43. Before Fracking Began (05/2011)
There was once a town in the heart of South Africa where all life seemed to live in harmony with its surroundings. The town lay in the midst of prosperous farms occupying the plains and fertile valleys where, in spring, pink clouds of bloom drifted above verdant fields shimmering in a haze of blue. In autumn, vineyards became a blaze of colour that glowed in the crisp, clear sunshine.
Then jackals called in the hills, antelope graced the mountain slopes, and fish leapt in the crystal streams. Great floral kingdoms flourished and delighted the traveller’s eye through much of the year, particularly after the rains when a kaleidoscopic carpet of flowers adorned the ground, stretching to distant horizons. The area was famous for its variety and abundance of bird life. The jubilant dawn chorus and skies teaming with raptors and butterflies attracted visitors from all over the world who came to marvel at the richness and beauty of life. So it had been from the days many years ago when the first settlers built their houses, sank their wells, and cared for the land.
But all the while surreptitious wars were being waged against the very lifeblood of the landscape, which in time became condoned. The shift from survival to prosperity twisted the value systems of previously contented men and women who began to see nature as a threat, inciting them to embark on a senseless course of destruction. Everything began to change.
It wasn’t long before the last mountain leopard was triumphantly shot, jackals were being hunted mercilessly from helicopters, and antelope routinely ambushed, blinded by lights in the depths of the night then blasted into oblivion at close range. Traps and poisons littered the landscape, indiscriminately maiming, torturing, and killing all manner of species in the most heinous ways imaginable. Toxic residues laced all edible food. Fear and loathing of sensual, secretive snakes elicited explosive reactions in people who stoned and savaged them.
Improved roads allowed faster, bigger cars, and even trucks to roar through the countryside unhindered, annihilating insects, birds, tortoises, apes, foxes and a myriad of rare and delicate creatures who crossed their path, leaving splattered corpses strewn across the asphalt.
Open warfare with our cousins, the baboons, became a routine kind of sport where people made up their own rules about shooting them. Baboons trapped in cages were left to suffer and die under a burning sun. Others were simply dispatched for profit to laboratories, restrained in solitary confinement and regularly immobilized for scientists to conduct hellish experiments on their live, pulsating bodies daily, for years.
Violence and aggression towards nature filtered into people’s lives and relationships. Life partners began to loathe one another. Children rejected their parents and themselves. Bullying, fighting, rape, suicide, alcoholism, and drug taking raged out of control. Even pets would be routinely ignored, beaten, run over, abandoned, or discarded.
The scale of slaughter escalated, as did people’s taste for flesh that could not be satisfied. With increasing disease the incidence of sickness, cancers, obesity, and dissatisfaction debilitated the townsfolk, and their domestic animals. There was a strange stillness. Birds and other wild creatures gradually disappeared. Overgrazing reduced the veld to rocks and dust. An eerie silence lay over the plains, mountains, and valleys. All that remained were ghostly pictures and films of the abundant life that once existed flashing across HD screens in technicolor detail.
Many people left the town in search of elusive, better places to live, and the frail children who remained begged the question ‘Why was our world not worth saving?’
(After Rachel Carson’s ‘Silent Spring’)