The Algarve is bursting with fairs and festas at this time of year, but I don’t seem to be able to make an appearance unless hanging off a banner. The mountain festival in São Brás de Alportel was one such event, big and well-organised, with much speechifying broadcast over speakers placed around the venue. Our friend Nemesio had organized with the local authority to have a stand collecting signatures against oil and gas prospection. This was specifically to add to the numbers of people objecting to Galp/ENI’s plans while the public consultation period, ending on 3 August, was still under way. It was a huge success. I only managed to appear for a couple of hours, but I found, as I have before, that the process of mustering support is a fascinating one. Most people need just a little encouragement to sign. Other people come up of their own accord, sign with determination, take out their ID and carefully record the digits against their signature, and then, when thanked, say, ‘Thank you.’ Almost nobody bats you away when they realise what you are asking for. There’s no doubt that the fossil fuel industry’s plans for the Algarve – and other parts of Portugal – meet with minuscule or zero support from the people. It’s all about a few corrupt politicians, most of them in the previous administration.
Two things from last week’s blog have not come about. (Three, if I include the swallows.) This is part of the great fun of writing a blog. One was my confident prediction that I was entering a period of work-free clear blue space. I imagined the hours spent in the glistening water of the pool beneath the glorious azure skies. Then I got a horrible, monstrous flu. This is the first time I’ve written this blog from a sickbed. The sun is blazing away, the pool is glistening, but I’ve been wrapped up in the dark for days. It’s fading away now. (And it’s why there are hardly any pictures this week.)
Much better, however, is this. The relentless pressure by activists is paying off. On 29 July, Galp/ENI announced the indefinite postponement of their plans to drill exploratory oil wells. Not only that, they did it in a marvellously huffy way. ‘We had everything ready to start operations and we had to stop,’ said chairman Carlos Gomes da Silva, blaming the hard-won extension of the public consultation period for his woes. Another reason is the belated force given to an EU directive requiring enhanced safety measures for such operations. Forcing Galp/ENI to do their work properly was obviously too much to ask of them. The chairman suggested darkly that Portugal was missing its chance to become Norway. The suspension has no recommencement date.
The mayor of Tavira has given a brief interview to the press in which he reiterated his absolute objection to the presence of an oil and gas industry in the Algarve, whether onshore or offshore. This is more progress, because for a long time he was apparently only concerned about what would happen on land. He also confirmed that the mayoral group has filed two injunctions against the activity. We can have oil, or we can have tourism, he said. He knows which side his bread is buttered on.
Earthquakes of 3.4 and 4 on the Richter scale were registered off the coast of the Algarve this week, in the areas identified for exploration; just another reason why offshore drilling is madness.
The Red-rumped Swallows still do not have hatchlings. They are continuing to bring in soft bedding material to the nest. And we’re rather puzzled by the appearance of a third adult; we haven’t been able to establish its sex, or its role in the current set-up. It’s all terribly modern. We continue to wait and see.