Letters in Support:
Anthony will have my full support and I am sure his colleagues who admire and respect him will rally by his side. I have been following the reports in the local newspaper (Cape Town) where I am at the moment and am shocked and appalled at the silencing of scientific evidence. Anthony is courageous and obviously quite correct in his insistence in bringing to the attention of the public any and all science findings that are in the public interest. As University Partners we must stand behind him as the integrity of all tertiary education research is critical for our democracy.
Dr J A Goldin, JhG
Head, African Water Issues Research Unit (AWIRU)
University of Pretoria Water Institute
University of Pretoria
This was originally written as a letter to the editor of the Times. The author made this available to us on 11/25/2008.
In my view, the drama surrounding Dr Anthony Turton's cancelled
keynote speech and suspension from the CSIR is not only unfortunate but dangerously overblown. I have read Turton's paper and in my opinion he is guilty at worst of inferring a causal relationship that is more detective work than good science. Put simply, he should not have said that water scarcity through declining water quality is leading to black-on-black violence. He also should not have included photos that have nothing to do whatsoever with water scarcity through poor water quality. Turton's claim rests in part on the work of social scientist, Thomas Homer-Dixon; yet Turton remakes the same mistake made by all those who failed to read Homer-Dixon accurately in the early 1990s. In attempting to detect a causal link between environmental degradation and social conflict, Homer-Dixon said that while resource degradation may contribute to an already fraught social setting, the primary causal factors leading to conflict are the ones we are most familiar with: ethnicity, religion, politics, economics --not resource scarcity. If Turton was speaking on his own behalf, and not on behalf of the CSIR, he should have been allowed to have his say. The CSIR inquiry should resist the urge to turn this into something it is not - that is, it is not about race politics, Dr Turton's unfortunate choice of incendiary photos notwithstanding. In my view, Tony deserves at worst a slap on the wrist and encouragement to look more deeply into his hypotheses before jumping to questionable conclusions.
PhD, Associate Professor
Director, Programme for Environment and International Development
Faculty of Environment, University of Waterloo, Canada
(Note: The author was professor of natural resource management at the University of Botswana from 1996-2007 and is a colleague of Tony Turton)
To whom it may concern,
It is a great pleasure to write on behalf of Dr. Tony Turton's credibility and record of careful scholarship.
I sat on Dr. Turton's PhD committee and have followed his work with pleasure ever since. We've collaborated occasionally, and co-founded the Universities Partnership for Transboundary Waters.
From this perspective, I have to say that Dr. Turton is one of the most careful and conscientious scientists I know. Moreover, he has great passion for the human dimension of his work, and holds his obligation for the betterment of society inviolable.
I read the CSIR keynote address in question with care, and saw nothing that was not appropriately supported. Naturally without knowing the details of the charges against him I cannot respond to them specifically. I do note his assertion, carefully worded and documented, that South Africa, like many nations, has a history of violence when, "public expectations exceed the capacity to deliver." He then asks, and does NOT presume to answer, the important question, "Could this type of anger be unleashed in response to perceptions of deteriorating public health as a result of declining water quality?" He urges that difficult water policy choices be made with cognizance of history, but makes no claim that historic or future violence, punctuated by the perhaps questionable use of graphic images, is in any way related to water resources.
Prof. Turton has a reputation for speaking hard truths about the world around him, and academic institutions generally have an obligation to protect academic freedom for precisely these sorts of cases.
Sincerely, and with concern,
Aaron T. Wolf
Professor of Geography
Oregon State University