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‘Winnie!’ South Africa bids farewell to Madikizela-Mandela

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Millions of South Africans said an emotional goodbye to anti-apartheid icon Winnie Madikizela-Mandela on Saturday during her official funeral, with supporters fiercely defending her complex legacy.

Thousands of mourners packed a 40,000-seat stadium to celebrate the powerful figure who will be buried as a national hero, after lively debate over how she should be remembered after her death on April 2 at age 81.

Often called the “Mother of the Nation” and “Mama Winnie,” Madikizela-Mandela fought to keep South Africa‘s anti-apartheid struggle in the international spotlight while her husband, Nelson Mandela, was imprisoned.

“Long before it was fashionable to call for Nelson Mandela’s release from Robben Island, it was my mother who kept his memory alive,” elder daughter Zenani Mandela-Dlamini said, as the audience erupted in cheers.

Many South Africans have stood up for Madikizela-Mandela’s memory against critics who have characterized her as a problematic figure who was implicated in political violence after she returned from years of banishment in a rural town.

Condolences have poured in from around the world in remembrance of one of the 20th century’s most prominent political activists.

Civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, who attended the funeral, said Friday that Madikizela-Mandela was responsible for making the anti-apartheid movement “a global struggle.”

“She never stopped fighting. She never stopped serving,” he told reporters. “She never left the belly of the beast.”

Many memorializing Madikizela-Mandela have recognized her as a political force in her own right.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called her an “international symbol of resistance” whose extraordinary life had an impact on millions of people around the world.

“In apartheid South Africa, the combination of patriarchy and racism together meant that black women confronted enormous obstacles from the cradle to the grave – making her own achievements all the more exceptional,” he said Friday at a memorial in New York, not mentioning Nelson Mandela at all.

The young Madikizela-Mandela grew up in what is now Eastern Cape province and came to Johannesburg as the city’s first black female social worker. Not long after, she met African National Congress activist Mandela and the couple married in 1958, forming one of the most storied unions of the century.

After Mandela was imprisoned, Madikizela-Mandela embraced her own leadership in the freedom struggle with steely determination and at great personal sacrifice.

For years, she was routinely harassed by apartheid-state security forces, imprisoned and tortured. In 1977, she was banished to a remote town.

It took a toll. When Madikizela-Mandela returned from exile she became involved with a group of young men known as the Mandela United Football Club, who were widely blamed for violence in Soweto.

They were accused of the disappearances and killings of at least 18 boys and young men and the group’s leader was convicted of killing a 14-year-old boy, nicknamed “Stompie,” who was accused of being a police informer.

In 1991, a court found Madikizela-Mandela guilty of the boy’s kidnapping and assault and sentenced her to six years in jail. She appealed and was found guilty of being an accessory, and the sentence was reduced to a fine and a suspended prison term. Madikizela-Mandela denied any knowledge of any killings.

Mandela divorced her in 1996, claiming infidelity and saying that after his release from prison, his wife made him “the loneliest man.”

Though she fought fiercely for democracy, Madikizela-Mandela floundered in a political career after the first free elections in 1994. Mandela fired her as one of his deputy ministers and her stints as a lawmaker, a post she held until her death, were lackluster.

Supporters in the ANC have loudly defended her.

“She gave everything she had,” the party’s deputy secretary general Jessie Duarte has said. “For those of you whose hearts are unforgiving, sit down and shut up. This is our hero. This is our heroine.”

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Coronavirus live updates: Israel locks down again ahead of High Holidays; EU strikes vaccine deal with Sanofi, GSK

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The coronavirus has infected more than 30.2 million people globally as of Friday, killing at least 946,685 people so far.

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Economy is showing positive signs, but banks will feel the brunt

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Principles of ‘green chemistry’ could have a big impact in the future

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Used in everything from the detergent that washes our clothes to the toothpaste that keeps our mouths clean, chemicals play an integral role in society. 

While it’s hard to imagine life without them, if not used in a responsible way their effect on the natural world – and us – can be harmful.

The European Commission has stated that some chemicals “can severely damage our health or the environment,” while the World Health Organization has previously estimated that exposure to selected chemicals resulted in the loss of 1.6 million lives in 2016.

It’s against this backdrop that the notion of “green chemistry” comes into play. In relatively simple terms, the United States Environmental Protection Agency has defined it as “the design of chemical products and processes that reduce or eliminate the use or generation of hazardous substances.”

The EPA goes on to explain that the idea of green chemistry relates to a product’s entire life cycle, which includes everything from its design and production to utilization and disposal.

Paul Anastas is the director of Yale University’s Center for Green Chemistry and Green Engineering. Speaking on the latest episode of CNBC’s Sustainable Energy, he explained how he became interested in the subject.

“When I was a young chemist, I looked around at all of the technological miracles that chemistry produced,” he said. “And then I looked at the other side of the equation – all of the unintended consequences of pollution and its effect on the environment and on human health,” he added.

“So green chemistry is really a way of keeping all of those technological miracles, those innovations, without all of those unintended consequences.”

Anastas, together with John Warner — a chemist who is now president and chief technology officer of the Warner Babcock Institute for Green Chemistry — co-authored the book “Green Chemistry: Theory and Practice,” a key body of work in the field.

First published in 1998, the book lists 12 principles of green chemistry, one of which focuses on the prevention of waste, a subject that Anastas expanded upon when speaking to CNBC. 

“Waste, we need to recognize, is a man-made concept,” he said. “In nature, there is no waste: every time a waste is generated, an organism evolves to use that waste as a feedstock.”

He added: “And so, we think about how to do the same thing in industry, how you either prevent or avoid waste, or utilize whatever waste in a valuable way.”

With attitudes regarding pollution and the environment shifting in recent years, many governments and businesses are emphasizing their commitments to sustainable practices.

But while actions need to match words and there is clearly a long way to go, Anastas sought to emphasize the changes that were being made.

“I simply cannot name an industry sector that isn’t using green chemistry,” he said. “Everything from pharmaceuticals, to plastics, everything from … cosmetics to the way that we generate, store and transport our energy,” he added. “Now, I’m not going to say that companies are doing it systematically or in all of their products, but great strides are being made.”

When it comes to the production of chemicals, there is some serious work to be done, however. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), in 2018 direct carbon dioxide emissions from primary chemical production hit 880 million tonnes, a jump of almost 4% compared to 2017. The IEA goes on to describe the chemical sector as being “the largest industrial consumer of both oil and gas.”

Anastas was asked how easy it would be to lower the use of energy in chemical production by applying the principles of green chemistry.

“We’ve forced chemicals to do things they didn’t naturally want to do,” he said. “So we’ve heated them up, we’ve put them under pressure and we’ve tortured them to obey and become the things we want them to become,” he added.

“But it’s not just the quantities of energy that’s important, it’s the character and the nature of energy that we use: it needs to be renewable and non-depleting, and nontoxic, and not polluting.”

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