I'm sure you have heard about the phenomenon of 'fracking' in the media of late, because of the planned fracking activities in the Karoo. You might be confused as to what it is and how it works, and what the big deal about it is.
As an engineer and scientist, I am all for enhancements in technology and enhancing quality of life by using the environment around us in a responsible way. However, the emphasis here is on RESPONSIBLE. I am also very passionate about the environment, and when it comes to hurting our precious resources, you can bet that I will choose nature over technology. And I will be fighting on the side of our God-given resources that we as humans have been made custodians of on Earth.
In light of this, I think you should know the FACTS. 

Fracking is a shortened version of the term "hydraulic fracturing". It is the process whereby natural gas is extracted from deep within shale rock formations. It has been done in large parts of the United States and across Europe, but it has not come without consequences.
During the fracking process, a well is created, which involves drilling a hole into the ground that typically stretches between 3 and 5km vertically, after which the drill bit turns sideways and drills horizontally along the shale rock layer. Then, millions of litres of water, sand, and undisclosed chemicals are injected under very high pressure into the well. This causes the shale fissures to crack open, releasing the natural gas which is then collected in another process. The gas dissolves into the water, and this chemical-laden, gas-laden water is then brought to the surface, and called 'prepared water'. The gas then has to be extracted from the water. The image below might illustrate the process better than words.

There are a myriad of problems with this. I will highlight only a few.

1) Penetration of the drinking water table
When the well is drilled, it penetrates the drinking water table, which compromises the health of humans, animals and plants. The gas and chemicals can very easily, and very often does, seep into the water table, poisoning the water.

2) Non-disclosure of chemicals used 
The chemicals used in the process is not disclosed to the public. These chemicals are released into the groundwater and pollutes the entire ground system, and finds it way into drinking water, because of point 1 described above. Fracking companies claim that the chemicals pose no danger to human health, but traces of highly poisonous substances (like the carcinogen formaldehyde) have been found in water tested after people became critically ill in areas where fracking takes place.  
3) Volume of water used
An average of 20 million litres of water is used to frack each well. This water cannot be made drinkable again after it is used for this process. In South Africa and around the world, water is a precious resource. We cannot afford to use it in such a irresponsible and indiscriminate way.
4) Dangers to human health 
Pollution of drinking water is not the only consequence that negatively affects human health. The poisonous gases not only seep into the water, but into the air as well, into the layers of the atmosphere that we breathe in. This has been linked to various cancers, lung defects, second generation birth defects and various other diseases. Blow outs have occurred in areas, which releases toxic chemicals into lakes and rivers.

5) Noise and light pollution
The sites of the wells are active 24 hours a day, 7 days per week. It is always brightly lit with floodlights, and extremely noisy because of the drilling. This affects all forms of life in a negative way. The Karoo will no longer be a peaceful place and a haven for star-gazing.

Are we going to sit back and allow this to happen in our precious South Africa??
Do you want to see our beautiful, unspoilt Karoo end up looking like a chimney farm with sick or dead lambs everywhere?


What can you do to help?
There are various ways to get started.

1) Educate yourself and spread awareness

This post was but an introduction to the topic, and by no means a complete explanation. I am not an expert on fracking. In fact, it was only a few months ago that I was exposed to the real dangers of fracking through watching the movie GASLAND. It is a brilliant movie, which I recommend everyone sees. In there you will see tap water that is so heavily polluted that it catches fire by holding a match next to it. Cover-ups of major corporations are exposed as witnesses speak. You will see how once flourishing farming communities were turned into a barrage of sickness and sometimes death. It is a brilliant expose of the phenomenon. 

The Galileo open-air theatre in Kistenbosch is screening GASLAND on 2 January 2013, which is this Wednesday. I highly recommend you take the family and book to go and see the screening. Details of the screening and a synopsis can be found by clicking here. If you are not in Cape Town or are unable to make it, try to get your hands on the DVD. You will be investing in your own education in a very big way.


2) Support the campaign against fracking 

There is an organisation working tirelessly to save our Karoo. They are called Treasure Karoo Action Group (TKAG). They are fighting a noble fight, but they need the help and financial support of the public to keep the campaign running. Their legal case is very strong, and they have the backing of some very high-profile international environmental lawyers.

If you are looking for an environmental cause to support, or if you can find it in your heart to assist, please do support them financially. I spoke to them at The Green Expo (which is also where I watched Gasland), and was informed that they need 3000 people to commit to donating R50/month to support the campaign. I'm sure you can spare R50 every month to save our Karoo, can't you? Donate securely HERE or contact them on funds@treasurethekaroo.co.za to get involved with this. 

If you don't want to make a long-term commitment, you can sms 'karoo' to 42030 to donate R30 once-off to KTAG.

The TKAG website is www.treasurethekaroo.co.za and you can visit the site for more information, contact details or details of their activities.

3) Make your voice heard

This one won't cost you a penny.

The moratorium on fracking in South Africa has been lifted on 7 September 2012. However, there is still an opportunity to oppose it and the fight can still be won. Make your voice heard. Sign the online Avaaz petition, it will only take a few minutes of your time: Link to Avaaz petition

Follow TKAG on Twitter:    @TreasureKaroo
Like TKAG on Facebook:  facebook.com/TreasureKarooActionGroup

I also encourage you to make your voice heard in any way you can in your own communities whereever you get the opportunity. 

And remember... GASLAND... Kirstenbosch on 2 January 2013. 

Forgive me if I have not done justice to this cause in this post. We try our best and hope that our small flame lights a fire in another heart, or at least lights the way for the cause to go forward one step at a time.