Speaker offers warning on climate change, pollution

The issue of global warming came to the forefront on Wednesday night, as Dr. Patrick Bond of the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, delivered his lecture on "How to - and Not to - Solve Climate Change."

Bond, who works with the international network the Durban Group for Climate Justice, was chosen as the recipient of the Geneseo Inaugural H. James Birx Distinguished Scholar Award. He spoke about the pitfalls of dealing with the emerging global environmental crisis.

He is the author is several books, including Climate Change, Carbon Trading and Civil Society.

In his attempt to, "connect social and physical worlds in an environmental context," Bond focused on the dangers of carbon trading and a phenomenon he describes as, "privatization of the air."

"It is a philosophical question," Bond said. "Who had the right to pollute? [The Durban Group for Climate Justice] is worried about the philosophy that anything can be traded."

He elaborated on the issue of "cap and trade," a practice used by major companies like Shell and Mitsubishi in which the carbon credits of countries that don't produce high levels of carbon dioxide are purchased by corporations in order to exceed limits set by the Kyoto Protocols.

According to Bond, the United States and South Africa are the worst perpetrators of environmental crimes. He accused the U.S. government of, "not only denialism, but the cheapness of energy [that] has created a huge petro-military complex."

Bond warned that since emissions are 20 times worse in South Africa compared with the U.S., the destruction has a huge impact on the poor people of Africa. He spoke of the Bisasar Road Dump in South Africa, the largest in the country, which is located in a residential neighborhood of poor slums.

He told the story of activist Sajida Khan who fought fiercely for the dump to be closed, but succumbed to cancer in 2005 after living her whole life near the dump where the burning of trash released lethal levels of toxins such as cadmium.

Bond warned that not all organizations claiming to be eco-friendly are to be trusted, but some, "grassroots organizations take the issues and run them up against the system," he said.

As part of his solution to the problems Bond advocated grassroots movements such as the organization Women of the Niger Delta, which has repeatedly won concessions from Shell Oil Company.

Freshman Brent Siegel expressed his belief in grassroots organizations as well.

"[It's important to be aware that] grassroots organizations have to fight against conglomerate takeover of inalienable human needs like water and electricity," he said.

Sophomore Kristina Nikiforova enjoyed the lecture because, "people don't now the drawbacks of carbon trading. Everyone blindly believes what Al Gore says."

The lecture was sponsored by the Office of the Provost.