Why I’m glad our Knysna school kids don’t live in the Karoo.
The kids’ singing was charming, and the dancing and drumming were animated and full of the sort of vigour and life which you would expect of young, eager children. But it was the theme of the play which interested me most. For Belvidere’s Matilda Krill is the brainchild behind quite an innovative idea. She wants learners at the school, to take back to their parents a message which has the potential to improve the environment which surrounds them.
‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.’ A central thrust was to create awareness about littering. If kids get the message through play acting and stop scattering paper and plastic all over their community, hopefully they will also put pressure on their parents or carers (as only kids can) to do likewise. Please don’t dismiss this as an impossible dream. Child agitation on environmental awareness isn’t new. It has worked to great effect in many developed countries too. Organisations like Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace have used it to good effect on campaigns like ‘Save the Whale’ (from the scourge of Japanese hunting), declining to buy seal fur products from Canada, or dissuading adults (well, men) from the filthy habit of pouring spent car engine oil down drains (one litre of oil will pollute one million litres of water).
So well done Chris Nissen School. And good for Elphus Mavundla (community representative) and Olembe Litoli (Councillor, Ward 4) for taking such a close interest in the initiative. Let’s hope it bears fruit and provides a demonstration effect for other nearby communities.
It had been my first visit to the school and its name stuck in my head. Who is Chris Nissen, exactly, I asked myself. A quick Google search will tell you that as an ordained minister, he was a fiery orator during the struggle against apartheid. So far so good. These days he continues as a political activist but is, fundamentally, a businessman. He is the chairman of Sea Harvest, the chief executive of Umoya Fishing and serves on the boards of Tiger Brands, Standard Bank, JCI, Randgold & Exploration, and is the executive chairman of Boschendal Limited, the property company. But you wouldn’t be surprised, would you, if there was more.
The Sunday Times (8 April) reported that he is helping to drum up support for fracking in the Karoo. As an ANC politician, one has to ask why he is so interested. Easy, suggests the Sunday Times. ‘An ANC trust established 20 years ago by Mandela and other struggle veterans, stands to earn a potential fortune from shale gas exploration in the Karoo. The Batho Batho Trust has a 51% stake in Thebe Investments, the local empowerment partner of Shell SA.’ And who wants to tap the reservoir of shale oil lying in the Karoo. Shell of course.
The delta is one of the ten most important wetlands and marine ecosystems in the world. But an estimated 1.5 million tons of oil has been spilled into the ecosystem over the last 50 years (that’s the equivalent of one Exxon Valdez spill every year). The spills have polluted fresh as well as marine water sources. Some Ogoni villages have been rendered uninhabitable.
The South African government tells us not to panic about fracking. Consultants have been engaged (Oh my God!). A study is being conducted on the fracking process. It will weigh up the arguments for and against, and the costs and benefits of the process in so far as it may affect the Karoo. Can we rely on the consultants producing an unbiased opinion. I doubt it.
What is fracking?
It is process of drilling down deep into the earth’s surface and creating tiny explosions to shatter and crack hard shale rocks to release gas held within. Water, sand and chemicals are injected into the rock at high pressure. This allows the gas to flow out to a well head.
Why is it controversial?
Apart from Shell’s record elsewhere in Africa, there are concerns that during the fracking process, potentially carcinogenic chemicals can escape and find their way into drinking water sources. Some American households adjacent to such industry have found that shale gas leaked into their drinking supply, causing tap water to ignite when a flame was lit close to a tap.
The industry itself vigorously denies that shale gas is unsafe and blames pollution incidents as examples of bad practice, rather than an inherently risky technique.
There are also justified worries that the fracking process can cause small earth tremors. Two such quakes of 1.5 and 2.2 magnitude hit the Blackpool area in the UK this year and fracking operations have now been suspended pending an investigation.
What’s all this go to do with a school play?
I thought it was ironic that a bunch of nice kids thought they were doing us all a good turn, by helping to free White Location of a major bug bear. Litter which lines the streets and gets caught up in water courses. While the person who gives his name to their school has much bigger things on his mind. Helping to persuade the general population of the ‘benefits’ of fracking, presumably in the hope that the ANC in general, and perhaps some specific individuals within it, could do very well thank you when the Karoo scheme goes ahead. And I have no doubt that it will. FRICKING FRACKING!!