Monday, December 7, 2009

Leaving Africa

I am back at the Africa cafe in OR Tambo airport in Johannesburg. Maybe this blog should rather be the Road to OR Tambo, but this airport is a delivery mechanism for Copenhagen, where the climate conference started today. I will be there fashionably late, on Wednesday, after a short pit-stop in Madrid. I finished burning the first copy of the DVD 35 minutes before I left home. I started in this very chair, six weeks ago, to tell a story about Carbon Trading. I knew nothing really about it, since what I thought I knew was wrong. Now I have at least some part of the facts.

The burning of Africa's forests without replanting them is dead-end energy economy. They will be gone and what then will the poorest of the poor do for fuel? I have come to think of the problem as really a microcosm of the oil economy. That oil used to be trees and bushes and flowering plants, growing throughout the earths history. The oil will be gone one day, it's traces left floating around our globe, as welcome as in-laws at a bachelor party. All that ancient sunlight, transformed into energy you can pour into a tank, now burnt into our thin little atmosphere. By helping Africa get over it's one-way road to climate and energy disaster, the world will learn a few things about what to do after peak oil.

Copenhagen is important because it's a chance to get it right, to start making some concrete decisions about how we can begin the end of anthropomorphic climate change, and acknowledge our place in the world.

It may not be possible, but that the effort is being made at all is a major accomplishment that generations of naturalists from Hippocrates to Emmerson would applaud. However, I go to Copenhagen with a heavy heart. There are always two ways or more to look at things, but from what I have seen, amongst the destruction the few bright sparks are dim indeed. However, I am often reminded of something I saw written on an MDC staffer's computer in 2002 when I was shooting in Zimbabwe for Newsweek. Theirs was a clearly very hopeless cause, yet everyone worked tirelessly, as if victory was just around the corner. I was in and out of the office a lot, always worried about secret government agents nabbing me, but i had to be there. I always felt reassured by that saying....I don't know it well enough to look it up on the internet but gist is:

"Never forget that a small group of people can change the world, indeed it's the only thing that ever has."

I have a plane to catch.

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