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Members of the public and interested groups held a demonstration in solidarity at Brighton Beach on January 23 2022 against seismic surveys due to take place off the West Coast. Their message was clear: "not Wild Coast, not West Coast, not our waters, not on our watch. No seismic ever." Picture: WERNER HILLS
Members of the public and interested groups held a demonstration in solidarity at Brighton Beach on January 23 2022 against seismic surveys due to take place off the West Coast. Their message was clear: "not Wild Coast, not West Coast, not our waters, not on our watch. No seismic ever." Picture: WERNER HILLS

I was astonished by Mike Schussler and John Fraser’s framing of the court judgment against the Shell seismic testing (“It’s time to show smug greenies the red card,” February 10).

By “greenies” I presume they are referring to people who recognise that essentials for our survival, such as clean water, clean air, a stable climate and healthy foods, depend on a planet with functional living ecosystems. Anyone with this awareness is not smug. Anyone with this awareness is waking up in terror every night at the imminent and well-documented threat of widespread environmental breakdown and climate catastrophe.

Schussler and Fraser imply that judgments against Shell were granted to satisfy meddling “greenies” at the expense of “ordinary people”. In fact, the court granted the judgments on the basis that the testing threatened the livelihoods of small scale fishermen on the West Coast and indigenous rural communities on the Wild Coast.

Poor indigenous communities are in the forefront of struggles against oil, gas and coal companies in SA, South America, India, Canada and the US, as they have already paid a heavy price for these industries while seeing few or no gains. And it is these communities that are most threatened by climate change and environmental breakdown.

The writers condescendingly refer to the pains Shell intended to take to ensure minimal harm to the ocean and to these livelihoods. Given Shell’s track record of damaging the ocean and estuaries (Niger Delta, North Sea, Martinez, to name a few), this is not reassuring, and it did not reassure the courts.

The narrative that environmental concerns are the provenance of organic Champagne-sipping lentil munchers is surely way past its sell-by date. The loudest voices warning us about climate change and environmental breakdown are sober, cautious scientists with many letters behind their names and no profit margins to protect.

After decades of meticulous research, these scientists have come to the inescapable conclusion that without radical change in our energy and industry practices in the next 10 years, life will be barely tolerable for most people on earth by 2050 (IPCC 2022 report).

A significant part of the shift required is to move away from oil and gas. Apart from the direct emissions from burning these fuels, scientists have raised the alarm about the high levels of methane released by the industry, in particular fracking. Methane is a greenhouse gas 80 times more warming than CO2.

Equally tired is the writers’ suggestion that the only alternative to destroying the planet is to live like “cavemen” (cavewomen?). Given the advances in renewable energy technology and growing evidence that sustainable farming methods are more efficient and productive than factory farms, it has become clear that it is not technology that is stopping us from transitioning to more sustainable ways to live, but the vested interests of a handful of companies.

There is no shortage of data on the environmental threats facing our planet — greenhouse gases continuing to rise; runaway wildfires, droughts and floods escalating every year; a planet so polluted by plastic that it is now found in our drinking water and in our bloodstreams. The World Economic Forum, hardly known for its “greenie” radicalism, puts climate action failure, extreme weather events, biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse at the top of its Global Risks Report in 2022.

I suggest Schussler and Fraser wake up to reality. The ones who need to be red-carded are the smug fossil fuel industries, which for far too long have had a free pass to generate profits while destroying our only home.

Bridget Pitt
Cape Town

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