By Dr Judy Mann
SAAMBR is delighted with the ruling today that Shell must immediately stop seismic surveying off the Wild Coast. Research around the world is revealing the negative impacts of seismic surveys on marine life ranging from plankton to whales. It is, therefore, a wise decision to stop the survey now, and adopt the precautionary principle. Future decisions on seismic surveys will need to be based on up-to-date biological research on the impact of these surveys, both in the short and long-term. In addition, the enormous risks of offshore oil and/or gas extraction along the Wild Coast needs to be very carefully reassessed.
This ruling is an incredible win for the environment and for the people living along the Wild Coast. The ruling is also a victory for the South African Constitution. The applicants from various Wild Coast communities and their lawyers are to be commended and thanked for having had the courage to stand up against the giant fossil fuel industry. Going to court is a desperate measure and is only done when all other avenues of consultation have been exhausted. In this case it was clear that the applicants had no other option but to take this nerve-racking route. We salute their commitment and express our thanks to the Honourable Judge Bloem for his clear and insightful ruling.
The uproar against seismic surveying along the Wild Coast has revealed a deep love for the ocean and the incredible power of communities standing together. This ‘New Power’ is challenging the old paradigm of power vested in a few large corporations and governments, and is revealing the incredible influence of social movements that emerge spontaneously in response to an issue. The challenge for all of us is to now translate the passion and the energy generated in this movement into longer term and daily commitment to the environment. How can each of us reduce our reliance on fossil fuels? How can we support alternative energy options? How can we encourage our government to invest in alternative energy? How can we continue to support the conservation of the Wild Coast and other fragile ecosystems across South Africa and further afield? Together we can turn this short-term victory for the Wild Coast, into a long-term victory for the environment.