Black Gold

 

Title Black Gold
Director(s) Marc & Nick Francis
Date released (year) 2006
Production company Speak-It   Films and Fulcrum Productions.
Length 78 minutes
Location Ethiopia
Keywords/tags Food, trade, neoliberalism, poverty
Link to film  

Synopsis From Tesfaye, B. &   Potter, J. (2011) Black gold: wake up and smell the coffee. followthethings.com   (www.followthethings.com/blackgold.shtml last accessed 6/4/13):

‘As westerners revel in   designer lattes and cappuccinos, impoverished Ethiopian coffee growers suffer   the bitter taste of injustice. In this eye-opening expose of the   multi-billion dollar industry, Black Gold traces one man’s fight for a fair   price (Source: Anon nda link).

The film follows Tadesse   Meskela, an Ethiopian man on a mission to save his 74,000 struggling coffee   farmers from bankruptcy. As his farmers strive to harvest some of the highest   quality coffee beans on the international market, Tadesse travels the world   in an attempt to find buyers willing to pay a fair price. Against the   backdrop of Tadesse’s journey to London and Seattle, the enormous power of   the multinational players that dominate the world’s coffee trade becomes   apparent. New York commodity traders, the international coffee exchanges, and   the double dealings of trade ministers at the World Trade Organisation reveal   the many challenges Tadesse faces in his quest for a long term solution for   his farmers (Source: Anon 2010).

Scenes in the film switch   between the disadvantaged coffee farming communities to the daily lives of   those at the luxury to consume it, which often exemplifies the absurdity   found in those gushing about the great wealth of a market built off the backs   of farmers who continue to live in poverty (Source: Reed 2008).

The spokesman, Tadesse   Meskela, who is the subject of Black Gold, together with the film’s English   makers, brothers Nick and Marc Francis, are a serious irritant to some of the   world’s coffee giants – in particular Seattle-based Starbucks, whose annual   turnover of $7.8bn (£4bn) is not much lower than Ethiopia’s entire gross   domestic product… ‘Our people are barefoot, have no school, no clean water or   health centre. They are living hand to mouth. We need $4 a pound minimum,   that’s only fair…Starbucks may help bring clear water for one community but   this does not solve the problem. In 2005, Starbucks’ aid to the third world   was $1.5m. We don’t want this kind of support, we just want a better price.   They make huge profits; giving us just one payment of money does not help,’   said Mr. Meskela (Source: Seager 2007 link).

By way of the farmers in the   cooperative and Tadesse’s efforts on their behalf, the film exposes the web   of trade regulations that keep farmers in developing countries poor, even   while transnational corporations in the global north prosper. Women   painstakingly sort millions of beans; and viewers observe the hunger and   substandard housing that accompany poverty. Juxtaposed with these images are   the cosmopolitan cafés of Europe and America, the comfort of conspicuous   consumption, the places of commerce where deprivation in one part of the   globe is turned into the wealth of another (Source: Fellner 2008 link).’

Source: http://www.followthethings.com/blackgold.shtml

Reviews/discussion From Tesfaye, B. &   Potter, J. (2011) Black gold: wake up and smell the coffee. followthethings.com   (www.followthethings.com/blackgold.shtml last accessed 6/4/13):

‘When Marc and Nick Francis   were making Black Gold, they never expected the story – about the plight of   African coffee farmers paid a fraction of the amount a latte or cappuccino   costs – to attract the very multinationals the film criticises. ‘They want to   hear what the audience thinks,’ Nick Francis says. ‘We had this screening in   Seattle, and the head of corporate responsibility of Starbucks came to the   screening and participated in a panel and answered questions from the   audience. That’s what you call the power of film – how a film could draw in   people.’ … The film has prompted rounds of crisis management sessions at   coffee-shop chains such as Starbucks, which issued a statement calling the   film inaccurate and incomplete. Since the film’s release, the chain has also   actively promoted a new range of ‘Fair Trade’ coffee in its outlets around   the world, including those in Hong Kong. The filmmakers are surprised by the   chain’s response to their film. ‘It’s not a film about Starbucks, it’s a film   about coffee farmers struggling to survive in the coffee industry, and their   story is set against the backdrop of the coffee-consuming world of the west,   of which Starbucks is a part,’ Marc Francis says. ‘We didn’t tell it so much   about them but they’ve taken it very personally. Also, we did spend six   months trying to interview not just Starbucks but other big multinational   coffee companies to bring their side of the stories to the film. But they’ve   given us no response. Now that the film is out there and is beginning to pick   up public momentum, the companies are responding more and more to the film –   or trying to show [through] public relations where they position themselves’   (Source: Tsui 2007a).

’Black Gold’ portrays the   coffee industry as a whole, rather than Starbucks specifically. From our   point of view, this film is inaccurate and incomplete, as it does not explain   how Starbucks purchases coffee, nor does it provide any reference to   potential solutions to the world coffee crisis… Starbucks takes an integrated   approach to coffee purchasing. Our goal is to pay premium prices that provide   the coffee farmer with a profit. In our financial year 2006, we paid an   average price of $1.42 per pound for our coffee, 40% above the commodity   price and comparable with the guaranteed Fairtrade price of $1.26. Our   approach… [has] been recognised for…leadership within the industry (Source:   Starbucks 2007).

We are surprised that   Starbucks have gone out to discredit the film again. This is not a film   specifically about Starbucks, it’s a film about the winners and losers in the   global coffee industry and it shows the daily reality for millions of coffee   farmers. We spent six months during the production trying to persuade   Starbucks to participate in the film to give them the opportunity to explain   how they buy their coffee and how they work in Ethiopia, but they declined   our invitation. In a subsequent meeting with five senior Starbucks executives   at their Seattle headquarters, we asked them to tell us the exact price they   pay farmers for a pound of coffee – but they refused to disclose this   (Source: Francis & Francis 2007 link).

During the film’s most   painful sequence, his [Tadesse’s] efforts and Ethiopia’s persistent, crushing   famine are juxtaposed with the vapidly cheerful corp-speak of two Starbucks   baristas (Source: Hornaday 2006).

Yes, the baristas are   excessively perky as they purvey coffee and the Starbucks experience; yet   they are also model employees, supportive of each other, efficient, and proud   of their company. At the time of the filming, the young women were   entertaining a tour from the Specialty Coffee Association, to which the   filmmakers had attached themselves to avoid asking Starbucks or its employees   for permission to film. How could these young women know that they would be   featured as unwitting symbols of the harm that transnational coffee giants   inflict on poor Ethiopian farmers? (Source: Fellner 2008 link).

The Francis brothers are   good on showing the situation’s local effects – famine, ill-equipped schools   – but less so at analyzing the international economic context: the film is   frighteningly free of expert voices. More dynamism and knowledge in the   telling and fewer cheap shots at young Starbucks workers in Seattle wouldn’t   have gone amiss (Source: Calhoun 2007, np).

The baristas and shopkeepers   that the film ridicules through artful editing are the very people who are   the farmers’ best hope for teaching the public about the true value of these   coffees (Source: Marshall 2006 link).

While it may prompt some to   think again next time they’re in Starbucks, this astute insight into the   coffee business is better at lauding the good guys than taking the   multinationals to task for the iniquities of the global economy (Source:   Parkinson 2006 link).

Although some scenes   register with strong impact, there also seems to be a lot of padding, and the   overall narrative is ultimately too diffused and unfocused for the film to   have the sociological impact it so obviously desires (Source: Scheck 2006).

Compared to a documentary   like Darwin’s Nightmare, which found disturbing visual analogues for the   moral rot of global trade, Black Gold makes most of its points in words, not   pictures. (Source: Murray 2006 link)

The movie’s approach reminds   me that of the paternalistic and Western-centred [sic] 1970s-style theories   according to which only colonialism and international market (i.e. ‘us’ the   Western world) are to blame, and no others’ power and responsibilities are   recognised. Likewise, there is no mention in the movie of the roles that the   Ethiopian State could play in economic development and, for instance,   education (Source: Chiari 2007 link).

[I] found it confusing to   people outside the coffee field, partial, and intellectually not particularly   honest…In my opinion, the film completely overlooks factors such as   historical events (the Mengistu dictatorship which ruined plantations and the   coffee free flow), inept procedures such as the bureaucracy surrounding the   auctions system which hardly allows enough time for buyers to evaluate the   lots), and also the ever present corruption, probably less in Ethiopia than   in other parts of Africa, but then why generalize in the end with statements   about Africa’s share of world trade? (Source: cofyknsult 2006 link).’

Further Reading

Anon (nda) The DVD.   blackgoldmovie.com (www.blackgoldmovie.com/dvd.php   last accessed 7 March 2011)

Anon (ndb) Black Gold: wake   up and smell the coffee. maketradefair.com (www.maketradefair.com/en/index.php?file=blackgoldmovie_main.html&cat=5&subcat=1&select=1   last accessed j March 2011)

Anon (ndc) Black Gold:   sowing the seeds for change. maketradefair.com (www.maketradefair.com/en/index.php?file=blackgoldmovie_main.html&cat=5&subcat=1&select=1   last accessed 7 March 2011)

Anon (2007) Ethiopia: smell   the exploitation. Africa News 25 December

Anon (2008a) Trademarking:   grown in Ethiopia. Marketing Week April 24, p.16

Anon (2008b) Ethiopia: Black   Gold premiere.   Africa News 24 March

Anon (2010) Mayor will take   to stage at screening to receive town’s award. Todmorden News (UK) 4   March

Calhoun, D. (2007) Black   Gold: movie review. Time Out New York 6 June (www.timeout.com/film/newyork/reviews/83812/Black_Gold.html   last accessed 7 March 2011)

Chiari, G.P. (2007) Black   Gold forums: about the movie’s paternalistic approach. blackgoldmovie.com   8 December (http://blackgoldmovie.com/forum/index.php?action=vthread&forum=1&topic=279   last accessed 7 March 2011)

cofyknsult (2006) Black Gold   forums: the film completely overlooks key factors. blackgoldmovie.com   24 October (http://blackgoldmovie.com/forum/index.php?action=vthread&forum=1&topic=65   last accessed 7 March 2011)

Cycon, D. (2007) Javatrekker:   dispatches from the world of fair trade coffee. White River   Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing

Doane, M. (2010)   Relationship coffees. Structure and agency in the fair trade system. in Lyon,   S. and Moberg, M. (eds) Fair trade and social justice: global ethnographies. New   York: New York University Press

Fellner, K. (2008) Starbucks   vs Ethiopia.   Foreign Policy in Focus 15 September (www.fpif.org/articles/starbucks_v_ethiopia   last accessed 7 March 2011)

Francis, M. & Francis,   N. (nda) Black Gold: filmmaker Q&A. PBS Independent Lens (www.pbs.org/independentlens/blackgold/qa.html   last accessed 7 March 2011)

Francis, M. & Francis,   N. (ndb) Directors’ statement. blackgoldmovie.com (www.blackgoldmovie.com/directors.php   last accessed 7 March 2011)

Francis, M. & Francis,   N. (2006) Black Gold – Fair Trade, Sundance, and Starbucks’ ‘Charm Offensive’   in Park City.   Huffington Post 2 February (www.huffingtonpost.com/marc-and-nick-francis/black-gold-fair-trade-sun_b_15036.html   last accessed 7 March 2011)

Francis, M. & Francis,   N. (2007) Starbucks issue press statement about Black Gold: filmmakers   respond. blackgoldmovie.com   16 January (www.blackgoldmovie.com/blog.php/?p=43   last accessed 7 March 2011)

Hornaday, A. (2006) A spike   in supply chain muckraking: films explore economy’s social costs. Washington   Post 10 December

Marshall (2006) Black Gold   forums: guilt & ridicule. blackgoldmovie.com 25 November (http://blackgoldmovie.com/forum/index.php?action=vthread&forum=1&topic=85   last accessed 7 March 2011)

Murray, N. (2006) Review of   Black Gold. The   Onion A.V. Club 5 October (www.avclub.com/articles/black-gold,3766/   last accessed 7 March 2011)

Parkinson, D. (2007) Review   of Black Gold. Empire (www.empireonline.com/reviews/ReviewComplete.asp?FID=135039   last accessed 7 March 2011)

Reed, N. (2008) Wal-mart   executives discuss future of ‘Black Gold’ at U. Arkansas. University Wire   (USA) 7 April

Scheck, F. (2006) Review of   Black Gold. Hollywood   Reporter 11 October

Seager, A (2007) Starbucks   stirred by fair trade film. The Guardian (UK) 29 January (www.guardian.co.uk/business/2007/jan/29/development.filmnews   last accessed 7 March 2011)

Starbucks (2007) Starbucks   statement on Black Gold film. Business and Human Rights Resource Centre [download]

Tsui, C. (2007a) Film raises   hackles in the coffee shops of power. South China Morning Post 3 April, p.4

Tsui, C. (2007b) Using the   plot.   South China Morning Post 26 March, p.5

Source: From Tesfaye, B.   & Potter, J. (2011) Black gold: wake up and smell the coffee. followthethings.com   (www.followthethings.com/blackgold.shtml last accessed 6/4/13)

Links to other resources Oromia Coffee Union: Farmers cooperative union website (www.oromiacoffeeunion.org/ under   construction 12 March 2011)

New Internationalist shop: Oromia Coffee Union products (www.newint.com.au/mobile/shop/oromia-coffee-union-p68.htm   last accessed 12 March 2011)

‘Black Gold’   pages on Oxfam’s ‘Make trade fair’ campaign website (www.maketradefair.com/en/index.php?file=blackgoldmovie_main.html&cat=5&subcat=1&select=1   last accessed 12 March 2011)

‘Black Gold’   Movie website (www.blackgoldmovie.com/ last   accessed 12 March 2011)

‘Black Gold’   YouTube channel (www.youtube.com/blackgoldmoviedotcom   last accessed 12 March 2011)

‘Black Gold’   pages on US PBS TV ‘Independent lens’ series website (www.pbs.org/independentlens/blackgold/index.html   last accessed 12 March 2011)

Starbucks’   ‘Corporate social responsibility’ webpage (http://gr.starbucks.com/en-US/_Social+Responsibility/   last accessed 12 March 2011)

The 4th Revolution: energy autonomy

Title The 4th Revolution: energy autonomy
Director(s) Carl A. Fechner
Date released (year) 2011
Production company Fechner Media
Length 8mins (trailer to full length feature film)
Location International
eywords/tags Energy, sustainability, technology
Link to film http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=15S-Pz3s3Rg
Synopsis We   know that we can do something.

Sun, wind, hydro and geothermal energy are natural sources accessible to   everyone all over the world without making any difference. And they are   renewable, free and available in the long run. Only the widespread knowledge   about the possibilities of renewable energy can ignite an international   movement and take the absolutely necessary energy transition. We need a   quickly enlightening medium that conveys this knowledge comprehensible and   compactly. This can be provided by a great documentary. We have made it.

Reviews/discussion a great, informative, realistic and well   done movie/documentary on the upcoming change/opportunity behind renewable   energies. the movie is entirely sponsored/funded by single individuals with   no support/influence of any governmental organization whatsoever. it covers a   broad spectrum of existing realities and sheds its light on future   perspectives: the transformation of currant energetic, ecologic and economic   crisis into a process of democratization and global solution. the movie   starts in los angeles with hermand scheer, expert of ren. energy, scientist,   author and alternative nobel price winner, pointing out critical words to the   current model of architecture…. >>

that is not   implementing minimally solar and renewable technology on its high-rise   buildings and general urban design. It further brings you to the innovative   -Nordic Folk Center- in Denmark, where clean renewable energy has been   introduced since 30 years successfully providing now a whole region with   sufficient energy coming from 100% renewable sources. The Center is today a   shining example for the world and many students from all over the world come   here to learn and expand their knowledge. Like Malinese Ibrahim Togola, here   for one year and now developing, with the support of its government,   renewable energy projects into the small rural communities of his country.   The Movie continues to Bangladesh with Muhammad Yunu (”The Banker of the   Poor” Nobel Price Winner for Micro-Credits) where woman co-operatives   started to educate their communities and families introducing solar panel in   their villages and gaining so major financial and individual independence   from the urban cities. Germany, China, The Amazons – the movie takes various   looks at individuals and protagonist as projects, debunking the myth that   ‘renewable energy’ is an unrealistic affair so often propagated by media and   high corporate ranks that are fearing the loss of power and money behind such   a much awaited and inevitable process.

 

Source: http://thenofrontiers.blogspot.com/2010/04/4th-revolution-energyautonomyorg.html

 

African renewables potential mapped

Bernard Appiah

1 March 2012 |

Some of the best potential   for solar power is in the Sahara belt

European Commission Joint   Research Centre

Tapping into Africa’s renewable   energy could transform living standards across the continent, according   to a report that has mapped the potential of renewables in the region.

The report aims to help   African governments set up renewable energy plans, and has called for the   urgent transfer of relevant knowledge to research and technology partners in   Africa.

“Only if much of the   research, prototyping, demonstration and large-scale deployment are done by   African people, one can accelerate the uptake of renewable energy,” says   the report, published by the European Commission Joint Research Centre (JRC)   last month (8 February).

Renewable energy has   particular relevance in remote and rural areas, where around 600 million   people live without electricity, and where renewables would be cheaper than   extending national grid services, the report says.

The authors used   geographical data to map out regions that could generate electricity from the   sun, wind, biomass and water. They then identified those regions where using   renewables might be cheaper than existing sources such as diesel or   electricity grids.

“We found good wind   energy potential in North Africa and good solar energy potential in Sub-Saharan Africa   and the Sahara belt,” said the report’s editor, Fabio Monforti-Ferrario.

The report says small   hydroelectric power plants would suit Equatorial Africa, where many people   live closer to river systems than to existing electricity grids.

Monforti-Ferrario added that   “biomass   is the ‘green gold’ of Central Africa”, but cautioned against its   widespread use on sustainability grounds.

Speaking more broadly, he   said Africa’s ability to tap the potential of renewables potential is   hampered by reliance on subsidised diesel fuel.

“It is the policy of   African countries to keep the cost of diesel low, even though [this policy]   is unsustainable. It makes the use of [alternatives like] photovoltaic   systems unattractive to consumers,” he said.

This view is backed by   Dieter Holm, honorary   board member of the International Solar Energy Society based in South Africa.   But he said the report had focused too heavily on petrol subsidies, and not   enough on the ability of renewable to create jobs.

Holm said that in Africa   photovoltaics and wind energy can create 62 and 12 jobs per gigawatt hour of   electricity produced respectively, compared to less than one job in the coal   industry for the same energy output.

“Political   decision-makers in Africa should be well-informed of the overall potential of   renewable energy sources in terms of electricity generation, job creation,   and environmental sustainability,” Holm told SciDev.Net.

 

Link   to full report      [3.16MB]

 

Source: http://www.scidev.net/en/climate-change-and-energy/renewable-energy/news/african-renewables-potential-mapped.html

Links to other resources  

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/

From the Mara Soil – a Film About Simple and Natural Solutions to Poverty, Hunger and Disease

 

Title From the Mara Soil – a Film About Simple and Natural Solutions to   Poverty, Hunger and Disease
Director(s) Steve Schrenzel
Date   released (year) 2011
Production   company Global   Resource Alliance
Length 39.33
Location Tanzania
Keywords/tags Global hunger,   natural resources
Link to film http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5AaYsZYz3VI
Synopsis What if global hunger, poverty and disease could be solved with resources   already at our disposal? From the Mara Soil transports you to a community in   rural Tanzania that is doing just that – solving humanity’s greatest   challenges with simple, natural and affordable solutions.

A small plot of sandy, dry land is being transformed into a nutrient-rich   food forest. Women are escaping the hazards of daily life by capturing the   energy of the sun. The community is discovering cures to deadly disease in   local plants and natural medicine. A local non-profit is tapping into clean,   pure water just below the bedrock….

This visually stunning film captures the daily pain and suffering caused by   poverty in Tanzania, and the creativity and courage of the Mara community in   finding practical solutions to their own problems.

Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5AaYsZYz3VI

Reviews/discussion Hilton Worldwide LightStay Sustainability Award &   Fund, 2012   Hilton Worldwide and Sundance Institute
Best Short Documentary Film, 2012 Peace on Earth Film Festival   Chicago, IL
Best Sustainable Practices Film, 2011 Green Screen Environmental Film   Festival Santa Monica, CA

GRA is an all-volunteer 501(c)(3) organization   dedicated to bringing hope, joy and abundance in the Mara Region of Tanzania.   By sharing ideas, volunteers and financial resources with local, community   based organizations we seek to promote natural, holistic and sustainable   solutions to the challenges of poverty, malnutrition and disease. The   inspiration and leadership for our work comes from the communities we serve.   We believe that empowering local communities to address pressing social,   economic and environmental challenges according to their own vision and their   own creative potential is the key to lasting solutions.

Source: http://www.globalresourcealliance.org/

 

Links to   other resources Dryland Permaculture with Bill   Mollison: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JmdCIqNG5BI

See Hope in a Changing Climate: http://www.open.edu/openlearn/whats-on/ou-on-the-bbc-hope-changing-climate

http://permacultureglobal.com

http://permaculturevisions.com

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