30 December, 2014

Karoo drought and fracking

- gardening for biodiversity
in Cape Town, South Africa

Three icons of the Karoo

An Aloe against snowy mountains in July 2008. The Karoo Desert National Botanical Garden is in the Klein Karoo with succulents which are adapted to winter rain.

July Aloe and snow at the National Botanical Garden in Worcester

This windmill creaking in the breeze, still stands. There is a windmill museum at Loeriesfontein.

Windmill on the road to Nieu Bethesda in 2010

Travelling through the Karoo, you will see donkey-carts, transport for small farmers. Lovingly hand crafted, wooden carts.

Donkeys in the Karoo

Karoo is a Khoisan word, from the first people of South Africa. Dry Land or Place of Great Thirst.

Heading for Sutherland December 2008

Water, drought in Beaufort West

When we visited the Karoo National Park November 2010, the 10 km distant town of Beaufort West was gripped by a severe drought.

Beaufort West dam dry from news.za.msn in December 2010

Tourists at the Karoo National Park don't expect suburban lawn. If you must have a lawn try polyculture-lawn-primer. These sprinklers were running. All day. Next to a town that was begging passing travellers to bring them bottled water! 4-million-litres. One quarter of the rise in global sea levels is due to the transfer of fresh water into the oceans, as much of the groundwater used for irrigation is running off or raining into the ocean circleofblue.

Karoo NP November 2010
Why not garden for and with nature??

Reusing grey water, 40-60% would be returned to the water table via the garden. This chemically green lawn was contaminating the pristine Karoo National Park.

Water was formed with our planet 4.45 billion years ago worldwater. About 97 percent of water is ocean saltwater. Most freshwater is locked up in the polar icecaps. Only .003 percent of the earth's water is available for us to use landscapeforlife

I've been reading about rain, said Jean. That utterly distinctive smell, when rain first starts to fall – two scientists have analyzed it. They’ve named it ‘petrichor’ from the Greek for stone and for the ‘blood’ that flows through the veins of the gods. It’s the scent of an oil produced by plants partially decomposed, undergoing oxidation and nitration, a combination of three compounds. The first raindrops reach into stone or pavement and release this plant oil, which we smell as it is washed away.
We can only smell it as it is washed away.
– From The winter vault by Anne Michaels. (The term was coined in 1964 by two Australian researchers, Bear and Thomas)

Fracking Karoo

To Nieu Bethesda and the Owl House in March 2010

This is an anonymous satire.

Agony aren't

Dear Uncle,
A man who said he was from Shell came onto my farm last week and said he wanted to go ‘fracking’. Should I lock up my daughters or my sheep?
Graaf Reinet

Dear Ouboet,
Be afraid, be very afraid – it sounds like he’s got a very, very big carbon footprint.

The Great Karoo in South Africa. Wide open spaces and very hot. You need power. Solar power? Photovoltaic cells? Oh no – we’ll try fracking.

Karoo National Park in November 2010

Millions upon millions of litres of water are required for the process. Down 4 or 5 kilometres thru the rock and into oil-bearing shale, to harvest the natural gas. When they asked the nice Dutch man from Shell where he was going to get all the water in a drought-stricken area – he said brightly – we’ll use trains to bring in sea-water. From a thousand kilometres away, and over mountain ranges. No research has ever been done on deep aquifers at this level. What chemicals? Oh well … we can’t say, it is a long list.

Fracking the Great Karoo. A great idea.

Flowers on the road to Sutherland December 2008

The real reason for oil price slide

As Janus, the god of doorways, looks back to 2014 and forward to 2015, I wish you, my readers, a Very Happy New Year!

Pictures by Diana and Jurg Studer  
of  Elephant's Eye on False Bay 

(If you mouse over teal blue text, it turns seaweed red.
Those are my links.
To read or leave comments, either click the word Comments below,
or click this post's title)


  1. Hi Diana! This post is so well written and I don't think anyone can read it and not get the point. We need to stop being unreasonable and keep in mind what is really important.
    I know we need energy and all but is it really a good idea to damage Nature more than it has already been damaged? Fracking isn't Nature friendly and it isn't Human friendly either despite what some people want us to believe. All the chemicals used pollute the soil and the water, water that is already so rare. And what about all the disturbances to the geological and ecological balance? Ah Humanity!!!!

    1. It is the builder's holiday now, but as businesses reopen we'll be adding a solar panel to our house. At least our hot water can come from the sun, not coal or nuclear power.

  2. Fracking...add a new swear word to the lexicon.

  3. amazing, precious water, the photo of the cracked ground is incredible, Happy Happy New Year to you!

  4. What is with the fracking trend? Haven't these people got a clue when there's a mountain of evidence piling up at how bad it is for everyone involved? Not only using all that water to do it but polluting any water tables you may have when it's done. The whole thing just makes me sick. On a positive note, I love the photos of the drive to Sutherland. What gorgeous meadows those are, the colours are outstanding.

  5. So much to say here, but my comment seems insufficient. I can't see how fracking can be beneficial to anyone in the long run. The same thing is happening here in the U.S. in many pristine areas, too, and it doesn't make sense to me. I hope, somehow, we'll come to our senses on this one.

    Switching gears, I hope you have a great New Year, and that your new garden will bring you much pleasure!

  6. Fracking is unconscionable and absolutely evil. I wish more people realized how little fresh water there truly is on this wet planet. California has been in the grip of a horrific drought but the upside has been that millions of acres of turf have been replaced with tough native plants. I'm glad they finally got the message.

    1. that turf to native plants is such GOOD news!

  7. It is crazy how little regard for the ecosystem that many companies and people have. So very sad! I hope they don't end up fracking there. And shipping and displacing all that water? Crazy!

  8. Diana - I read this popst the other night on my cell phone. I so wanted to leave a comment, but it would've taken too long one finger typing...

    When I write about it I tend to get over emotional, which causes a large portion of the message to be lost. You have written a very moving post on the fracking which is proposed for our country - for our Karoo - with it's magnificent plant / animal diversity and historical remnants.

    Thank you. Thank you for writing about it. Thank you for adding your voice to the thousands opposed to it.

    Insofar as bringing sea water from the coast in order to frack - who are they kidding?? Apart from the expense of the pipes / trucks / trains (do the train lines run nearby???) or whatever they use. they will also be adding sea water to the chemicals which will defintely find their way into the underground aquifers / water table. We have braak water here in our water table, and it is completely unusable.

    Ah, my fervent wish and hope for 2015 is that fracking is ruled out as an option for South Africa. That world wide knowledge of the damage fracking causes supersedes the need to fill back pockets...

    Dreamland - maybe - but I still hope that commonsense prevails.

    Happy New Year, Diana & Jurg - and the very best of wishes for your life in your new home.

    1. our Karoo and the Great Barrier Reef - may they survive 2015 relatively unscathed!

      We have graphic never to be forgotten experience of brak water.
      Don't drink the water.

  9. Diana, Fracking can bring nothing good to any area that I have seen or heard...this is very disturbing.

    Sad world when we are more then willing to destroy nature in order to have gas.
    As for those who have sprinklers on like that all day...they should be locked up. That's a crime.

    Congrats on selling your house, a poignant feeling, a chapter closed, a book put on the shelf.

    Also thank you so much for letting me know about Blotanical another sad ending. The least he could have done is given all of us some closure, in more ways than one.

    Thanks for linking to my new URL...they can't see, to figure out the redirection problems at Go Daddy...makes me wish I had never gone to my own domain.


    1. Stuart has my sympathy about ending Blotanical. We were making a little progress with the new version, but the final straw was Craftygardener getting swamped with emails.
      She asked for Stuart's help and he mothballed both sites. Better to have a clean sharp break.

  10. I had to check the date on the photo of the aloe since mine are budding up in my hemisphere. It's great to see them where they originate. And the windmill museum sounds amazing. We must have more! While I'm talking of good things, best wishes for a lovely 2015!

    But fracking... what a bad idea. Thanks for your comments. I hope the stories of polluted water tables and mis-use of previous clean water get more exposure and begin to change more minds.

  11. It is unbelievable that those sprinklers were running in such a drought-stricken area. Can't the local authorities ban that practice? Here we have water restrictions and a ban on sprinklers when we experience drought, and this in a place where we have had over a foot (30.5 cm.) of water in the past week! So you see our droughts are very occasional and not a permanent part of the landscape. It also seems that solar and wind power, with all that sun and so little rain, would be ubiquitous in the Karoo. Thanks for explaining what the Karoo means! I think a green lawn in the Karoo would be as out of place as a front lawn of cacti here.

    1. We have a 'parallel universe' mindset about watering in South Africa.
      If your water comes from your borehole ...
      Everything is alright. Free water. Not metered. Doesn't count.
      Makes me angry! As if only municipal treated water is covered by watering restrictions.
      I see many of our new neighbours display a Borehole Water sign. And green lawns.

  12. This is very powerfully written. I get so frustrated when people think they can solve environmental problems without any change in lifestyle with "technological fixes" like fracking. In the U.S., fracking has made cheap oil plentiful again and people are celebrating with a shopping spree for gas-guzzling vehicles. So tragically short-sighted! -Jean

    1. I look at climate change, global weirding, and wonder how people can continue in the midst of that to deny that WE have anything to do with the problem.

  13. There are now earthquakes in Ohio that are tied to fracking...and thankfully our great state NY has banned fracking. The health officials looked at all the thousands of research studies and said it all shows the detriments of fracking so we will not do it here....amazing really. I hope they wake up there and do not allow this rape of the land. Wishing you a Happy New Year!

    1. In Porterville we lived just across the mountain from Tulbagh, where there was an earthquake in 1969. NOT a region where one would want to experiment with triggering a fracking quake!

  14. Hi Diana
    I've been scares. Been on holiday and barely went on leave and the Damselfly found out she had breast cancer and had to go in for an op so I've been playing nurse and babysitter. She is fine though and all the tests have shown that they got it all in the op. We are really feeling blessed. So catching up.

    1. for your Damselfly
      From Deena Metzger - what grows in me now is vital and does me no harm.
      I'm a 15 year survivor this January.