6000.co.za on grida.no

Indeed.

While I was enjoying the hospitality of the local… er… hospital yesterday*, some of my recent photos of Theewaterskloof

…were being used (with permissions and credits, I hasten to add) on the website of Norwegian environmental NGO, GRID Arendal.

GRID-Arendal was established in 1989 to support environmentally sustainable development by working with UN Environment and other partners. We communicate environmental knowledge that strengthens management capacity and motivates decision-makers to act. We transform environmental data into credible, science-based information products, delivered through innovative communication tools and capacity building services.

Now you know.

 

GRID-Arendal have been doing a lot of work on water provision and sustainability across Africa, and this article (with my photos) details Cape Town’s current plight for their readers around the world.

As I mentioned earlier in the year, I’m also looking forward to having some of my snaps published in other publications this year (and some in a book due for publication in September 2019!).

 

* with apparently what should be a positive outcome [champagne bottle emoji] [I’ll keep you informed emoji].

Nice introduction, interesting idea

Here’s the story:

Synthetic living creatures would be released into the wild to save endangered species and clean up pollution under this futuristic proposal by designer Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg.
Called Designing for the Sixth Extinction, the project is designed to trigger debate about how artificial organisms could be used to solve environmental problems.

And here’s how Brian Micklethwait introduced it:

Synthetic creatures could “save nature” says Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg.
Has this woman never seen any horror movies?

Haha! Brilliant!

It’s an interesting idea, but it’s not as revolutionary as you might think. Bio-engineering of microorganisms – although not strictly ‘synthetic’ – is already being used to sort out environmental issues, such as these methanotrophs. But Ms Ginsberg is thinking of things on a larger scale:

sluglike

“These are bio-remediating slugs that reduce acidity levels in the soil to make it more hospitable. Soils get really acidic due to pollution; their slug trails are very alkali and they neutralise the soil.”

Cute. I think I want a bio-remediating slug as a pet. I’d feed it on sand soaked in vinegar and we’d all live happily ever after.

But seriously, these are interesting and promising concepts and an innovative way of looking at some of the environmental problems we face. Until, that is (as Brian points out), they unite, mutate and quickly take over the planet.

New Quagga Foal Is Very Cute

This is very cute. And great news for the environment. I like the environment, but not to extremes.
That said, I’d never eat a quagga. Probably.

new Rau quagga foal was born about 10 days ago in the Nuwejaars Wetlands Special Management Area to parents Susan and Freddie.

And here it is:

sma_1

 Awwwwww!

What’s a quagga, you ask? It looks like a a unfinished zebra. Wikipedia has all the answers:

The quagga (Equus quagga quagga) is an extinct subspecies of the plains zebra that lived in South Africa. It was long thought to be a distinct species, but recent genetic studies have shown it to be the southernmost subspecies of the plains zebra. It is considered particularly close to Burchell’s zebra. Its name is derived from the plains zebra’s call, which is heard like “kwa-ha-ha”.

This follows a typical naturalist trait of naming animals after the noises they make. They did ok with the Kittiwake, but they failed miserably with the Hadeda ibis, which should obviously be called the (ever so slightly less catchy) “Raap-Raap-Greer” ibis.
I can’t comment on the accuracy of the nomenclature of the quagga, because I’ve never heard one calling. Anyone?

A few others among you may have spotted that the quagga is extinct, which does make the news above seem a bit of a stretch, so let Wikipedia explain again:

After the very close relationship between the quagga and surviving zebras was discovered, the Quagga Project was started in 1986 by Reinhold Rau in South Africa to recreate the quagga by selective breeding from plains zebra stock, with the eventual aim of reintroducing them to the wild.

The founding population consisted of 19 individuals from Namibia and South Africa, chosen because they had reduced striping on the rear body and legs. The first foal of the project was born in 1988.
Once a sufficiently quagga-like population has been created, it will be released in the Western Cape. In early 2006, the third and fourth generation animals produced by the project were reported to look very much like the depictions and preserved specimens of the quagga. This type of selective breeding is also called breeding back.

The practice of breeding back is controversial, since the resulting zebras will only resemble the quaggas in external appearance, but genetically they will be different.

Three quagga in the Nuwejaars Wetlands Special Management Area feature in the Top 10 of Quagga specimens in the Quagga Project (go look at this website – really interesting). Among them is Freddie – in fact – he ranks as the number one Quagga specimen in SA. So this is big news. Nice one Freddie.

This is now on my list of things to go and do next time we’re down in Cape Agulhas, and it doesn’t hurt that the Nuwejaars Wetlands SMA is just down the road from these places.

Photo credit: Mick D’Alton

Do some fracking reading

I generally have no issue with people having opinions.

The only issue that I occasionally have is when those opinions are poorly considered. When people have simply chosen one side of an argument to be on simply because they think it’s the cool side to be on or because they have read or been told something, somewhere that suggests that perhaps the other side of the argument is wrong. I’m not necessarily saying that they are not allowed to do that, but when they are unable to back up their stance with some reasonable rational, they lose my respect and with it, my support.

Thou shall think for yourselves

Because the environment is such an emotive issue (you only have to look at the hysterical reactions to a tongue-in-cheek blog post about whales), there tends to be only one side that these poorly-read individuals come down upon. And that’s because it is deeply uncool to not automatically and vehemently oppose anything that may remotely harm the environment.
Yep. Apparently, no matter where you get your “facts” from, if they support “the environment”, then they must be indisputably correct.
Pah.

I am, therefore, deeply uncool for even considering that the plans to consider starting exploratory work in the Karoo to consider whether there are shale gas reserves there which are worth considering, could be considered, in any way shape or form, to be a good idea.

Not that I am saying that they are a good idea, of course. Because before I began this post, I felt that I probably didn’t actually have enough knowledge or information on the technicalities of the “fracking” process to commit myself. So here I’m really not arguing for Shell et al here; I’m arguing against those who are arguing against Shell et al just because they automatically assume that Shell et al are bad people intent on destroying the Karoo.

I’m not the only one calling for a little forethought though, thank goodness. Moneyweb’s David Carte has stuck his head above the metaphorical parapet and into the direct line of fire of the full-time bunnyhuggers and their kneejerk, bandwagon-jumping associates with a piece emphasising something as radical as er… the need for consideration instead of immediate condemnation of the exploratory plans:

The moral of the story is that the project should be assessed coolly and rationally and we should beware of hot heads, scare mongers and people with vested interests.

Carte cites SA’s need for lower cost, cleaner energy and addresses some of the dichotomies that exist in people’s thoughts of the Karoo as a protected area with reference to the planned SKA project there. He also compares the alleged “vast” water usage in fracking with that of Eskom (6 million litres vs 300 billion litres). Yet because he chooses to quote actual Shell executives rather than biased (and often hysterical) green-leaning or anti-corporate websites, he is accused in the comments of writing “a PR piece for Shell”.
As I said, it’s not nice to be seen to apparently support something that has the possibility of harming the environment, even when you state perfectly logic reason for your statements.

Of course, we all drive cars. We all use petrol and petroleum products. We all use electricity and we all complain bitterly about the price increases that we’ve seen in the past. So there’s a certain amount of NIMBYism and hypocrisy in the complaints of potential environmental damage.
And you can add billionaire Johann Rupert to the hypocritical throng. Quite how a man whose $3.8billion fortune was based on the sales of cigarettes can protest about the potential risk of carcinogen exposure is beyond me.

Those calling (usually in CAPITAL LETTERS and with plenty of punctuation!!!!!!!!!!) for us all to Boycott Shell!!!!!!! are asking a lot of the apathetic South African public. Not everyone would agree with the reasoning behind the boycott nor with the method of protest. And even if, by some twist of fate the remainder were actually to turn away from Shell’s forecourts in SA, it would only be a drop in the ocean for them (perhaps a poor analogy, given BP’s recent trials and tribulations).

Lewis Pugh’s desperately emotional speech at last night’s Cape Town meeting in Newlands, telling us of the dreams of Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi and Oliver Tambo was pitifully theatrical and contained these lines:

If we damage our limited water supply – and fracking will do just that – we will have conflict again in South Africa.
Fellow South Africans, we have had enough conflict in this land – now is the time for peace.

Wait. What?
Firstly – again – where is your evidence that “fracking will do just that”? Because now having read around the subject fairly widely, I have yet to find objective evidence that this is the case. Certainly, there have been a few instances where fracking has damaged the environment, but then equally, there have been many thousands of cases where it hasn’t. So why the certainty over the damage to the Karoo?
And then the conflict thing: is there really any way that the suggestion that by allowing these exploratory operations we will return to the troubles of the apartheid era can be described as anything more than shameful scare-mongering?

For a man with a law degree from UCT & Cambridge, it’s utterly pathetic. It’s a speech appealing to the very lowest common denominator of the audience. It’s full of wonderful soundbites but has nothing of substance. It would be laughed out of any court of law – institutions based on fact, logic and reason and not on hearsay, misinformation and emotion. However, for the purpose of generating support for his cause – for adding more unthinking sheep to the Karoo flock – it’s perfect.
And of course it will be (and already has been) widely circulated and celebrated by those very people that I am complaining about here.
On twitter, I see “South Africans, you HAVE to read @LewisPugh’s speech about Shell tonight. It’s really important.” and on facebook: “amazing speech by Louis Pugh at antifracking meeting …standing ovation.” (That one evidently didn’t even know where she was this evening. Shame.)

I recognise that I’m unlikely to change the general consensus on this matter. And even if I did, there would be something else tomorrow: dolphins, perhaps or something about rhinos and then we’d have to go through the whole thing again.

All I’m asking is that people to look at both sides of any argument – especially those where emotions run high – before making up their minds.
Read around the issue, check your sources, strain for objectivity.
Maybe you’ll find something that will make you think again; make you change direction instead of simply trotting after the other sheep in the flock.
And if you don’t see things differently when you’ve considered the other viewpoint(s), well just that’s fine as well and you’ll be able to argue your case far more logically and coherently, meaning that you stand more chance of making a difference.

And isn’t that what you want to do?

UPDATE: Please also see my follow-up post on this subject.