Seeds of freedom

 

Title Seeds of Freedom
Director(s)  
Date released (year) 2012
Production company The Gaia   Foundation and the African Biodiversity Network. In collaboration with GRAIN,   Navdanya International and MELCA Ethiopia .
Length 30mins
Location  
Keywords/tags Agriculture, food, food security, poverty
Link to film http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZvgaMd6GBgQ
Synopsis The story of   seed has become one of loss, control, dependence and debt. It’s been written   by those who want to make vast profit from our food system, no matter what   the true cost. It’s time to change the story. Narrated by Jeremy Irons.

Seeds of Freedom charts the story of seed from its roots at the heart of   traditional, diversity rich farming systems across the world, to being   transformed into a powerful commodity, used to monopolise the global food   system.The film highlights the extent to which the industrial agricultural   system, and genetically modified (GM) seeds in particular, has impacted on   the enormous agro -biodiversity evolved by farmers and communities around the   world, since the beginning of agriculture.

Seeds of Freedom seeks to challenge the mantra that large-scale, industrial   agriculture is the only means by which we can feed the world, promoted by the   pro-GM lobby. In tracking the story of seed it becomes clear how corporate   agenda has driven the take over of seed in order to make vast profit and   control of the food global system.

Through interviews with leading international experts such as Dr Vandana Shiva   and Henk Hobbelink, and through the voices of a number of African farmers,   the film highlights how the loss of indigenous seed goes hand in hand with   loss of biodiversity and related knowledge; the loss of cultural traditions   and practices; the loss of livelihoods; and the loss of food sovereignty. The   pressure is growing to replace the diverse, nutritional, locally adapted and   resilient seed crops which have been bred by small-scale farmers for   millenia, by monocultures of GM seed.

Alongside speakers from indigenous farming communities, the film features   global experts and activists Dr Vandana Shiva of Navdanya, Henk Hobbelink of   GRAIN, Zac Goldsmith MP (UK Conservative party), Canadian farmer Percy   Schmeiser, Kumi Naidoo of Greenpeace International, Gathuru Mburu of the   African Biodiversity Network, Liz Hosken of The Gaia Foundation and Caroline   Lucas MP (UK Green party).

Reviews/discussion The Gaia Foundation (Gaia) has over 25 years experience working with   partners in Africa, South America, Asia and Europe to regenerate cultural and   biological diversity. In collaboration with partners on the ground,   particularly through the African Biodiversity Network, The Gaia Foundation   works with communities who are committed to regaining their seed, water and   food sovereignty. Together, Gaia and partners have pioneered the Climate, Seed & Knowledge (CSK) programme,   which supports the revival of indigenous seed diversity and related knowledge   through tools such as eco-cultural calendars. These were developed through   Gaia’s work in the Amazon in the 90’s with Gaia Amazonas. In the 90’s, when   the first GM crop was shipped from USA to Europe, without any public debate,   Gaia helped to initiate a broad-based coalition of civil society groups in   the UK calling for a moratorium on genetic engineering (GE) in food and   agriculture. This later became what is now known as the GM   Freeze campaign, the first of many to fight against GM across   Europe and beyond.

Visit   Website

The African Biodiversity Network

The   African Biodiversity Network (ABN) is a regional network of individuals and   organisations first conceived in 1996 in response to growing concerns over   threats to biodiversity in Africa. As the agendas of global agri-business   turned their attention to Africa, the need to develop strong African   positions, a united African voice and the legal instruments to oppose these   threats became increasingly important. This advocacy work is rooted in ABN’S   work to revive ecosystem and community resilience, by focusing on the   regeneration of indigenous knowledge and ecological agricultural practices.   The Climate, Seed & Knowledge (CSK) programme   emerged out of the work with communities, to recuperate their traditional   seed diversity and related knowledge. This is the foundation of climate   change resilience, and in turn food and seed sovereignty. ABN is one of the   founding partners of the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA),   which was initiated in 2009, bringing together a number of African regional   networks working on issues ranging from farming and agro-ecology, to   indigenous peoples’ rights and related advocacy.

Visit Website

Source: http://www.seedsoffreedom.info/

 

The African individuals and communities who feature in the film have   been working with partner organisations of the African Biodiversity Network   to revive their local seed varieties. In Kenya, Ethiopia and South Africa in   particular, these communities are reclaiming their seed sovereignty. This   area of work, known as the Climate, Seed & Knowledge programme, has been   developed by the ABN and Gaia with communities over the last decade. Find out   more: http://www.seedsoffreedom.info/our-projects/climate-seed-knowledge/

Dr Hans R Herren, President Biovision Foundation and Millennium   Institute

“Yet another important piece of   the puzzle that we needed to get the full picture of what a sustainable   agriculture, food and nutrition security reality looks like. It is time for   our decision makers to protect the branch we are sitting on, them included,   and so they need to return the rights to the seeds to their legal owners, the   farmers”

Vandana Shiva, Founding Director, Navdanya, India

“Seeds of Freedom is a powerful film with an important message. There   is a new wave of cultural imperialism taking place right now in the field of   biodiversity and seed. We are losing our critical seed diversity to just a   handful of corporations in the western world. The genetic erosion taking   place here is tantamount to ecocide. The rate of farmer suicides because of   crop failure and debt is nothing short of genocide. We must decentralise our   food system.”

Henk Hobbelink, Co-ordinator, GRAIN

“It   is time for people to realise that diversity means survival. Diversity is   what gives us resilience, and resilience is exactly what we are going to need   as the climate changes alongside social, political and economic landscapes.   It’s very important for people to realise that we simply won’t be able to   produce the food that we need if we allow our natural biodiversity to be   further eroded. Watch Seeds of Freedom and then do something about it. It’s   time for us all to stop partaking in this aggressive food system and to   demand something different.”

Kumi Naidoo

“There’s a popular myth that Africa needs and wants GM, which needs   to be dispelled. Quite categorically, they don’t – farmers from the continent   have been successfully saving and selecting seeds for thousands of years.   Films like Seeds of Freedom are vital in highlighting the voices of these   people, a people who recognise the importance of maintaining seed ownership   and diversity for reasons of culture, climate resilience and food   sovereignty.”

Source: http://www.seedsoffreedom.info/about-the-film/endorsements/

Links to other resources United Nations University, Are transgenic crops safe? GM agriculture in Africa, at: http://unu.edu/publications/articles/are-transgenic-crops-safe-gm-agriculture-in-africa.html

 

Jennifer G. Cooke, Richard   Downie (2010) Assessing the Debate in Zambia, Kenya, and South   Africa: http://csis.org/publication/african-perspectives-genetically-modified-crops

 

GMO Watch: http://www.gmo-watch.com/

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Welcome to Lagos

Title BBC’s Welcome to Lagos
Director(s) Solomon Sydelle
Date released (year) 2010
Production company BBC
Length 10.11mins
Location Lagos Nigeria
Keywords/tags Toxic waste, poverty, violence
Link to film http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sHKLIpz9F5c
Synopsis First 10 minutes of the   Part 1 of the documentary.

Three part observational   documentary series which explores life at the sharp end of one of the most   extreme urban environments in the world: Lagos, Nigeria

Reviews/discussion Economy: Nigeria is Africa’s leading oil   producer; more than half of its people live in poverty(http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-13949550)

 

From the program editor’s blog:

First   stop was the city’s main dump site, Olusosun. This definitely   isn’t on the tourist trail of Lagos, but then Lagos doesn’t have much of a   tourist industry at the moment. Some 5,000 people work on the dump, and we   were immediately struck by how organised and efficient everything was.

As well as all the   scavengers working behind the dump trucks, grabbing anything and everything   they could to re-sell to the re-processing factories, there were shops, bars,   restaurants, a mosque, a barbers, and even a cinema.

The longer we hung   out on the dump (it very soon became one of our favourite places to film,   because the people were all so friendly there) the more astonishing it   became. It turned out that the scavengers even had their own form of   democratically elected chairman, who sorted out any arguments or   disagreements.

The dump became   symbolic of everything we were trying to achieve in the films. It looks at   first sight like a rough, lawless, dangerous place, and most people in this   country will be horrified to see people working there.

But in actual fact,   through the eyes of the people who actually DO work there, it’s a   well-organised place where there’s good money to be earned. Decent, honest   people choose to work there, preferring a life of grime to a life of crime.   Some of them are university graduates.

They are proud of   the fact that they earn an honest living, and are making a better life for   themselves and their families through sheer determination and hard work.

We realised the   scavengers were people to be admired rather than pitied, and it changed our   whole perspective on the place. They didn’t feel sorry for themselves, so why   should we feel sorry for them? We decided that the   films should celebrate their resourcefulness, and challenge our   audience’s views of what poverty is.

After the dump we   went to Makoko,   an extraordinary floating slum, where everyone travels round in boats. Some   people call it Lagos’s version of Venice.

There’s 100,000   people living on houses built on stilts, and after a week or so of drifting   around in boats, stopping at people’s houses and talking to them, we stumbled   across Mr Chubbey, who went on to become the star of programme   two.

He has 18 children   to look after, and is always on the look out for some scheme or another which   will help him make more money. He’s like a character from Only Fools And Horses, buying selling,   wheeling and dealing, doing dodgy deals and getting by on his charm and his   luck. All that’s missing is the camel skin coat.

The last film is set   on a beach right in the heart of the swankiest part of town. It sounds   idyllic – white sands, clear blue Atlantic waters, baking hot sunny days –   and in many ways it is.

But it is also home   to 1,000 or so squatters, who have built homes on the sand because they have   nowhere else to go. After a couple of trips, walking along the sands,   explaining what we were doing to the inquisitive children, we met Esther, a   sparky, intelligent, beautiful young woman who had been staying on the beach   for the last six years.

She lived with her   husband Segun in a little house which they had built themselves out of scrap   wood, cardboard and old tarpaulins. It probably cost them about £80.

But when Esther and   her husband started to have problems in their marriage, and it looked like   they were going to split up, they used to have terrible arguments about who   was going to get the house – every bit as vicious as they would be if they   were living in a mansion in Beverley Hills.

We realised then   that all our characters, wherever they lived, however extreme their working   environment, went through all of the same things which we do in the West –   love, heartbreak, marriages, births, deaths etc. It’s just that they live on   a different scale to us, in the slums of the fastest growing city in the   world, and with no money. This forces them to be more resourceful, energetic,   and optimistic than most people in the West.

And yes, they may be   terribly poor, but that doesn’t stop them being human and, if the films have   succeeded, then I hope they’ve succeeded in showing that.

Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sHKLIpz9F5c

Links to other resources Watts,   M. (ed) (2008) Curse of the black gold: 50 years of   oil in the Niger Delta. New York: Powerhouse.

 

The Curse of Black Gold film

Ancient Khoisan (San) Tribe

 

Title Ancient Khoisan (San) Tribe
Director(s) Rehad Desai
Date released (year) 2012
Production company InternalizedConflict
Length 64mins
Location South Africa
Keywords/tags Land and people
Link to film http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p1NamQj-E9I
Synopsis Independent Documentary “Bushman’s Secret” By   Rehad Desai.

Rehad Desai travels to the Kalahari to investigate global interest in ancient   Bushmen knowledge, he meets Jan van der Westhuizen, a fascinating Khomani San   traditional healer. Jan’s struggle to live close to nature is hampered by   centuries of colonial exploitation of the San Bushmen and of their land.   Unable to survive as they once did hunting and gathering, the Khomani now   live in a state of poverty that threatens to see the last of this community   forever.

One plant could make all the difference. Hoodia, a cactus used by Bushmen for   centuries, has caught the attention of a giant pharmaceutical company. It now   stands to decide the fate of the Khomani San.

Bushman’s Secret features breathtaking footage of the Kalahari landscape, and   exposes us to a world where modernity collides with ancient ways, at a time   when each has, strangely, come to rely on the other.

Evicted from their ancestral lands, forced to abandon their native languages,   and left to fend for themselves in a state of brutal poverty on the fringes of   South African society, the Bushmen now face further exploitation, since the   hoodia cactus (a source of food and medicinal healing) is being taken from   their remaining lands by the conglomerate Unilever for use as a dubious   weight loss product (ironically, Unilever also claims to be the “world’s   largest ice cream manufacturer,” surely a contributing factor to   obesity). Despite an agreement signed with the South African government for   profits from the harvesting of hoodia, the Bushmen have yet to enjoy any financial   returns. Bushman’s Secret serves up a shameful indictment of contemporary   South African government, which would sooner kowtow to multinational   corporate demands than provide basic services for its own people. Highly   recommended.

Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p1NamQj-E9I

Reviews/discussion Oppression of Khoikhoi

 

                                                                                                             

The hunger for land is a central   theme of southern African history from the 17th century onwards. It generated   conflict, sparked off wars and displaced hundreds of thousands of people.

Expansion

 

The first Europeans in southern   Africa confined themselves at first to the western part of the region,   centring their activities on the Cape of Good Hope. Here the Dutch East India   Company was established in 1652. Gradually the Dutch colony expanded north   and east, displacing, in the first instance, the oldest known inhabitants of   this region, the Khoikhoi (referred to by the Dutch as ‘hottentots’).

Tradition denied

 

The Khoikhoi were part of a larger   group called the Khoisan, spread across southern Africa, sharing much of the   same language. The San branch were hunter gatherers; the Khoikhoi were   herdsmen. As a whole, the Khoisan needed large amounts of land in order to   hunt and graze their cattle. The Dutch refused to recognise their traditional   grazing and hunting rights.

Defeat

 

Not wide enough for both of us

“They objected that there was     not enough grass for both their cattle and ours. ‘Are we not right     therefore to prevent you from getting any more cattle? For, if you get many     cattle, you come and occupy our pasture with them, and then say the land is     not wide enough for us both! Who then, with the greatest degree of justice     should give way, the natural owners, or the foreign invader?‘” – Jan van Riebeek     describing the Khoikhoi objections to the Dutch invasion of their pastures,     quoted by Kevin Shillington in History of Africa.

The Dutch both stole and bought   cattle off the Khoikhoi. In 1659, the Khoikhoi fought the Dutch over grazing   land south of able Bay and lost. Soon the Khoikhoi way of life disintegrated.

The Dutch, who came to be known as Afrikaners (as well as Boers, which means   farmers) started to expand their activities. They cultivated land and hunted   across large distances. Subsequently, they acquired the title of Trekboers,   when they embarked on long journeys or treks to get away from British   officialdom in the Cape Colony.

Subjugation

 

The Khoikhoi   often ended up as slaves, either working in the Cape Colony, or as farm   labourers for the Dutch. The final blow came to them in 1713 when they fell   victim to a small pox epidemic brought on a Dutch ship. The descendants of   the Khoikhoi and San can be found in the deserts of Botswana and Namibia   today.

Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/specials/1624_story_of_africa/page23.shtml

Links to other resources http://khoisan.org

 

Nancy J. Jacobs (2003) Environment,   Power, and Injustice: A South African History, Cambridge university Press.

We Say No to Fracking – Voices from the Karoo

Title We Say No to   Fracking – Voices from the Karoo
Director(s) Liane Greeff
Date released (year) 2012
Production company EcoDoc Africa
Length 10.36mins
Location South Africa
Keywords/tags Education, environmentalism, fracking,   protest
Link to film http://youtu.be/JZ6cOlTrLN4
Synopsis Saturday 28 July 2012 saw a   gathering of communities, environmentalists, scientists, children, bikers   etc. in Nieu-Bethesda to raise awareness that the people of South Africa are   saying NO to fracking. The Rally was organised locally by Mikey Wentworth   with support from Climate Justice Campaign and Earthlife Africa Cape Town.

This video was filmed and edited by Liane Greeff of EcoDoc Africa, and   produced for EJOLT-CCS. EJOLT is a large collaborative project bringing   science and society together to catalogue ecological distribution conflicts   and to work towards confronting environmental injustice. EcoDoc Africa is   taking the camera to the conflicts and building and sharing a video archive   of people’s protests against ecocide on earth.

Source: http://youtu.be/JZ6cOlTrLN4

Reviews/discussion What is Fracking?

Hydraulic fracturing is the propagation of fractures in a rock layer by a pressurized fluid. Some hydraulic fractures form naturally—certain veins or dikes are examples—and can create conduits along which gas and petroleum from source rocks may migrate to reservoir rocks. Induced hydraulic fracturing or hydrofracturing, commonly known as fracing, fraccing, or fracking, is a technique used to release petroleum, natural gas (including shale gas, tight gas, and coal seam gas), or other substances for extraction.[1] This type of fracturing creates fractures from a wellbore drilled into reservoir rock formations.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydraulic_fracturing

A Pro-fracking argument:

Fracking it in South Africa: an argument for shale gas production in the Karoo – By John Schellhase, November 15, 2012

South Africa is in the midst of a heated energy debate. Africa’s wealthiest nation sits on top of one of the world’s largest shale gas reserves. While the government has lifted its moratorium on shale gas exploration, the controversial hydraulic fracturing technique, ‘fracking’, is still restricted as the country weighs environmental risks against opportunities for economic development. Given the clear economic opportunities and the chance to diversify away from coal, government officials should continue their deliberate, but steady progress toward completely removing the ban on fracking in South Africa.

In a study of 32 countries, the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) found that South Africa has the 5th largest reserves of potentially recoverable shale gas. At 485 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, the shale reserves in South Africa surpass those of Australia, Brazil, Canada, and Poland, where Prime Minister Donald Tusk has called natural gas his country’s “great chance,” according to the Wall Street Journal.

Fracking is a controversial technique. In order to extract gas from shale formations, energy companies drill thousands of meters below ground, then drill horizontally into a shale formation. The rig operators pump water and a mixture of chemicals into the shale at high pressures, fracturing rock formations and allowing gas to flow. Fracking opponents worry that the chemicals involved in the process will contaminate water supplies, threatening both human communities and natural ecosystems. Proponents, such as Ben Grumbles, president of the non-for-profit Clean Water America Alliance, disagree. Grumbles has written, “Hydraulic fracturing can be ‘safe’ when done in the right place, on the right scale, with the right safeguards.”

Royal Dutch Shell, Falcon Oil, Sunset Energy, Sasol Oil, and Bundu Oil and Gas are all eager to explore South Africa’s shale basin in the semi-arid Karoo region, which stretches between Capetown and Johannesburg. This area has the lowest population density in the country. But with over 6,000 plant species, 40 percent of which are unique to the area, the Karoo is rich in biodiversity. In February 2011, Susan Shabangu, the Minister of Mineral Resources, instituted a nation-wide ban on shale gas exploration, citing environmental concerns.

Pressure from both sides of the issue has only grown louder since Shabangu’s announcement. In March of this year, Treasure the Karoo Action Group, an organization fighting shale exploration, declared, “In the event that Minister Shabangu issues exploration licenses under the current status quo, we will look to the courts for protection.” In May, Energy Minister Dipuo Peters, according to local media reports, called the gas beneath the Karoo a “blessing that God gives us,” adding, “and we need to exploit it for the benefit of the people.”

Since September, the government has been sending mixed messages. At first, Collins Chabane, a minister in the President’s office, announced that the moratorium was entirely lifted, but less than two weeks later, Shabangu corrected the record, explaining that the moratorium has only been lifted for “normal exploration” and that fracking remains off-limits. In a speech to parliament, she said, “Hydraulic fracturing – when and if it eventually happens – will be authorized under the strict supervision of the monitoring committee.” President Jacob Zuma has stayed out of the fray. When contacted for comment on this piece, for example, his office redirected the query to the Ministry of Mining.

Currently, coal dominates South Africa’s energy landscape, accounting for over 90 percent of electricity production. With proved reserves of 300 billion tons, coal provides the cheap energy South Africa needs to sustain its rapid economic rise. Those reserves can keep the country powered for the next century, but concerns about climate change are driving policymakers to seek alternatives. In this context, natural gas, which cuts greenhouse gas emissions in half compared to coal, has become increasingly attractive.

Ichumile Gqada, a researcher at the respected South Africa Institute of International Affairs, believes shale gas exploration in the Karoo should go forward. In an email, she wrote, “Ignoring the massive potential of the resource that might be in place in the Karoo by ‘leaving the resource in the ground,’ as some have suggested, would be unjustifiable in my eyes.”

The upside potential of exploration is powerfully attractive. A report released in September by the Department of Mineral Resources described the economic potential of fracking in the Karoo. In a “moderately optimistic” case, the authors estimate that if 30 trillion cubic feet, out of the estimated 485 trillion cubic feet, could be produced the financial windfall would be 1 trillion rand; in other words, a mere 6 percent of potential reserve is worth US $115 billion. The government report also cites PetroSA’s Mossel Bay project, where the production of just 1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas led to the creation of over 1,500 jobs.

As incomes in South Africa continue to rise and energy demands increase, the economic logic of shale gas extraction may become irresistible. Local environmental groups such as Treasure the Karoo and international NGOs such as Greenpeace and World Wildlife Fund should transform their message from stopping fracking at any cost to ensuring the highest health and environmental standards possible. Instead of protesting from the periphery, they should work to embed their members on advisory boards and oversight panels. By working with extractive industries instead of against them, civil society groups will have far more influence in shaping the future of fracking in South Africa.

For its part, the government must continue to ensure that environmental concerns guide future exploration. Working with industry and civil society, ministers must have clear, forceful regulations in place to guarantee the strictest consequences if energy companies cause environmental harm. It is also time that President Zuma makes an extended public statement on the issue.

Shale gas exploration has the potential to drive the next wave of economic growth in South Africa, reducing poverty and creating tens of thousands of jobs over the next decade. While the government must maintain the highest environmental standards for companies wishing to extract shale gas in the Karoo, it has an economic obligation to steadily open shale gas to further development, including fracking. It is time for South Africa’s government to lead the country to a more secure energy future.

John Schellhase is a graduate student at the Center for Global Affairs, New York University.

Source: http://africanarguments.org/2012/11/15/fracking-it-in-south-africa-an-argument-for-shale-gas-production-in-the-karoo-by-john-schellhase/

 

Anti-fracking argument:

Fracking cancer risk, September 20 2012
By Tony Carnie – environment reporter

KwaZulu-Natal – SA’s top water research body has warned the government to think carefully about the serious risk of water pollution from cancer-causing chemicals and radioactive compounds from future underground “fracking” operations across huge swathes of the country.

A new report by the state-funded Water Research Commission says shale gas rock-fracturing (fracking) will not only happen in remote sections of the Karoo. In fact, the government had already issued fracking exploration permits in six of the nine provinces, including a massive chunk of southern KwaZulu-Natal stretching almost as far north as Pietermaritzburg.

The scientists note that future fracking, at depths 4km below the earth’s surface, could be over a much wider area of the country – including most of the high-lying areas south of latitude 29°C in KZN (a line which starts at Mtunzini in the east and stretches inland past Estcourt towards Bloemfontein and Kimberley).

The report also identifies a number of risks to human health, water and the natural environment from fracking wells. These risks included:

– Widespread pollution of groundwater, rivers and lakes with dozens of cancer-causing fracking compounds and other “highly toxic” pollutants such as benzene, hydrochloric acid and isopropanol.

– Accidental release of underground uranium and other radioactive elements into the water and soil.

– Underground mini-earthquakes, cave-ins and land subsidence.

– Privatisation of parks and other state land where the public is excluded from fracking land and gas fields for safety reasons.

– Above-ground air pollution from methane and other shale gas wells.

– Lower property values.

However, water pollution is the main emphasis of the 84-page Water Research Commission report by Gideon Steyl (University of the Free State chemistry department), Gerrit van Tonder (University of the Free State Institute for Groundwater Studies) and Luc Chevallier (Council for Geoscience).

The scientists note that gas-drilling companies in the US have been trying to hide the toxic nature of many fracking chemicals.

However, the commission cites a report from the US House of Representatives last year which identified at least 29 commonly used fracking chemicals that were known or probable cancer-causing agents, or were regulated as hazardous to drinking water and air.

These chemicals are mixed with water and pumped underground at very high pressure to fracture and crack the rock formations to release buried pockets of methane and other gas formed millions of years ago from rotting mounds of mud, vegetation, algae and other organic matter.

Some chemicals included benzene (a known cancer-causing chemical) along with a variety of acids and petroleum products.

A study by the University of Buffalo in the US last year also raised concern about the possible release of underground uranium and other radioactive compounds when rocks are cracked up with hydrochloric acid.

Another US study published last year showed that the methane gas level in underground drinking water was generally 17 times higher in fracking areas compared with well water where no fracking took place.

However, Steyl and his colleagues voiced dismay over the difficulty in tracking down truly unbiased international studies on the impacts of fracking, since most were done by industry and private interests.

Even official US government reports claiming no damage to public health or the environment stood in contradiction to numerous adverse reports by US citizens and the US Environmental Protection Agency.

The commission researchers note that a single fracking event in a single well used the same amount of water needed to irrigate eight to 10ha of maize during a growing season.

Every time a well was fracked, large volumes of chemicals were added to the water-pressure mixture. Although chemicals only made up between 0.5 and 2 percent of the mixture, the volume of hazardous chemicals in a single fracking event could total between 34 000 and 136 000 litres.

Even if just 1 percent of dangerous fracking chemicals leaked out of the concrete well drillings during a single fracking, Steyl estimated that 490 litres of hazardous chemicals could contaminate underground water. This could pose “serious hazards” to the environment and to underground water drunk by people and livestock.

Despite these concerns, the scientists appear to recognise that fracking is a fait accompli and they have listed a set of 10 recommendations to limit harm. They include compulsory “full disclosure” of every chemical used. Any fracking well should be at least 10km away from residential areas to reduce chemical exposure risks.

All drilling records should be freely available to the public, and a thorough baseline study should be done to measure pre-fracking quality of water, soil and air by an “unbiased” body such as a university.

Legal action should also be taken against any drilling company after a first offence. They should be forced to clean up damage, and be banned from future fracking in SA. However, even in the US, there were fewer than 10 inspectors to monitor more than 3 500 fracking wells in Pennsylvania. – The Mercury

Source: http://www.iol.co.za/news/south-africa/kwazulu-natal/fracking-cancer-risk-1.1387127

 

Fracking facts

An introduction to fracking in South Africa
The moratorium on fracking in South Africa, endorsed by Cabinet in April 2011 and extended by six more months in August 2011, has been lifted on the 7th of September 2012, following the recommendations of the task team report. The report is available here: www.dmr.gov.za

The report also suggested that exploration proceed without allowing for horizontal drilling or hydraulic fracturing, while laws are amended and a monitoring committee is established. Due to the fatal flaws in the applicants’ EMP’s and other considerations, TKAG will be opposing any licences that may be granted in the near future by legal means.

High Volume, Slickwater, Horizontal hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”/”fraccing”, is the controversial technology used for the extraction of unconventional gas, such as shale gas. The technique involves a vertical well that is drilled to a depth of between 2000 m and 6000 m, after which the drilling bore turns to drill horizontally for a few thousand meters. A mixture of 99%-99.5% water and sand, along with 0.5% – 1% chemicals are pumped under high pressure into the well. This process fractures the shale rock layer, releasing the gas trapped between rock particles.

Source: http://www.treasurethekaroo.co.za/fracking-facts

 

Links to other resources www.ejolt.org

www.ecodocafrica.co.za

Hold De Beers Accountable

 


Title Hold De Beers Accountable
Director(s) African Renaissance
Date released   (year) 2011
Production   company African Renaissance
Length 3   MINS
Location Cape,   South Africa
Keywords/tags Mining, community, natural resources, diamonds
Link to film http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8s6dURw_wTU
Synopsis Short   advocacy film documenting community issues in the Western Cape, around the   impacts of diamond mining undertaken by De Beers.
Reviews/discussion “Halt the sale of De   Beers operations until they fix our area”, says Cape West Coast   community.

The imminent sale of De Beers’ diamond mining operations on the Cape West   Coast must be halted until full disclosure and proper consultation with all   affected parties has taken place, says the community of Hondeklipbaai.

The department of Mineral Resources (DMR) is expected to make a decision on   the approval of the amended environmental management programme, and the   transfer of mining rights to Tranx Hex, within weeks. The community launched   an awareness campaign this week, to urge DMR to postpone their decision.

Speaking at a media briefing in Cape Town, Hondeklipbaai community leader   David Markus said the sale cannot be allowed to continue until they were   assured that the companies would honour their obligations to rehabilitate the   area.

“We make an urgent call on the DMR to hold these companies to account   and to not forget the communities that are directly affected. Too often big   mining companies exploit the country’s natural resources without undoing the   damage they cause”, said Markus.

He was speaking at the launch of two documentary videos in which the direct   damage to the Hondeklipbaai area can be seen. The community is on the West   Coast of South Africa, approximately 300 kms outside Cape Town.

Markus was supported by the Bench Mark Foundation at the briefing. Bench Mark   Foundation earlier this year asked De Beers Consolidated Mines to make   substantial revisions to the Environmental Management Programme Report which   will become the only legal tool to prevent a lasting negative legacy from   diamond mining in Namaqualand.

“The area in Hondeklipbaai is rich in biodiversity, with some species of   plants and animals that are not see anywhere else in the world.

“This area must be protected and conserved, and we’re not convinced that   the current plans will not leave the area exposed to more risks. Their budget   for this kind of repair work is wholly inadequate, and it is the people of   Hondeklipbaai that will end up paying for it, for generations to come,”   said Markus.

Source:   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8s6dURw_wTU

From Andreas Spath, October 14, 2011:

‘For   many people, diamonds have lost much of their sparkle in recent years. The   knowledge that so-called blood or conflict diamonds have been used to finance   some of Africa’s most murderous wars and civil conflicts has made it   difficult to look at the gems as objects of beauty with which to decorate our   bodies.

The   appalling working conditions and human rights abuses associated with some   diamond mining operations don’t make matters any easier either. But even in   situations where diamonds are mined legally by internationally respected,   supposedly law-abiding companies, the impact on local communities and the   environment can be devastating. De Beers’ Namaqualand Mines on the West   Coast of South Africa’s Northern Cape Province are a good example of this.

De   Beers started mining diamonds in this area in 1927. Gem quality stones are   found here in “alluvial” and “placer” deposits — former gravel beaches and   stream channels where the diamonds were dropped by rivers that scoured them   from kimberlite pipes located hundreds of kilometers inland and carried them   towards the sea millennia ago.

By the   end of the 20th century, De Beers had extracted some 31 million carats of   diamonds from its Namaqualand Mines located along a 150 kilometer stretch of   coastline by strip mining parts of the land to a depth of about 40 meters.   With profitability falling and the downturn of the global economy, operations   were suspended in 2010 and in May of this year De Beers announced the sale of   the mines to a much smaller local diamond mining company called Trans Hex.

Clearly   De Beers has made a lot of money during their more than 80 years of   excavating diamonds here, but the legacy they have left for local communities   is one of crushing poverty and a devastated landscape. In this short video   clip from Green Renaissance, Dawid Markus, a community   leader in the small town of Hondeklipbaai, outlines their struggles:

  Geographically isolated, Hondeklipbaai has around   1,000 inhabitants and a crippling unemployment rate of 80%. In the past, many   families relied very heavily on work at the mines, but nowadays there are   precious few job opportunities of any kind left.

The   community has lodged an official claim for the land on which the mines were   established, which they consider to be their ancestral heritage. They’ve   objected to the sale of the mines, saying there can be no question of   transferring ownership when there is an existing dispute over whose land it   is in the first place.

De   Beers’ operations have left the land in an appalling condition. Mining   activities have left an area the size of approximately 2,000 football fields   disturbed and un-rehabilitated. Although this region is very arid, it forms   part of the Succulent Karoo Biodiversity Hotspot, one of 42 areas that are   internationally recognized for their rich variety in flora and fauna.

This is   a very special and fragile habitat that is home to a large number of endemic   plant species which occur nowhere else on the planet and 45 of which are   threatened with extinction as a result of the mining. It is also the site of   one of the world’s largest arid estuarine systems.

Under   South African law, once a mine is closed down, companies are obliged to   provide the financial and other resources to ensure that disturbed areas are   returned to a state that is equivalent to or better than it was before the   mining started. They are also required to contribute to the social security   and development of the communities they leave behind once they close shop,   ensuring that alternative land uses are found and employment opportunities   are created.

Local   inhabitants like Dawid Markus, together with labor unions and environmental   organizations like Conservation South Africa, the Bench Marks Foundation and the Centre for Environmental   Rights have raised grave concerns that De Beers is attempting to avoid   these legal obligations by selling off the mines to Trans Hex. They question   Trans Hex’s financial and technical capacity to fulfill these obligations and   point out that Trans Hex has a very poor record when it comes to   environmental rehabilitation of their existing mines in the area.

It’s   imperative that De Beers, a hugely profitable international corporation, is   held to account for the environmental damage it has wrought in this area and   that they return it to a sustainable ecological condition as is their   obligation by law.’

Read more: http://www.care2.com/causes/diamond-mining-leaves-people-and-land-devastated.html#ixzz2POVJwCaK

Links to   other resources Diamond Empire film: https://ejoltdocumentaries.wordpress.com/2013/03/31/the-diamond-empire/

 

Madihlaba, T. The Fox in the Henhouse: the environmental   impact of diamond mining on communities in South Africa. In McDonald, D.   (ed.) Environmental Justice in South Africa, University of Cape   Town Press, CT, pp.156-167

 

Diamond Mining and the Environment Factsheet: http://www.diamondfacts.org/pdfs/media/media_resources/fact_sheets/Diamond_Mining_Environment_Fact_Sheet.pdf

 

The Greener Diamond: http://thegreenerdiamond.org/pages/about-conflict-diamonds/impact-on-the-environment.php

Blood diamond” regulation system broken   – but where to look for blame? By Khadija Sharife and Nick Meynen, http://www.minesandcommunities.org/article.php?a=11968