Recommended Reading:

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Stop Fracking in the Karoo


Large parts of South Africa's beautiful, but water-poor and ecologically sensitive Karoo region are under threat of being devastated by mining operations to extract natural gas using a controversial technique called hydraulic fracturing or 'fracking'.

During fracking millions of litres of water, sand and numerous chemicals most of which are toxic, carcinogic as well as teratogenic (they include benzene, toluene, ethyl benzene, xylene, ethylene glycol (antifreeze), diesel fuel, naphthalene (moth ball) compounds, boric acid, arsenic, poly nuclear organic hydrocarbons, only to name a few of 500-odd chemicals used), are pumped into boreholes at high pressure to release natural gas (called shale gas) trapped in layers of underground rock.

In the USA, where fracking has been used extensively, there have been hundreds of documented cases of this process resulting in:
  • - catastrophic drinking water pollution;
  • - air pollution;
  • - health concerns for humans and animals; and
  • - general environmental degradation.
Right now, Shell and other international and local companies are preparing to explore tens of thousands of square kilometres of land in South Africa for natural gas exploration by fracking. Most of the area under threat is already extremely water-stressed and can not afford any water to be either wasted or contaminated by the fracking process which, once in full production, may involve tens of thousands of boreholes and billions of litres of water.... more here


Below is the content of a short speech given on Friday night in Cape Town by Lewis Gordon Pugh OIG (a.k.a. the Human Polar Bear) about the proposed fracking for gas in the Karoo, by Shell. He received a sustained standing ovation!

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Ladies and gentlemen, thank for the opportunity to address you. My name is Lewis Pugh.

This evening, I want to take you back to the early 1990's in this country. You may remember them well.

Nelson Mandela had been released. There was euphoria in the air. However, there was also widespread violence and deep fear. This country teetered on the brink of a civil war. But somehow, somehow, we averted it. It was a miracle!

And it happened because we had incredible leaders. Leaders who sought calm.. Leaders who had vision. So in spite of all the violence, they sat down and negotiated a New Constitution.

I will never forget holding the Constitution in my hands for the first time.

I was a young law student at the University of Cape Town. This was the cement that brought peace to our land. This was the document, which held our country together. The rights contained herein, made us one.

I remember thinking to myself - never again will the Rights of South Africans be trampled upon.

Now every one of us - every man and every women - black, white, coloured, Indian, believer and non believer - has the right to vote. We all have the Right to Life. And our children have the right to a basic education. These rights are enshrined in our Constitution.

These rights were the dreams of Oliver Tambo. These rights were the dreams of Nelson Mandela. These rights were the dreams of Mahatma Gandhi, of Desmond Tutu and of Molly Blackburn. These rights were our dreams.

People fought and died so that we could enjoy these rights today.

Also enshrined in our Constitution, is the Right to a Healthy Environment and the Right to Water. Our Constitution states that we have the Right to have our environment protected for the benefit of our generation and for the benefit of future generations.

Fellow South Africans, let us not dishonour these rights. Let us not dishonour those men and women who fought and died for these rights. Let us not allow corporate greed to disrespect our Constitution and desecrate our environment.

Never, ever did I think that there would be a debate in this arid country about which was more important gas or water. We can survive without gas.... We cannot live without water.

If we damage our limited water supply and fracking will do just that we will have conflict again here in South Africa. Look around the world. Wherever you damage the environment you have conflict.

Fellow South Africans, we have had enough conflict in this land now is the time for peace.

A few months ago I gave a speech with former President of Costa Rica. Afterwards I asked him "Mr President, how do you balance the demands of development against the need to protect the environment?"

He looked at me and said : "It is not a balancing act. It is a simple business decision. If we cut down our forests in Costa Rica to satisfy a timber company, what will be left for our future?"

But he pointed out : "It is also a moral decision. It would be morally wrong to chop down our forests and leave nothing for my children and my grandchildren."

Ladies and gentlemen, that is what is at stake here today: Our children's future. And that of our children s children.

There may be gas beneath our ground in the Karoo. But are we prepared to destroy our environment for 5 to 10 years worth of fossil fuel and further damage our climate?

Yes, people will be employed but for a short while. And when the drilling is over, and Shell have packed their bags and disappeared, then what? Who will be there to clean up? And what jobs will our children be able to eke out?

Now Shell will tell you that their intentions are honourable. That fracking in the Karoo will not damage our environment. That they will not contaminate our precious water. That they will bring jobs to South Africa.

That gas is clean and green. And that they will help secure our energy supplies.

When I hear this I have one burning question. Why should we trust them? Africa is to Shell what the Gulf of Mexico is to BP.

Shell, you have a shocking record here in Africa. Just look at your operations in Nigeria. You have spilt more than 9 million barrels of crude oil into the Niger Delta. That's twice the amount of oil that BP spilt into the Gulf of Mexico.

You were found guilty of bribing Nigerian officials and to make the case go away in America - you paid an admission of guilt fine of US$48 million.

And to top it all, you stand accused of being complicit in the execution of Nigeria's leading environmental campaigner Ken Saro-Wira and 8 other activists.

If you were innocent, why did you pay US$15.5 million to the widows and children to settle the case out of Court?

Shell, the path you want us to take us down is not sustainable. I have visited the Arctic for 7 summers in a row. I have seen the tundra thawing.

I have seen the retreating glaciers. And I have seen the melting sea ice. And I have seen the impact of global warming from the Himalayas all the way down to the low-lying Maldive Islands. Wherever I go I see it.

Now is the time for change. We cannot drill our way out of the energy crisis. The era of fossil fuels is over. We must invest in renewable energy. And we must not delay!

Shell, we look to the north of our continent and we see how people got tired of political tyranny. We have watched as despots, who have ruled ruthlessly year after year, have been toppled in a matter of weeks.

We too are tired. Tired of corporate tyranny. Tired of your short term, unsustainable practices.

We watched as Dr Ian Player, a game ranger from Natal, and his friends, took on Rio Tinto (one of the biggest mining companies in the world) and won.

And we watched as young activists from across Europe, brought you down to your knees, when you tried to dump an enormous oil rig into the North Sea.

Shell, we do not want our Karoo to become another Niger Delta.

Do not underestimate us. Goliath can be brought down. We are proud of what we have achieved in this young democracy and we are not about to let your company come in and destroy it.

So let this be a Call to Arms to everyone across South Africa, who is sitting in the shadow of Goliath: Stand up and demand these fundamental human rights promised to you by our Constitution. Use your voices - tweet, blog, petition, rally the weight of your neighbours and of people in power.

Let us speak out from every hilltop. Let us not go quietly into this bleak future.

Let me end off by saying this - You have lit a fire in our bellies, which no man or woman can extinguish. And if we need to, we will take this fight all the way from your petrol pumps to the very highest Court in this land. We will take this fight from the farms and towns of the Karoo to the streets of London and Amsterdam. And we will take this fight to every one of your shareholders. And I have no doubt, that in the end, good will triumph over evil.

3 comments :

Anonymous said... .....Click here to refresh this blog

Anyone opposed to fracking is a whack-job. Here in the Fort Worth Basin,some were up in arms about their water wells being polluted. It was the fault of the oil companies. Ranger in particular. Well, we find out that the water wells had gas in them seven years BEFORE any oil companies drilled in the area, and that was down to 5,000 feet. The water table was at 300 something feet.

What had happened? Turns out that the water well driller the people hired drilled through the water table down to a zone at 650 feet, and that is where the gas came from that polluted the water zone.

It wasn't the fault or activity of any oil company. And this guy mouthing off is behind the power curve on fracking technology. The industry is moving away from this specific formulation.

Anonymous said... .....Click here to refresh this blog

Oh is that so sir. Funny, because here is a comment from The Daily Maverick by one of your fellow countrymen. And there are countless more such stories. You in the industry by any chance?

"South Africa, you need to fight this with all you're worth. I live in Pennsylvania in the United States in the heart of the Marcellus Shale region - a shale basin touted as one of the largest, if not THE largest shale area in the world. They've been fracking here for several years. Our municipal water supplies have been contaminated, our private water wells have been contaminated. On top of this, our AIR has been contaminated. This process involves far more than just a drilling rig and a flare stack. This involves 3-5 million gallons of water PER WELL, and most of that never comes back up to the surface. Of the water that does, it is contaminated with toxic chemicals as well as brine, heavy metals and radioactivity from the shale layer. Our water treatment plants can't treat this so they're diluting it with more fresh water and releasing it into our streams and rivers - where our municipal water supply is drawn from.

This process also involves air pollution. There are flare stacks, where the excess gas is burned off. There are compressor stations to push the gas through the pipelines. There are giant 6-8 acre pits of toxic wastewater. All of these things off-gas enormous amounts of chemicals like benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, xylene, and formaldehyde, to name a few. There are already people who have tested positive for these and other chemicals as well as heavy metals in their blood. Animals have died horrible deaths. People are sick. Children are especially vulnerable to these chemicals because they are still developing. The gas industry lies and lies and lies, while we are suffering. Our state and local governments are very corrupt and many of our politicians were put into power by the massive campaign funding from the gas industry. Now the politicians dance to the industry's tune."

Anonymous said... .....Click here to refresh this blog

To our anonymous friend from Pennsylvania in the United States of America.....thank you so much for sharing your knowledge and personal experience in this regard.

Your input is invaluable.

Latest 5 Featured Posts:

Operation Vula, its Secret Safari, and Zuma’s band of comrades - Dec. 2013
During 1986 the ANC launched an underground operation called Operation Vula. A lesser-known fact is that it continued to operate after Nelson Mandela's release in February 1990, and for three years after his speech in August 1990 when he reiterated the total commitment of the ANC, Umkhonto we Sizwe and the SACP to the Groote Schuur Minute.

Heritage Day Photographs (Voortrekker Monument) - Sept. 2013
This posting includes a few photographs taken on Heritage Day 2013. The posting introduces an unusual but beautiful new structure called QUO VADIS? (with the question mark) which I’m sure many readers have never heard of.

The Yellow-Bucket Marula Tree: A Mystery Solved! - Oct. 2013
I came across a rather strange phenomenon one day while travelling along the R561 route between Tolwe and Baltimore in the Limpopo province of South Africa. A small yellow bucket was attached high-up in a branch of a Marula tree, hence the name of this posting. It’s a real funny story which I’m sure most readers will enjoy - as much as I enjoyed compiling the article  - (with illustrations).

Pretoria’s Monument for Victims of Terrorism - July 2013
Many people (including myself) had almost forgotten about a noteworthy monument in Pretoria that stood at the entrance of the old Munitoria building on the corner of Van der Walt and Vermeulen Streets (now renamed Lilian Ngoyi and Madiba Streets). When the Munitoria building was demolished on 7 July 2013 nobody could tell me whether the monument was still standing or not, so I decided to go look for myself.

Remembering The Battle of Delville Wood - July 2013
14 July marks a day when the South African 1st Infantry Brigade got engaged in the 1916 (WW1) Battle of the Somme, in France. The battle was one of the largest of World War I, in which more than a million men were wounded or killed, making it one of humanity's bloodiest battles. One specific encounter during this battle, known as The Battle of Delville Wood, is of particular importance to South Africa. The posting includes a comprehensive article (with pictures) compiled and written by Petros Kondos.


Blog Feeds - Sister Blogs:

African Countries (Alphabetical list):
(The links will redirect to the Amazon.com page dealing with the specific country.)




JKLS AFRICA



Browse Books By Category