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South Africa Shale Pits Shell Against Sheep Farmers

28 Aug

by Paul Burkhardt / Bloomberg

Shell applied for permission in 2011 to drill 24 exploratory wells in the Karoo. GO!/Gallo Images/Getty Images

Shell applied for permission in 2011 to drill 24 exploratory wells in the Karoo. GO!/Gallo Images/Getty Images

Royal Dutch Shell Plc (RDSA)s shale gas drilling plans for South Africa’s Karoo semi-desert are pitting the government and its energy goals against farmers and conservationists like billionaire Johann Rupert who say the land will be spoiled.

The government estimates enough gas can be discovered to generate 1 trillion rand ($100 billion) of sales within three decades and help bring a country that imports 70 percent of its crude oil needs closer to supplying its own energy demand. Landowners are lining up against the water-intensive drilling techniques that Europes biggest oil company intends to use.

“People don’t see what will happen,” Izak van der Merwe, a 59-year old sheep farmer, said as he sipped a beer while walking down a line of freshly slain antelope at the Murraysburg Hunting Competition, 620 kilometers (385 miles) northeast of Cape Town. “The people at Shell don’t realize the kind of ecosystem we have.”

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Climate Change Could Wipe Out Amazing Baobab Trees in Madagascar

19 Jul
Photo: Baobab trees over water by Rita Willaert.

Photo: Baobab trees over water by Rita Willaert.

by John R. Platt / The Scientific American

The Ewe people of Togo, Africa, have a proverb: “Wisdom is like a baobab tree; no one individual can embrace it.” The proverb refers to the massive trees of the genus Adansonia that can live thousands of years, reach 30 meters into the sky and achieve trunk diameters of 10 meters or more. One baobab tree in South Africa is so large that a popular pub has been established inside its trunk. Many local cultures consider baobab trees to be sacred. Others use them for their nutritious fruits, edible leaves and beautiful flowers. In addition, old baobabs, like many long-lived trees, often have natural hollows in their trunks, which in their case can store tens of thousands of gallons of water—an important resource not just for the trees themselves but also for the people who live near them.

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Botswana Government at War with Indigenous San

31 May
photo by hobgadlng / flickr (cc-by-nd 2.0)

photo by hobgadlng / flickr (cc-by-nd 2.0)

by Richard Lee / OSISA

Despite court defeats and international condemnation, the government of Botswana is continuing its assault on the San by attempting to forcibly relocate another community from land they have occupied for decades, says the Khwedom Council, a non-governmental organisation advocating for the rights of the San (or Basarwa) people.

“It is another sad season for the San in Botswana as the government seems to have declared war on our people,” said Keikabile Mogodu, Director of the Khwedom Council. “It appears that the government will never tolerate San in Botswana and will do everything it can to destroy any trace of the first people of this land.”

The latest confrontation between the state and the San is taking place at Ranyane, around 220 km south of Gantsi, where there is a San community of more than 600. The community has access to a borehole but lacks all other basic services since the government has always refused to recognise it as a settlement. Continue reading