Day 624 – Protecting the environment?

I know. I know I wrote this and I know got a lot of abuse. I know it would be better if we could get away without using fossil fuels (I even said that in the post). But we don’t have that luxury yet. So this may come across as somewhat hypocritical, but while we’re trying to get our ducks in a row, we’re topping endangered species, despite numerous warnings that this would happen and – more worryingly – despite mitigation measures being put in place to prevent it happening. And that didn’t happen when previous seismic surveys were carried out off the coast of SA.

So there is a difference.

These are amazing birds, silently gliding just a couple of metres over the fynbos while hunting. There is a pair that live near the Southernmost Point of Africa, and I love to watch their incredible agility in the wind there as they seek out mice or a mongoose or two for lunch.

But yes, when two male Black Harriers from a population of just 1000 (that’s 1000 in total, not 1000 males) die in 24 hours – and we only know about it because they were both tagged – something is very wrong.

How many untagged others were killed on the same day? And how many the day before that?

One sadly killed while roosting in a cereal field. And one killed by a wind turbine.

I recognise the need for renewable energy. I hate looking at wind turbines, but I respect the incredible engineering that goes into making a wind farm work. I am, however, getting a bit pissed off at them being put in areas like Caledon and Bredasdorp which are known as areas in which populations of endangered birds live (Blue Cranes and Black Harriers, for example).

Thankfully, there is also precedent for them not being put in environmentally sensitive areas, but that didn’t help the guy above, did it? Because the way that the turbine companies get around that sort of restriction is by employing mitigation measures:

The wind farm is the first to run a shutdown-on-demand programme – where observers monitor bird movement around the wind turbines seven days a week, and can radio-in to instruct a specific turbine’s shutdown should a priority species, including a Black Harrier fly close to a turbine. Turbines are shut down for other red data species including Martial Eagles and Cape Vultures (from Potberg).

But those measures clearly didn’t help the guy above either. And 179 shutdowns in just over 300 days of operation suggests to me that it’s not just the mitigation measures that are wrong (because it’s likely they have failed numerous times with untagged birds): it’s the siting of the wind farm.
But why should we care about windfarms being put in an area where endangered Black Harriers live? Well:

Unpublished modelling data from Dr Rob Simmons and Dr Francisco Cervantes Peralta of the University of Cape Town has found that if three adult Black Harriers are killed every year by wind turbines around South Africa, the species will be extinct in 100 years. Should five birds be killed by turbines per year, then Black Harriers will be extinct in just 75 years.

Of course, they were looking at wind turbines, but nature doesn’t care how the birds die, so both of those deaths recorded above will count towards Black Harriers dying out sooner. And again, we only know about these ones because they were tagged and tracked. We don’t know if they were the only ones to be killed yesterday or if there were 1, 2 or 3 others. And those estimates on extinction above are based on deaths per year.

So where is the outrage like we saw for the Shell thing? Where are the hashtags, the protests, the calls to boycott, the angry surfers on Muizenberg beach? Because you surely can’t ignore the bad side of renewable energy simply because it’s renewable energy, can you?

Can you?

Minor Manifestos (2)

Step forward The Green Party of South Africa – it’s your turn to have your manifesto scrutinised by the 6000 miles… election team.

I came into this one rather sceptical, I’ll be honest.
And, it turns out, I had every good reason for that approach.

Some key policies:

What are we doing about crime? Addressing the cause of it.
Changing the hearts and minds of Men by a massive media campaign.

Well now. Why didn’t anyone else think of putting up lots of posters, sending SMSs and having the odd TV ad spot, just basically asking Men not to do crimes? All this time, we’ve been suffering under the tyrannical jackboots of murder, rape, hijacking and robbery, when we could just have asked Men nicely not to do naughty things and it would all have been solved. That’ll work. Said no-one ever.

But that’s not all: the hearts and minds of Men will be easier to change because:

Not eating battery farmed meat will reduce the stress and aggression chemicals regularly eaten inside the meat from battery animals who have lived in fear and stress all their lives.


And education? What about that?

Making it relevant, by televisions by the best teachers with field trips. Teaching pupils how to teach themselves.

This doesn’t even make sense. The words are all ok, but I think it kind of falls apart in the way that you’ve put them together. And getting kids to teach themselves? Isn’t that what teachers do?

And then could we have some misplaced business science, combined some with age-old, oft-debunked conspiracy theories, please?

TRANSPARENCY IN THE PHARMACEUTICAL INDUSTRY. Cancer cures already exist, but are withheld from us because they don’t involve chemicals which can be sold at the huge profits the pharmaceutical industry is used to.
Animal research is huge business. It is often far more profitable to be looking for cures than to find them – particularly if the cures turn out to be relatively cheap or naturally available.

Seems legit. Also: aliens, right?

AN END TO BATTERY FARMING: Antibiotics are routinely fed to the animals to prevent them getting sick from living in such crowded conditions. This is creating a new era of super viruses and diseases in humans that are immune to all known antibiotics.

Now, I’m no fan of battery farming, and this starts well, but then goes way off track. I get the idea, sure, but the lack of any sort of accuracy in the second sentence does make me wonder if you actually know what the actual funk you’re going on about. Super viruses, really?

This would also greatly reduce heart attacks – over 50% are related to eating too much animal protein and fat.

I mean, we know this is likely correct, but have you run it past Prof Tim and his concubine?

At present it is possible that most of the food you buy in shops is POISONOUS to your health…

Sweet Jesus. It’s also “possible” that you’ll win the election, but let’s see how that pans out, shall we?

And then… then, these bizarre lines (from the 1990s?). How did this make it in?

To be able to utilise all of our ideas and co-operation when the computer flaw at the turn of the century throws our whole society into chaos, will help our survival . We are pretty certain that all over the world, the mainframes and their sensors scattered throughout the facilities are going to make water, petrol (and through that food), money, sewerage and airline and traffic control not available to us. We need to be ready with all our ideas and co-operation to get through that period as one Nation.

“The computer flaw at the turn of the century”? Is this… was this the Y2K bug that never actually happened?
And yet here they are 20 years on, using a debunked scaremongering theory to try and impose their bizarre thinking on us? There’s enough in those last three lines of their manifesto to keep any sane individual’s X out of the Green Party box.

However, if you want to get in touch with The Green Party of South Africa (NOTE: The website “” and “Greens South Africa” on Facebook is not us.), then you can find their address on the website. And yes, it’s in Noordhoek – on the far side of the Lentil Curtain.

Big Issue Cover Fail

It’s been a while since we mentioned the pisspoor (but lovely at heart) SA version of Big Issue magazine (it was October 2017). That’s because my life is a better place without the Big Issue in it.

I have to ask about this month’s cover though:

I see no need for the Antarctic Peninsula(?*) to be exploited. I’m actually with Greenpeace on this one [audience gasps]. But despite this unusual alliance, I am still going to take exception with the Big Issue cover.

Q. Why don’t Polar Bears eat Penguins?
A. Because they can’t get the wrappers off.

Or because one inhabits the Arctic and the other, the Antarctic. They are literally poles apart. And yet this incorrect and profoundly misleading cover is being shown to impressionable kids at traffic lights and road junctions all over South Africa.

And then we wonder why the education system is broken here.

It’s only a matter of time until the Bunny Huggers start using it as part of a misinformation campaign, telling us how OMG! you can’t find a Polar Bear anywhere in Antarctica anymore and how we must give them lots of money before the penguins disappear too.

(I do know that the penguins are disappearing though.)


* is it really actually a peninsula though?


I made burgers today. Great big ones.

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

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

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

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

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


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

Botswana earthquake explanation

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

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

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


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

There’s not enough information to answer that scientifically

But… but… there is circumstantial evidence!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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