philile Mbatha

20 August 2020

Mark Swilling and Tanya Brodie Rudolph from the CST and Philile Mbatha from UCT worked in collaboration with researchers from the Natural Capital Project, Stanford University, the Stockholm Resilience Centre, the University of Washington and World Fish, as well as the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile to create a Blue Paper for the High Level Panel for the Ocean on a transition to a sustainable ocean economy. These findings were also published a month later in a perspective piece in Nature Communications. The three local authors will take attendees through their key findings, sketching a road map to redefine the relationship between humanity and the ocean.

Nature in Cities in times of Crisis | Dr Sumetee Gajjar and Jessica Kavonic

25 June 2020

An exploration of the role of urban nature-based solutions in enhancing human well-being and resilience to climate change and other stressors in cities of the Global South. We reflect on lessons learned from COVID-19 for urban planning and design, and discuss the implications of inequalities and politics for the development and management of urban “green” spaces.

Resilience across borders: Transfrontier collaboration for integrating conservation and livelihoods | Piet Theron, Lola López and Dr Kristi Maciejewski

18 June 2020

A discussion on trans-boundary governance responses to the impacts of the Covid-19 crisis. The discussants are experts in a diversity of capacities that relate to governing conservation, livelihood and human rights issues in the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area that spans the borders of South Africa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.

Exploring place-based approaches as response to local contexts for recalibrating resilient food systems | Nonhlanhla Joye, Kenneth Carden and Kevin O’Brien

11 June 2020

This discussion focused on how the impacts of the Covid-19 public health crisis has revealed the deep fragility of the South African food system. There has clearly been a disruption, presenting a period of deep uncertainty and change, creating an opportunity for a recalibration of the food system. The Southern Africa Food Lab has established a platform in eThekwini Municipality and it’s neighbouring iLembe District (for dialogue-into-action) to facilitate comprehensive responses to this situation. A central argument is that a place-based approach, which considers local and community contexts, offers opportunities to restart and recalibrate local food systems.

Exploring artful body mind practices for re-enlivening resilient nature culture relationships | Dr Miche Fabre Lewin and Dr Flora Gathorne-Hardy

4 June 2020

How can we revive the relationships that mark our nature-culture-interactions? What methods and practices can be used to manifest that awareness?

Building a more resilient future for navigating systemic risks | Prof Oonsie Biggs, Kule Chitepo and Dr Deon Nel

28 May 2020

How can the COVID-19 crisis be used as an opportunity for building more resilient futures? An exploration of what we understand by resilience, how systemic resilience can be built, and practical actions being taken on the ground in terms of work in southern Africa and globally.

Exploring the resilience of southern Africa: Wildlife economies during a global pandemic | Dr Hayley Clements and Steve Collins

21 May 2020

What are the impacts of Covid-19 and the resultant restrictions on tourism on the SA’s wildlife economy?

African Post-Covid-19 crisis pathways
Choices towards a more resilient economic recovery | Nina Callaghan and Prof Mark Swilling

14 May 2020

Callaghan and Swilling share their insights on the potential to build back better as we explore post-Covid economic realities.   

Exploring complex interdependencies in global healthcare systems — Re-thinking resilience during COVID-19 | Joachim Sturmberg & Bruno Kissling

7 May 2020

This series brings together scientists, practitioners and societal actors who use the frameworks of complexity and resilience thinking in their daily work to make sense of the complex dynamics of change and transformative processes. There will be a special focus on how these ideas and practices are used in current times and how local and regional processes and perspectives are being shaped by applying the theoretical concepts and tools for fostering more resilient organisations, communities and decision-making strategies.

Resilient Futures in the making: Applying Futures Literacy for responding to radical uncertainty | Tanja Hichert and Dr Geci Karuri-Sebina

30 April 2020

This series brings together scientists, practitioners and societal actors who use the frameworks of complexity and resilience thiking in their daily work to make sense of the complex dynamics of change and transformative processes. There will be a special focus on how these ideas and practices are used in southern Africa and how local and regional processes and perspectives are being shaped by applying the theoretical concepts and tools for fostering more resilient organisations, communities and decision-making strategies.

Discussants: Tanja Hichert and Dr Geci Karuri-Sebina
Moderator: Dr Rika Preiser

COVID-19 – A nasty surprise? | Dr Wolfgang Preiser

9 April 2020

Wolfgang Preiser shares his insights on coronavirus. Preiser is a medical virologist who specialised in his home town Frankfurt, Germany, and at University College London. He received his second doctoral degree (Habilitation) in 2005 while working as consultant virologist in Frankfurt. His principal research interests cover three broad themes: diagnosis of HIV infection and monitoring antiretroviral therapy, from antibody testing to resistance genotyping; the epidemiology, diagnosis and monitoring of opportunistic viral infections, especially hepatitis B and cytomegalovirus, in immunocompromised patients; and emerging and potentially zoonotic viral diseases. He served as a temporary advisor to the World Health Organization on severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in China in 2003 and led the Frankfurt group who, together with colleagues from Hamburg, were among the first to isolate the SARS-associated coronavirus in spring 2003.