Freitag, 28. August 2009

Creating Momentum


Topics of the day: 2D-Attitude, carbon trading, air conditioning, swine flu conspiracy, press conference, paperwork

This morning we met Mizael in the Parc Bougainville. He works as a teacher (at the biggest lycée in French Polynesia which has about 2500 pupils and teachers) and volunteers for 2D-Attitude. He told us that they used to concentrate on education (school children as well as adults) when they first started in 2005 but then figured this would take too long (we don’t have a lot of time left to turn the tide). Now they are focusing on decision makers in all areas (politicians as well as private enterprises) – not like the other environmental associations that try to tackle the problem (mankind) “on the ground”… He agreed that we need to do both (otherwise he wouldn’t be working as a teacher) but stated that no one took care of the “worst polluters” – I guess he’s right.

Then he mentioned carbon trading which immediately set off my alarm bells. I asked in a quite cynical way whether he honestly believed that this would fix the world’s problems – carbon trading seems a bit like going abroad (into the “third world”) to buy letters of indulgence where they are cheaper so we (industrialized countries who have the knowhow to implement clean tech) can happily continue to crank up our emissions! Fortunately he added that the priorities should be as follows:

1. Save Energy
2. Increase Efficiency
3. Implement Renewables
4. Consider Carbon Trading

We also talked about architecture and “bioclimatique” – apparently the head mistress of his school managed to convince authorities that the air-conditioning should be switched off since a study (?) showed that air-conditioning increased the (swine-flu) infection rate. Most schools here have adopted a “come-to-class-if-you’re-willing-to-take-the-risk” -policy which means that parents are free to decide whether they want their children to attend school or not… Wonder what kind of impact the swine flu is going to have on the world… Roti sent me a document in French with the following quote:

« Il faut prendre des mesures draconiennes de réduction démographique contre la volonté des populations. Réduire les taux de natalité s'est avéré impossible ou insuffisant. Il faut donc augmenter le taux de mortalité. Comment ? Par des moyens naturels : la famine et la maladie. »

"There are only two ways of preventing a world with 10 billion inhabitants. Either the birth rate drops or the death rate will rise.There is no other way… There are, of course, many ways to make the death rate increase. In the thermonuclear age war can take care of this very quickly and in a definite way. Famine and disease are the oldest."

Robert Mc. Namara, former U.S. Secretary of defense and former president of the World Bank

… not a very good translation (the French quote) or I just didn’t find the right quote online…

Apparently the UNO, the WHO and the pharmaceutical corporations Baxter and Avir Green Hills Technology are in on this… or is this just another unjustified conspiracy theory? Unfortunately or maybe luckily internet here is very expensive otherwise I’d probably spend hours on internet research – sometimes it may be better not to know - blinkers are so extremely comfy…

Sorry for disrupting the structure of this blog entry… anyhow – Mizael had lots of interesting things to say but we didn’t have much time so we’ll probably go and visit him some time soon. He lives on the other side of the island (Tahiti Iti) which we haven’t gotten around to seeing yet.

After about half an hour Raurani, Hinano (yes, like the beer but that’s actually her name – she’s the secretary of Roti’s Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom) and Roti showed up in the park. Roti brought an awesome banner which she had made yesterday and wore a t-shirt that said “Velotoa” on the collar. I was instantly super motivated but also a bit anxious. At 9:30 (the beginning of our press conference) only two reporters had turned up – one from a radio station and another one with two video cameras (he only used the small one to film us though so I don’t think he was being serious… but maybe size doesn’t matter ;).

The radio-reporter held his arm next to mine to compare our skin-colours and then asked me for how long I’d been in French Polynesia and if I wanted to tell the Polynesians what to do – rrrrg – I responded that I had a bad conscience for what the Europeans had done to the paradise, the fenua. I guess using that word in Tahitian conciliated him a bit. He interviewed Roti in Tahitian and me in French and then a reporter from the other radio station and two freelance journalists arrived who also interviewed us and happily received our press release.

I think the two Polynesian TV-transmitters are boycotting our “Vélowave” because they get too much money for SUV-adds… but at least we’ll be on the radio and in the paper. We’ve arranged a longer interview with one of the radio-reporters for Monday morning.

The second half of the day wasn’t as pleasant – apart from writing a short application and posting an entry for the Toa Times blog (yet another blog) I didn’t get as much done as I had planned. The e-mail flood I’m getting every day just won’t die down – maybe I should unsubscribe from some of the lists – but then I’d feel like I’m missing out on important things…
I shall be more motivated tomorrow!

Final thoughts of the day:
I wish I could see the reaction of people when they hear about our bicycle-action on the radio... wonder how many of them will understand our aim (and reason)… will they just ignore it/switch over to the other channel?

If you have an opinion on carbon trading and or the WHO-conspiracy theory please post a comment!


Anonym hat gesagt…

Carbon tax and trading
Economics can be a very powerful tool for getting things done, the problems come when you mix in too many politicians, bureaucrats and lobbyists who try to subvert the original aims, not to mention corruption (both financial and moral). You just have to make the system transparent to the people who are going to use it so that they can make their own decisions based on the information that is available. So our job is to help build a framework that people can understand and then make sure that they are informed as to the real costs involved when they make their decisions. This is done best when the choices are easily comparable, like if you had to insert coins into the dashboard of your car for every kilometre driven and for the depreciation and other expenses that you incur even when it is not moving and then compare that to taking public transport.
As an example of simple economic forces, back in the 1970’s in North America abandoned cars dotted the fields and were a blot on the rural landscape, then along came a dramatic increase in the price of scrap metal combined with a downturn in the economy that forced the truckers to search for ways to keep up the monthly payments on their vehicles, within months the wrecks magically disappeared from the countryside without any new laws or regulations.
The idea of a carbon tax is very tempting; in principle it could give us the most “bang for the buck” by channelling resources into optimising those processes where we can achieve the greatest reduction in greenhouse gases for the amount money invested. But who decides how much greenhouse gas the world is allowed to emit, who gets what share of the pie and how do you administer and control the system given the level of corruption on this planet? I am completely against the idea of having emitters getting certificates for free, just because they have been producing so much of these gases in the past.

World Population
Before I make any further comments, I would like to highly recommend a book that I am currently reading.
“Guns, Germs and Steel, The Fates of Human Societies” by Jared Diamond offers a very convincing explanation of how and why the world population developed as it did over the last 13,000 years.
Basically a lot has changed since 13,000 years ago when humans lived as hunter-gatherers in bands or small tribes.
Unfortunately (fortunately?) nobody can tell us what the future will bring for humanity, but this exponential growth rate cannot continue for that much longer. There is certainly a lot that we can do to alleviate the situation, reduce our consumption etc., but the resources of this planet are limited and even if we manage to find another one, our current systems of public transportation are not going to be able to handle the traffic.
My gut feeling is that with our current technology it is possible to provide a decent standard of living for a world population of 2 billion people on a sustainable basis. So, can we improve our technology enough to provide everyone with a decent standard of living , let the majority of the world population get by with a lower living standard or find a long term solution for our population problem before Mother Nature comes up with a short term solution? The problem is that our system is so complex and globally intertwined (which, by the way encourages us to avoid armed conflicts) that something too radical (plague, thermonuclear war, climate change) could put us back to where we were 13,000 years ago, but without the skills needed to survive as a hunter - gatherer. Nature has been around on this planet a lot longer than the pharmaceutical corporations and is undoubtedly more adaptable, maybe the solution for the planet lies there, the question is will the human species still be part of it?

Fen Ellis

Anonym hat gesagt…

Ich möchte unsere Zukunftsaussichten als Menschheit einmal pointiert so formulieren:
Sie sind gut, wenn wir lernen, uns den Gegebenheiten anzupassen, die dieser Planet uns bietet - sie sind schlecht, wenn wir weiter versuchen, den Planeten nach unseren Vorstellungen (genauer: wirtschaftlichen Zwängen) zu gestalten.

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