Thursday, March 06, 2014

Exxon-Valdez Almost 25 Years Ago - Plus Some South African Courage

In anticipation of the 25th anniversary (March 24) of the Exxon-Valdez oil spill, retired UAF professor Richard Steiner has a Huffington Post reflection piece Exxon Valdez 25th Anniversary: Lessons Learned, Lessons Lost.

Here are the titles and you can go to the piece to get the details.
1. Oil spill "cleanup" is a myth:
2. Oil spills can cause long-term environmental damage:
3. Oil spill restoration is impossible:
4. Officials habitually understate spill risk, size, and impact:
5. Prevention is key:
6. Citizens' oversight is critical:
7. Liability motivates safety:
8. Oil money corrupts democracy:
9. It's time to end our oil addiction:
10. Need for a sustainable society:
Steiner essentially lost his job for standing up against the oil companies.

Another man who stood up at great personal risk is Horst Gerhard Hermann Kleinschmidt.  From South African History Online, here are some excerpts of a life of a man who stood up to unjust power.

Kleinschmidt comes from a family of missionaries, the earliest of whom arrived at the Cape in 1811. In 1814, Missionary Hinrich Schmelen married one of his catechists, a woman of Khoi-khoi origin he met in Pella on the Gariep, later the Orange River. They lived in Komaggas, Northern Cape where one of their three daughters married Missionary Heinrich Kleinschmidt in 1842.

n particular, three events clouded his career prospects: he had organised for a black speaker to address the students on campus – something the authorities disallowed; he wrote articles about black education, had these published in the local student magazine and provided hundreds of extra copies for students at black campuses where publications containing dissent were not allowed. In 1969 he and other leaders led a student march to the infamous John Vorster Square police station where Winnie Mandela and 20 other people were being held without charge or trial. The protest was against detention without charge or trial. For leading the march he and others were arrested, charged and found guilty under the Riotous Assemblies Act (General Laws Amendment Act). The Rector of the Education College warned Kleinschmidt that he had placed his education career in jeopardy.

In 1971, Kleinschmidt was charged under the Suppression of Communism Act for possession of banned (forbidden) literature after a raid on his flat in Cape Town. The raid resulted from the arrest and murder by the police of Ahmed Timol. Timol appeared to have an address list on which Kleinschmidt’s name appeared. Kleinschmidt was acquitted in court with a warning. . .
In 1972, he started work for the South African Christian Institute led by Dominee Beyers Naude, the dissident White Afrikaner leader. Appointed at the same time was Steve Biko, founder of the Black Consciousness movement in South Africa. The two had collaborated since student days. In that year, the authorities permanently withdrew Kleinschmidt’s passport, preventing him from traveling abroad. When Winnie Mandela was imprisoned for six months in 1974, for breaking her banning order, Nelson Mandela (from prison on Robben Island and through his attorney) and Winnie Mandela, appointed Kleinschmidt as the legal guardian of the two Mandela daughters, Zindzi and Zenani. 1974, the all-white Parliament of South Africa appointed a Commission to secretly probe the activities of the Christian Institute and other organisations. Together with the other leadership of the Christian Institute, Kleinschmidt refused to testify unless the proceedings were held in the open. For this they were charged under the Commissions Act. In Kleinschmidt’s case a ‘mistrial’ was recorded due to technical errors committed by the prosecution. His wife at the time, Ilona Aronson was sentenced to six months imprisonment. But when she presented herself at the prison, she found that an anonymous person had paid her fine. It later transpired that a white politician had arranged payment to prevent her from becoming a martyr to the anti-apartheid cause. In 1975, Kleinschmidt was detained under Section 6 of the Terrorism Act that gave the police powers to detain and interrogate persons without charge or a court hearing. He spent 73 days in solitary confinement. The police suspected him of having been recruited by an underground organisation led by the Afrikaans poet, Breyten Breytenbach who was arrested on the grounds of forming an illegal organisation. When no links between the two could be established, Kleinschmidt was released.
Read the whole bio here.

Makes me feel like I should get to work. 

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