Georgina Guedes

News worth shouting about

2013-04-04 15:15

Georgina Guedes

The news items grabbing our headlines just won’t go away. Georgina Guedes finds a quieter news story she feels people should be getting more upset about.

This has been one of those weeks where every news story gets people talking so much that by the time it’s my turn to write a column, everything that I want to say has already been said.

The news of the week

Here is some of the broad-reaching sentiment that I can only add my voice to:

It’s shameful that South African soldiers have died to protect ANC interests in the Central African Republic. “Pissing on graves” is not really the kind of thing the government should be saying in official statements.

North Korea – whooo, there’s a whole new level of crazy going on there. Bluster or real intent? Only time will tell.
Oscar Pistorius, something about training… Yawn!

There was a massive Twitter war about some guy who said something very silly and then backpedalled and made the situation worse. People were called “feminists” as if that were an insult. It isn’t.

Mandela is still in hospital. The father of our nation is old and unwell. One day soon, he’s going to die. It’s sad, but it’s not a tragedy. His long life has been a success in every possible way – that’s worth celebrating.

The ballast problem

That being the round-up of the things I might have commented about this week if everyone else hadn’t gotten there first, I decided to talk about something I read that surprised me. In New Scientist, I read an article about how ships taken on ballast water to stabilise themselves when their cargo is low.

These ships then travel halfway around the world to collect new cargo and release the ballast water full of creatures from another part of the ocean.

Now, if you think about it, this is a bit of a slap in the face for all those who make efforts to prevent alien species from invading their bit of the Earth. If you’ve ever been through an airport on the way to say The Galapagos or New Zealand, you will find yourself taken apart by a malevolent Beagle if you forget an apple in the side pocket of your backpack.

The ballast water in ships contains a great deal more life than the odd apple or a bit of mud on your boots, and yet countries around the world refuse to ratify the Ballast Water Convention, which will require participating countries to install a ballast purifying kit on all their registered ships.

OK, perhaps after a recession (or in between two) is not the best time to be tackling this environmental hazard, but the rather high costs of installing such kits pale in comparison to the costs of a clean-up after an invasion by an alien species.

Thirty years ago a ship full of North American jellyfish decimated marine life in the Black Sea, and ten years later, ballast from the Bay of Bengal was released off the coast of Peru, giving the shellfish cholera that ultimately killed 12 000 humans.

Disasters on this scale are at risk of happening every day because of the uncontrolled ballast water being sloshed all over our globe.

So if you’re in need of a cause to shout about, that isn’t getting too much coverage, this is a good one.

- Georgina Guedes is a freelance writer. You can follow @georginaguedes on Twitter.

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