Episode 19 – 14 September Fracking, Alligators, iPhones and more!

Fracking in South Africa could move ahead quite quickly. That’s the word from Trade and Industry Minister, Rob Davies. In fact Government could authorize shale gas exploration before next year’s elections. Davies said Cabinet believed shale gas could be a vital component in South Africa’s quest for energy security, but at this stage the potential extent of local reserves remained unknown.

Other gas fields are better known. Mossgas has a resource of about one trillion cubic meters and the gas fields of Mozambique  – which have just opened  – have about a hundred trillion cubic meters of gas. But some estimate that the shale gas deposit locally, is many times more than the Mozambican reserves, which makes it a very significant game changer  I guess in terms of the energy situation in our country.”

Now immediately, I worry about the damage that can be caused in the Karoo, but when he was asked about the very determined “Karoo anti-fracking” lobby, Davies replied that government would proceed with exploration in an environmentally and socially responsible manner… well, let’s keep our fingers crossed for that!

Part of the reason for the speed is to improve the electricity demand and supply balance that is seen as “a constraint to growth that requires immediate attention”. Scientists have advised government that fracking for shale gas “should seriously be considered” because it could dramatically change the course of the economy and to be honest I’m not sure that all the environmental passion in the world can fight against that!

Colombia enlarges nature reserve

Columbia has more than doubled the size of a huge nature reserve in the fight to protect the Amazon from deforestation. Colombian Environment Minister said deforestation of the Colombian Amazon is a big problem, mainly because of land being cleared for growing coco leaves, logging, the illegal mining happening there as well as agriculture.

But with the increase, the Chiribiquete nature reserve now sprawls over 2.8 million hectares, making it the biggest of the South American country’s 58 natural parks. Colombia is one of nine countries that share a piece of the precious Amazon, with a portion of  6.3% in total. Most of the Amazon lies in Brazil – at 64%.

But the additional protected area is key to preserving the Amazon in Columbia. As the minister said: “The park is located deep in the heart of the Amazon, which is the planet’s lung, breathing, so we are sending a message about the importance of that region. Beautifully put I thought!

An alligator gets acupuncture

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Vets at the Sao Paolo aquarium in Brazil say weekly acupuncture treatments for Bino, the albino alligator, are helping cure his hunchback and scoliosis. Bino has both these problems since birth and conventional treatments and medicines just didn’t seem to work.


Bino the albino alligator (picture courtesy of www.straitstimes.com)

So about a year ago, the vets in Sao Paulo started weekly acupuncture treatments, with the vet ever so gently tapping needles into the problem joints and vertebrae. They showed quick results, with Bino regaining use of his hind legs and tail. The treatments will continue as long as the bright-white alligator keeps improving – super news for the under-14’s school students, who always rush to his enclosure on their field trips.

Your iPhone uses more energy than a refrigerator

Did you know that your Smart phone uses up more energy than a refrigerator? Well, maybe not yours in particular,  but a report has found that the digital economy in general uses a tenth of the world’s electricity! I couldn’t believe it when I read this report. And the report also found a single iPhone can consume more energy than a refrigerator due to the substantial data usage of a typical smartphone owner. You know what I’m talking about…

Peter Hopton, Iceotope CEO, explains it best: “It’s not that particular mobile phone models aren’t energy efficient, it’s that we use these devices to access cloud computing services, I know I do that, I Google every day on my phone, and this ‘always-on’ IT culture requires huge data farms to be located around the country.” These “data farms’ aren’t always run on energy efficient systems – probably in their hurry to keep up with people like me with all the data demand!

Hopton isn’t suggesting we all give up accessing mobile data but rather he wants service providers to recognize the impact that this kind of data usage is having on the environment and make sure that the underlying systems is stored in environmentally friendly facilities – especially as savvy, modern consumers could potentially boycott those which aren’t.

Well this savvy, modern consumer hadn’t even thought of where her data gets stored, but I have now – so I’m grateful for Peter Hopton’s report.

Apple has certainly thought about it. They have invested in renewable energy in some of their centers in the US in a bid to reduce theirs and their users’ carbon emissions. As Hopton concludes – “The solutions to make these facilities green are available, it just takes a little effort from IT decision makers to implement them and then it’s down to the rest of us to make them sit up and take note.”

Share your thoughts….are you for or against fracking?

And remember, take care of the earth, and she will take care of you.