Habitable Air


This collection of images and films aims to visualise the urban spaces researched by project members and our affiliates.

Climate Action by Kerry Ryan Chance

Green Apartheid by Stefan Ogedengbe

“Green Apartheid” is a recent term that has sprung out of an urban geography study in South Africa (Venter et al. 2020).

The term denotes unequal access to green spaces along racial and socioeconomic lines from the time of apartheid to post-apartheid South Africa (Venter et al. 2020). It has also been used to describe increasing commercialisation and racialisation—and the deep-rooted inequality thereof—in the wildlife industry of South Africa (Koot et al. 2024).

Given the South African energy crisis and its responses, there is an argument to be made for extending the term green apartheid to the sphere of energy. In addition to the unequal access to and disappearance of green, habitable, and breathable spaces (parks, gardens, nature reserves and so on), this can bring to light how emerging “green” energy transitions are similarly exclusionary. South Africa has seen a solar boom during the last decade. The main participants are affluent households and businesses seeking to rid themselves of the burdens of scheduled power cuts and dependency on the country’s massive coal fleet.

Disenfranchised fence-line communities that have lived and continue to live amid chemically polluted lands in places such as Mpumalanga and Durban have borne the brunt of society’s petrochemical addiction on their bodies. Chronic asthma and many different forms of cancer flourish in these communities (e.g. Vidal 2014). This new “green” energy continues to be elusive and remarkably inaccessible for the majority of the fence-line poor who are forced to consume energy derived from coal and oil – paradoxically, the very same energy that harms them. This is so even though it is in these areas that a transition is most urgently needed. For now, the “new” energy appears to be mere adornments on the rooftops of the affluent rather than a force of environmental and socioeconomic justice for all of society. The Just Transition Framework adopted by the South African state in 2022 posits the importance of justice and inclusivity in energy transition.