The quest for profit in a predatory economic system has made it possible for humans to willfully ignore extractivist crimes unfolding in broad daylight. A clear case is the clawing into Namibia's Okavango Basin in search of hydrocarbon resources by ReconAfrica, a Canadian oil prospecting company. The company has been licensed to explore for hydrocarbons in an area of 13,600 square miles straddling Namibia and Botswana. ReconAfrica could end up fracking for oil and gas in this highly valuable region which is said to hold up to 31 billion barrels of crude oil.
Experts have already noted that the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report produced by ReconAfrica and accepted by the Namibian government would not pass serious scrutiny, and the process was not open to public participation. Public consultation is a critical requirement in any EIA process and where this is lacking the process is null and void. If the Minister of Agriculture of Namibia could say that his ministry was not consulted, why should we think that citizens were consulted?
Namibia's Minister in charge of mining, Tom Alweendo, interestingly claimed that there was nothing to worry about oil and gas extraction in the Okavango Basin even though the area is a treasure to the people of Namibia and the world. According to the minister, "It's true the company has an oil and gas exploration license and obtained an environmental clearance certificate to do research drilling. They are not going to do hydraulic fracturing (fracking)—a more invasive method—but a conventional drilling method."
The truth is that exploitation of petroleum resources has routinely been accompanied by extreme ecological harms, and in some cases has also been the reason or pretext for violent conflicts and wars.
Governments keep on allowing oil companies to arm-twist them into accepting patently false promises of revenue booms and of capacity to avoid ecological harms and to trigger development in affected oil field communities. When the first commercially viable oil well spurted in 1956 in Nigeria's Niger Delta, there were wild celebrations of progress arriving in the area that had hitherto suffered hundreds of years of pillage of agricultural natural resources. The first oil exports commenced in 1958 and so far, more than 5,200 wells have been drilled in the region with over 603 being discovery wells. After more than six decades of hydrocarbons exploitation in the Niger Delta, the region now ranks as one of the top ten most polluted places on earth. Water bodies, soils, and the air have all been stoked full of harmful pollutants, and life expectancy now stands at a dismal 41 years.
You may say that Nigeria is an odd case.
How about the ongoing massive pollutions in South Sudan and in Sudan?
The massive area earmarked for drilling by ReconAfrica reminds one of a time when Shell had the entire geographic space known as Nigeria as its concession. Okavango basin is home to over 200,000 Namibians and these Africans mostly rely on the Okavango River which brings supplies of fresh water from the forest regions of Angola all year round. Of course, ReconAfrica will pollute the natural potable water sources of the people and sink water bore holes for them. The Okavango Basin is an area of rich cultural heritage and boasts of several species that make living in this area a unique experience. Okavango is a highly treasured living community in Namibia and Botswana. Why should anyone allow the quest for petrodollars to turn this into an arena of death?
It is drilling for profit that ignores the fact that adding oil from there to the fossil fuel fires already raging in the world will compound the floods, droughts, desertification, population displacements, and other negative impacts of global warming.