Alan Bannister

April 2016

It’s been a while since I put pen to paper, but I have not been idle but have watched the unfolding environmental news touch on a whole load of subjects – not just climate change, none of them entirely local.

Fracking rears its ugly head in many parts of the world, where oil companies are making landholders rich and the communities where they frack equally sick. South Africa is also behind the fracking curve but has kicked the community protests into touch by licencing pilot wells in the environmentally fragile Karoo. With the country’s well-known endemic corruption, people are wondering if bribery is not involved and or whether the unknown reserves of shale gas are available in economic quantities. Estimates vary.

Fracking has a bad name around the world, but when governments smell economic gain, the environmental concerns are overlooked. I’ll be following the progress with interest. One trusts that a proper risk assessment happens on possible water pollution and health issues.

The problem of illegal logging sits high in the news, associated with the degradation of soil and the loss of biodiversity and the removal of forest tracts that act as carbon sinks. A study has shown that newly grown rainforests can absorb 11 times more carbon than old forests www.bbc.com. Unfortunately, such logging is followed by agriculture, not regrowth. Would it be possible to employ farmers to manage the regrowth and solve the farmers’ economic need to feed and clothe his family? Forest and oceans provide the biggest carbon sinks. The former is manageable, the latter not.
Oceans represent one of Nature’s powerhouses. They control rainfall and winds, dictate climates and pour impressive scorn on the fragility of humankind. When we consider that oceans occupy approximately 72 percent of the planet’s surface, you can see what an opponent we face. For a graphic explanation of the ocean’s conveyor belt look at www.education.nationalgeographic.org.

At the ‘ higher’ level – the atmosphere, we accumulate even more greenhouse gases, which will take centuries to disappear.  Even if we stop producing greenhouse gases, the gases have accumulated from the start of the industrial era, so we do not have a choice but to reduce our gases or face a very different earth we will pass on to our children and grandchildren. This ever-increasing risk is overlooked by many. Most people believe we can turn the effect of these gases off and on at will. That’s like assuming you can turn an oil tanker around on a sixpence.

The quality of our air continues to degrade, with nations – including the UK, whose government is quick to claim it is environmentally compliant but is already breaking its commitments from the recent COP21 agreement.

There’s much to record in future blogs, with the type of problems in a country like Australia, for example. Make the comparison with your country.

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