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.

Send your comments to Georgina

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

  • GB Garratt - 2013-04-04 15:47

    Interesting article Georgina. It was something I was vaguely aware of but you crystallised the issue. Thanks. Always good to learn something new.

  • Karin Devereux Rackley - 2013-04-04 16:26

    Wow...I wasn't aware of this, it sounds really scary and something worth bringing to light...

  • Karin Devereux Rackley - 2013-04-04 16:37

    Going to put this on FB.... Get it some exposure....

  • Gavin Badenhorst - 2013-04-04 16:47

    The Australians will be upset if their marine life is messed up.They are very cautious when you enter their country by plane ''border control''what you bring into the country.

  • Maria Roth - 2013-04-04 17:00

    Get a petition going millions will sign it.

      Wesley Fick - 2013-04-04 17:35

      Millions of people won't sign it because millions either don't care, don't see how it affects them, or don't understand how it changes the environment. It'll be like trying to get a petition going in Japan to stop the Japanese hunting, killing and selling off dolphins - it'll have some support, but it will go nowhere.

  • Simphiwe Tladi - 2013-04-04 19:09

    Wow!,I wasn't aware of that,and I hope our marine scientists are doing their best to prevent alien species from entering our oceans,and thanks for bringing up North Korea,that country is a disaster waiting to happen!

  • Mike Suter - 2013-04-07 10:32

    Really good article Georgina. I will be following Ur articles from now on . I had no idea that the ballast carried live cargo. Nice to read about something new.

  • Annemarie White - 2013-04-07 20:24

    Thank you for this. I never thought about it. It is a rather serious problem. It is a global issue. Who would one go to about this?

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