I made burgers today. Great big ones.

It was while I was cooking these great big burgers on the braai, Britney Spears blaring away in the foreground, that I glanced down at Twitbook or some such on my phone and noted that there was a vegetarian whining about stuff and telling me, and everyone else, that it took a million gallons of water to produce a kilo of beef and that each cow farted enough greenhouse gas to break a planet or something.

I looked over at the braai grid. These burgers were great big burgers and I was suddenly hugely concerned about the impact I was having on the environment having made them.

But then I tried a bit of one of the great big burgers and it was so nice that I instantly forgave myself.

It was only when we were sitting at the dinner table later that I suddenly thought of my kids.
Because, this isn’t about me and my generation. This is about what sort of world we are passing on to them.

But I checked, and fortunately, they also thought the burgers were delicious, so it was all ok.


Important postscript: I did recycle a bottle yesterday, so I am doing my bit. Don’t @ me.

Botswana earthquake explanation

Botswana suffered its largest ever earthquake on Monday evening – magnitude 6.5. Tremors were felt as far away as Johannesbeagle.

Immediately, environMENTALists leapt all over it, including a scaremongery article claiming that fracking (which may or may not be taking place in that area of Botswana) was obviously responsible.

After all, Botswana had never had an earthquake that big, just like it had never had an earthquake as big as the one which set previous record, pre-hydraulic fracturing.


Well, Jeffrey Barbee (for it is he) admits in the very first line of his piece:

There’s not enough information to answer that scientifically

But… but… there is circumstantial evidence!!

Statistic likelihood would surely result from scientific investigation, though? And would be a result, meaning that there would be “enough information to answer that scientifically”. And you said… ag… never mind.

Also, because of the remote area in which this quake occurred, no-one can accurately say exactly where the epicentre was. Your 5km claim is therefore a bit of a stretch.

Fortunately, following the knee-jerk hysteria, there came informed, independent sanity, as Stephen Hicks, a postdoctoral research fellow in Seismology at the University of Southampton gave us this highly technical description of the real likely reasons for the quake.

We call these types of events ‘intraplate earthquakes‘. It is likely that the rupture occurred partly due to the gradual transfer of push and pull stresses from the East African Rift toward the more stable part of the continent. Occasionally, this stress is released along pre-existing weaknesses in Earth’s crust as earthquakes. It is fundamentally the same reason why quakes occasionally occur in other stable regions such as the United Kingdom and the midwestern states of North America.

Hicks doesn’t mention fracking at all in his detailed explanation of the factors leading to the earthquake, presumably because fracking was not one of those factors. However, predictably it does get brought up in the comments, where it is promptly debunked.

Still, if you’re the “director and founder of AllianceEarth.org”, you’ve done work for Al Gore’s Climate Reality and you released a 2015 film about the alleged secret roll-out of gas developments in Southern Africa, wouldn’t you try to get some extra mileage out of a completely natural phenomenon? 

(There’s not enough information to answer that scientifically.)

Clive Weir is not a fanatic

I know this, because he says he is not. Right there in the second sentence of his fanatical rant. I know that Cliver Weir is in shock, because he says that before he says he’s not a fanatic.


Clive is upset because Sheffield City Council made the decision to cut down some trees in Rustlings Road, Sheffield, despite a long campaign by some residents to keep the trees. The cutting down was done earlier this week, at dawn, by a private contractor – Amey – accompanied by a “massive police presence” (12 officers).
Given the unholy fuss about this seemingly underhand approach, one has to wonder why they went via this route. Perhaps because if they hadn’t, there would have been a riot. I don’t know, I’m just guessing.

Immediately after these sort of allegedly anti-environmental actions (I say ‘allegedly’, because the council are replacing the trees with… er… even more trees than they cut down), local news sites are a great source of amusement. I cut to the chase, and went quote chasing in amongst the looney fringe of the STAG (Sheffield Trees Action Groups) FB page.

I was not disappointed. Non-fanatic Clive Weir’s post was the first one I saw.

The word ‘fanatic’ is defined as:

a zealot, bigot, hothead, militant. Fanatic and zealot both suggest excessive or overweening devotion to a cause or belief. Fanatic further implies unbalanced or obsessive behaviour.

This obviously doesn’t refer to Clive Weir though, because he is not a fanatic. He does seem ‘somewhat disappointed’ with the city councillors though:

The people of Sheffield had an opportunity to rid themselves of the autocratic fascists that hide themselves under the banner of labour.

But wait, Clive. Knowing that they had this opportunity, they surely took it, right? Right?

What do they do?, vote them in again because they have been brainwashed by genetics to deny any competent dialogue .

Seems a reasonable excuse to me. But then I’ve been fortunate to avoid being brainwashed by genetics to deny any competent dialogue.

Or… or have I? [sudden concern]

Although I’ve been a microbiologist since I can remember, I have some knowledge of genetics through my degree in Biomedical Sciences, and I can only imagine that Clive is trying to hint at some sort of genetic brainwashing programme here, selective breeding or eugenics. It’s fanatical stuff.

Clive continues, wholly unfanatically:

I would need a lot of money to take on this bunch of knuckle dragging bipeds.To call them monkeys would do an injustice to the primates!

Which primates, though? Because both these groups are primates: the monkeys and the councillors. So are you saying that calling the monkeys monkeys would insult the councillors? Or calling the councillors monkeys would insult the councillors? Calling the monkeys monkeys would insult the monkeys? But they are monkeys. Eponymous disparagement. Is it rude if it’s the truth?
Ironically, monkeys mostly live in trees. Not in Rustlings Road though. Well, not any more.

And then, the bombshell:

What are you playing at you idiots,have you all got your heads up your own backsides, or too busy licking your fellow councillors?

For those of you who thought that Clive was some sort of fanatic (he’s not), did you get that? These are elected officials, paid to serve the people and they seem to be engaging in contortionism and somewhat iffy-sounding oral practices instead of voting not to cut down trees. Suddenly, Clive’s apparently misplaced anger is wholly understandable. Cutting down a few trees in a posh bit of the city has “pressed the button” and Clive is going to reveal all he knows about the goings-on in the Council Chambers. Already, we know that this includes bending, stretching, recto-cranial insertion and hot colleague-on-colleague tongue action.
Watch this space. Well, that space.

Clive needs to find peace. Mi Riam has him covered:


I can’t help that we’ve been here before, albeit more locally. Perhaps some candles placed in the shape of a fish would work here too.

“We are one, we are one, we are one! Wake up! Wake up! Rise with the rising sun!”

That rising sun now far more visible thanks to the lack of arboreal obstruction, of course. So every cloud has a silver lining.
And you’ll be able to see them better too.


I’m sorry, Carl? Gorilla? As in Gorilla gorilla gorilla? Do they really bulk buy a load of trees and start planting them either on common land or ask people if they can plant trees at the end of gardens?

I mean, I’m no expert on primates (although I now have a little more clarity on how not to insult them) (see above), but I’ve never seen this sort of behaviour on any of David Attenborough’s auspicious documentaries. I have a friend in the DRC – I’ll ask her if she’s had any gorillas come around and enquire about potential arboriculture opportunities.

I’m not promising any return to the entirely non-fanatical STAG page, but it would seem almost foolish not to, given the rich vein of potential blog-fodder on there.

In the meantime, go hug a tree. It might be the last chance you ever get.

Hay Ewe

I ate some lovely meat on our weekend in Franschhoek. But then, under my windscreen wiper when I got back to the car, which had been parked on a backstreet (it was Van Wijk Straat for the purists out there) yesterday:


I left it big for the impact. It is quite impactful, isn’t it?
But yes, I see what they did there… And it’s pretty eye-catching. So… what and why?
I turned over, and found out…


u wot m8?

I think they may have slightly missed their intended market with this effort.
And “The Garden of Vegan”? “Country Moosic”? “Pigcasso’s Art”?

Each to their own, of course, but this really isn’t even close to my own. And… and… a free… cow dung… bookmark? That’s what I will be given if I turn up to this event? That’s what you will reward me with for supporting your cause and spending my valuable time at your grand opening?

A cow dung bookmark.

Do you actually want people to come along or not?

Let’s make electricity

Shall we? Well, we need to.

We’re short of electricity. We have been for a long while. Things have been better recently, but that’s mainly due to the economic downturn rather than any huge increase in generating power.

So, we need more electricity so that when things pick up again (lol!), we are ready to go and there are no further instances of “rolling blackouts” or “loadshedding”.

Much has been made of the SA Government’s insistence of going down the nuclear route. Currently, we have just one nuclear power station, just up the road at Koeberg. The alleged R1 trillion deal with Russia would add several more, and also the opportunity (so the cynics say, at least) for massive kickbacks, corruption and general naughtiness.

The cynics may well be right. But their fears are not what this post is about.

Brian Molefe, group chief executive of Eskom, allegedly recently stated that nuclear was “the cheapest option” and a local fact checking website went after him on that claim. They found, perhaps unsurprisingly, that his alleged claim was incorrect. But his inaccuracy is not what this post is about.

Here’s a screenshot of a graph that Africa Check’s data generated (geddit?):

Fullscreen capture 2016-08-25 120214 PM.bmp

And you can see that Brian was incorrect. Naughty Brian. Well done, Africa Check.

Thankfully, one thing everyone can agree is correct is that South Africa needs to generate more electricity. Oh, and that we really can’t afford to pay any more for it. So, what exactly are our options?

There’s hydroelectric. Clean, renewable, easy, cheap. It would be lovely to run our country with electricity from mountain streams and melting snow. But we don’t have mountains streams and melting snow. In fact, we have a few issues with the amount of water we have available for anything full stop. Put simply, there just isn’t enough water to make HEP a viable option.

There’s coal. Coal is cheap, we have lots of coal and we have lots of big coal-fired power stations. But coal is filthy. It makes shedloads of greenhouse gases and a billion other pollutants that no-one wants. Greenpeace says no to coal, and it’s just about the only thing I agree with them on. Going forward, coal should not be on the table (or in the furnace) for generating electricity.

Next up is gas. It’s there with wind and nuclear as a level levelised cost. Now, I happen to know that just under the Karoo is (conservatively estimating) about 450 000 000 000 000 cubic feet of shale gas. And I’d tap that gas. We could drop coal, drop our carbon emissions and make lovely, relatively clean, relatively cheap electricity. Except the green people aren’t happy with the plan to extract the shale gas. We’ve covered this… er… “extensively” on 6000 miles… I don’t think I need to go into again. Shale gas would be brilliant for SA. But the bunnyhuggers are determined that it won’t happen.

There’s nuclear – right there. Reasonably cheap, very clean, super reliable. Look at Koeberg – running without any big problems since 1984. There may be issues about corruption, but whatever methods we choose, this is electricity generating infrastructure on a massive scale. Sadly, there will always be those opportunities.

Still, wind looks like an option. Until you do the sums, that is. Remember that the nuclear option is for 9.6GW of electricity generation. Now look at this:

At 3MW per massive 145 metre (90m hub + 55m blade) turbine, you’d need 3,200 turbines! And that’s assuming 100% efficiency. Wind farms don’t do 100% efficiency. Wind farms only do about 30% efficiency (and I’m being nice here). So basically 10,000 turbines to guarantee that 9.6GW figure. If you’ve seen the blot on the landscape that is the Dassiesklip Wind Farm near Caledon, you’ll see how much of an eyesore just 9 (nine) turbines can be. And how much space they take up.
Dream on.

Look at the left hand side of that bar chart. Realistically, you’d probably have to rule out solar on the grounds of price. Oh, and also, the ridiculous scale required:

To achieve the 9.6GW capacity planned for this nuclear thing, we’d need something about 33 times the size of the current largest solar park in the world. That would cover 32,043 hectares and would cost about $33 billion.

So, no. Nuclear might not be the cheapest option for generating electricity in South Africa. And Brian Molefe shouldn’t be saying that it is. But until someone comes up with any other viable option – and I really don’t see anything reasonable on the table or anywhere close – it might well be the best option for electricity generation in South Africa.

Whether you like it or not.