mardi 15 avril 2008

Can We Give Planet Earth A Chance?

Since her coming into being some 4.5 billion years ago, Planet Earth, we have been told, has met and overcome tasking challenges, each as devastating as the other. Some result from her own physical make up when she either spews out her molten innards or shudders from the unrelenting pressure of her rigid tectonics. Others result from cataclysmic encounters in her ride through the not-so-empty space, around her solitary sun.

For millions of years she endured the transformation that each challenge brought. Her landmasses moved away along her waters, crunched against each other, sank below or rose from beneath her waters. Her solid ground has seen awesome waves rushing in from the sea, rivers come and go, arid desert replace fertile soil, solid ice flows scraping down her mountains to the sea and her rocks worn down by the winds.

Through each of these testing moments, Planet Earth has sustained and nurtured that most fragile existence that came from her very air and soil: Life!

It is a living, breathing creation forever locked in the recurring transitory passage from existence to oblivion and though easily snuffed by any of the little or major upheavals Planet Earth has faced, has found in itself, the formidable ability to adapt and survive, and by virtue of successful evolution, to proliferate.

And yet today, this Life that has endured through millions of years may be at an unprecedented crisis. Having borne uncounted species all clustered together and competing for space, food, and security, Life allowed one species to rise above every other to exert the right of domination and access to her bounties.

Today, this new powerful species has spread to every corner of Planet Earth, and doing so, has, perhaps inadvertently, disturbed the self – regulating density pressures of species’ co-habitation.

The flow of rivers has been modified with structures erected to water new and increasingly large cultivations, provide the necessary energy to feed homes and industries or facilitate transportation.

The very bowels of the earth are gouged and scraped to release minerals and fossil fuel to feed industries and combined to meet the needs of material comforts.

Often driven by an unquenchable cupidity, this species has turned the very lungs of the planet into grazing and cultivation, chewing up the trees into paper, burning them in household cooking stoves, when they are not turned into furniture or consumed in industries’ furnaces and all singly or combined, enhancing the girth and lining of individual and corporate purses.

The guarded secrets of the natural occurring forces of magnetism, electricity and their frequencies were penetrated to offer limitless pathways of discovery and innovation towards eliminating the constraints of distances between isolated groups, facilitating exchanges and more and more engineered to directly lead to what is perceived as improving the immediate quality and comfort of living.

All these were perhaps inevitable in the normal scheme of things which demand that each species take from his environment the substance to ensure his existence and survival. However, the modern-day character of human life and activity has now been shown to be a direct cause of what may very well be an unprecedented challenge to Planet Earth’s capacity to sustain the life she brought forth. Mankind’s households, industries and factories are spewing forth wastes that the soil and atmosphere may no longer be able to sustain.

The accumulation of noxious gases in the atmosphere is apparently directly contributing to amplify the domino ‘green house’ effect. The global modifications in temperature lead to disruptions in air mass circulation and air systems’ regulatory storm cycles, meltdown of polar ice caps, rise in sea-levels, change in climate zones, disruption of rain patterns, spread of desert, etc.

Urbanisation and industrial production are placing considerable pressure on waters and soil.

Their combined pollution is causing irreversible breaks in the eco-system.

Fauna and flora succumb to the unrelenting pressure and are condemned to the now increasing list of extinct species when they are not individually propelled along the peculiar path of evolution and adaptation to disrupt the eco-system, like the spider crabs from the artic, the giant jellyfish of the yellow sea or the taxifolia in the Mediterranean are doing.

Disruptions in climate change disturb weather patterns. Habitats are destroyed from wild fires, inundation of fertile zones or desertification, forcing people no longer able to grow their own food into suburban ghettos in droves.

Safe areas, arable land, water supply are now scarce assets and are covetously guarded. They become prime sources for potential intra-national and international strife and conflict.

Global communications reduce and remove boundaries between peoples. They set and spread the standards for material comforts and excite the innate human drive for immediate needs’ satisfaction. Folks driven from a culture of subsistence are more and more squeezed into suburban ghettos where they are conditioned to aspire to the level of material comforts, often unreachable by normal and socially acceptable living norms. The way out is more often the sad and heavy tribute paid in terms of social and personal tragedies from spiralling crime and violence. They often go hungry while watching people eat from the TV set. Sometimes, the land from which they eked their subsistence are taken up by cash and profit oriented multinationals that produce both the TV and the food featured..

Modern life by Mankind is a complex interplay of forces that go far beyond his perception, understanding and control. The need to control his physical environment and the intricate play of morals that drive and motivate his choices, have often seen his best interest, long term sustainable development, as an integral and inseparable part of the symbiotic eco-system, sacrificed on the altar of short-term goal satisfaction translated into personal cupidity and comfort.

It takes little, well-intended, imagination to recognise the significant part of this cumulated sacrifice in the equation of both global socio-economic developments and the hunger riots now taking place in several countries. We are being made to be the involuntary witness of the destruction of the very fabric of the society modern man has woven, notwithstanding that, with regards to both development or under-development or hunger riots, some individuals or groups may be blowing on the flames of discontent or opportunities for their own short-term political or economic and when taken separately, conflicting agendas. Indeed, the rationale to divert cultivation of food crops to meet the more lucrative needs of industry- these, a by product of the escalating fossil fuel costs (most likely engineered by market speculators), seems to pit the politician against the entrepreneur with the starving populace caught in the middle..

The message seems to be clear. Our life styles have exacted a heavy toll on the fine balance of Planet Earth’s natural forces. The imbalance is probably irreversible in our lifetime and will most likely result, we are told, in a chaotic chain reaction of ever-increasing impact to destroy our very life, before equilibrium is re-asserted, as it surely must have, time and again over millions of years.

When this will happen, maybe Life and Planet Earth will have another chance, perhaps a different choice. One where each species takes from nature only what is required to sustain personal integrity and gives not back more than nature requires. A choice where species will cohabitate without seeking to dominate each other or having to compete for resources. One where each species correctly identifies itself as part of the whole in the complex web of life and recognises that each self-serving disruption in the natural scheme of things will bring along a high cost to pay by future generations.

However remote these concerns may appear when viewed from the limits of our individual and personal everyday horizons, we cannot continue to ignore them.

In a recent moment of strife and conflict, there used to be a rallying call to "Give Peace a Chance"! Are we up to giving Planet Earth a chance ?

mercredi 9 avril 2008

Vers Un Boycott du Beijing 2008?

Un relais international de la flamme Olympique, prélude de la grande rencontre sportive d’été 2008 en Beijing, a vite été accaparé, dés son lancement en Gréce, puis aux étapes Londonienne et Parisienne, par des manifestations et autres revendications politiques au nom des droits et libertés, Tibétaines d’abord, Chinoises et humaines ensuite. Le parcours de la flamme par les autres étapes est d’ores et déjà compromis.

Ce relais qui se voulait celui de l’harmonie et de paix a sombré dans l’ignominie du chaos et le désaveu. Tout un chahut dont le catalyste se prétend être la récente oppression plus que musclée de la Chine, pays hôte des jeux Olympique 2008, des droits et des libertés au Tibet.

D’un coté l’on clame ne plus être en mesure de supporter les abus flagrants des droits et des libertés de l’homme, surtout ceux du Tibétains. La Flamme Olympique s’est donc trouvée, le temps d’un relais organisé par le pays hôte, le symbole de l’oppresseur. Inacceptable dans les capitales de la communauté internationale, bâties sur le respect de la liberté d’expression de l’homme. Pour les besoins de ses politiques à court terme, c’est aussi un bon train à prendre en marche!

De l’autre, l’on prétend que tout cela n’est au mieux, qu’une piètre manigance d’une clique autour du Dalai Lama Tibetain, au pire des actions criminelles des groupes anti-chinoise. De ce point de vue, c’est un peu comme si rien ne s’est passé au Tibet en mars 2008. Il n’y avait pas de manifestations anti-chinoise, l’armée du peuple qui occupe le Tibet depuis 1950, n’a fait aucune intervention sanglante, aucun Tibétain n’est tombé sous les balles pour avoir simplement réclamer ses droits d’être libre chez lui, les 953, chiffre officiel des arrestations, ne sont qu’une petite minorité des fauteurs des troubles, moines inclus. Rien de quoi s’affoler et surtout qui peut toucher au symbole du moment de la gloire de la République Populaire.

Sauf que ce symbole de paix et d’harmonie a prévu son passage en relais sur le toit du monde, l’endroit même ou la Chine exerce son règne d’occupant et d’oppresseur.

La boucle est bouclée. Le sport rejoint la politique. Faut pas trop chercher à les séparer. L’un chasse l’autre quand il s’agit du prestige national, au point qu’ils en sont inséparable.

Je trouve qu’il est un tantinet naïf d’enoblir l’Olympisme. Dés son début, il était un outil entre les mains des habiles hommes politiques, pour canaliser les passions des peuples.

Dans sa version moderne, il s’est trouvé pris en hôtage soit pour la propagation d’une certaine idée de société (Berlin 1936, forte mise à mal par un certain Jesse Owen) soit comme platforme pour internationaliser des revendications autonomiste, (Munich 1972) soit pour dénoncer une certaine hégémonie ou idéologie d’un pays hôte, (Moscou 1980) ou encore en rétorsion (Atlanta 1984).

L’entente, la paix et l’harmonie internationale que représente l’Olympisme restent des valeurs chères à promouvoir. Cependant, tant que l’organisation des rencontres sportives prestigieuses relève du prestige national, la politique s’en mêlera et le sport se trouvera relégué au second rôle.

Le choix du pays hôte se voit ainsi souvent le résultat du marchandage d’influence des pays candidats auprès des pays votants. Ces valeurs qui nous sont chères et à partir desquelles nos démocraties s’épanouissent, deviennent trop souvent une commodité soumise, comme d’autres, aux lois des plus offrants, si elles ne se font pas oublier au fond du placard de nos conscience, au nom de la diplomatie si ce n’est celui d’une politique d’appaisement aux relents d’autruche.

Quand le COI avait attribué les jeux 2008 à la ville de Beijing, en juillet 2001, c’était sur une promesse d’»un monde, un rêve». N’étions nous pas alors tous au courant du bafouement des droits de l’homme en Chine?. Ne l’étions nous pas de la situation au Tibet?. Nous sommes nous posés des questions sur la nature du rêve promis par le pays hôte? Sur qu’il n’y avait aucun remous digne de ce nom pour faire entendre ces voix opprimés sous le joug du communisme triomphant. Pas plus qu’en 1950 au moment de l’occupation du Tibet par la Chine, ni en 1959 et depuis contre l’exile du Dalai Lama en Inde.

Appeler à perturber le rélai international de la flamme Olympique ou aux boycott du Beijing 2008, à quelques semaines des jeux, me semble l’expression d’ une hypocrisie honteuse vis à vis des droits de l’homme en Chine et au Tibet. On en parle, on se crispe la dessus, plus me semble t’il, en résultats des manches à la une des médias occidentaux qui chatouillent nos consciences endormies, que par profonde indignation vis à vis de ce qui se passe en Chine et au Tibet ces dernières cinquante années et plus!

On n’avait pas réagit en 1950 et depuis, contre le déferlement du communisme d’abord en Chine puis au Tibet. Les dirigeants Chinois comptaient-t’ils sur notre passivité?. Tout comme prévoyaient-t’ils la réaction d’une aventure Tibétaine pour assouvir leurs revendications nationalistes et de souveraineté envers Taiwan et l’Arunachal Pradesh?

Le Tibet et le respect des droits humains dans l’empire du milieu on s’en moquait et, soyons honnête, on s’en moque toujours, et on s’en moquerait bien demain, une fois les poussières et nos passions passagères refroidies. La Place Tiananmen, 1989, c’était quoi encore? Un morceau de télé-réalité à vingt heures?

Car, aujourd'hui, on joue le jeux. La Chine est un marché! Les droits de l’homme, s’est une commodité qui se vende et qui s’achète et ce, seulement quand il y en a l’intérêt! Ou quand des médias en mal des manchettes nous les vendent!

Cela dit, peur-être que réagir aujourd'hui c’est mieux que de garder le silence. Peut-être c’est se retrouver et de faire son mea culpa tardif. Tout en sachant que rien, du moins de notre temps, changera au Tibet. Les manifestants gueulent. La Chine oppressive passe!

C’est regrettable qu’un pays comme la Chine, élevée à une certaine grandeur nationale et internationale par son riche passé et cultures, devient victime de sa propre propagande et se laisse sombrer dans la pourriture d’une idéologie qui s’accommode aux besoins du moment pour maintenir aux pouvoir les oppresseurs des peuples Chinois et Tibetains.

Aux Chinois et aux Tibétains de se réveiller un jour et de prendre en main leurs destins. Ils ne doivent pas compter sur l’intérêt et le support soutenu de la communauté internationale.

jeudi 3 avril 2008

Are We Serious About Solid, Non-Recyclable Waste Management for La Digue

The Seychelles' 'Nation' daily of 3rd April 2008 reported on ‘Questions to Government’ of the Seychelles National Assembly (Parliament) session of 2nd April.

In a question put to Government from the Hon. MP for La Digue island, on the matter of the new landfill for the island, the Minister responsible for Environment and Natural Ressources is reported to have revealed that after further study, none is needed.

What of the La Digue island landfill?

My purpose here is neither to argue in favour of landfills nor to dispute the Minister’s view that a new one is not needed for La Digue. I am merely reacting in what I take to be a reasonable manner to the apparent lack of genuine interest in long – term, practical, ecologically sound management of non-recyclable waste, from both the Government of Seychelles and those supposedly elected to safeguard local community needs and interest.

La Digue is a 10km² granitic island some 43km NE of Mahe, the main island of the Republic of Seychelles.

It is the 4th largest island of the country, a lush green hump rising to a few hundred metres with its white sandy beaches and rocky coasts lapped by the varying shades of blue of the Indian Ocean, with a permanent population of around 2500 (roughly 3% of the national population) and an economy largely sustained by tourism.

Life and business on the island is however confined to the low-lying, narrow coastal strip that in some areas can stretch to 1 km wide. This density, coupled with problematic storm water drainage, has been an environment-friendly waste management thorn for the island folks.

Waste is collected and if recyclable, shipped to either Mahe or the nearby Praslin sister island for further management. Non-recyclable waste is deposited in the only landfill on the island. Septic tanks and soak-pits, where these occur, manage sewerage from both private households and commerce.

The question put by the Hon. MP for La Digue island is therefore quite pertinent in that it raises concerns over both long – term, non-recyclable waste management and the every day need to maintain the eco-friendly reputation of the island.

However, given that the Hon MP for La Digue island is a member of the ruling party and also Vice Chairman of the La Digue Development Board, which oversees all infrastructure and other developments on the island, one can safely and reasonably deduce that he could not have been ignorant of the situation with regard to the landfill.

Notwithstanding, the Minister called in to respond to the question, would go unchallenged when, in the same breath, he revealed both that the existing landfill will last a maximum three years and that a new land fill is not needed, despite funds having been secured for it from the European Union.

This appears to me to be a gross lack of genuine concern for long-term, sustainable waste management for the island.

The question to Government had therefore probably more to do with making the MP’s own contribution towards filling in the time of Parliament and an unconvincing pretence that he is useful to the island community, and in so doing, reinforcing the perception of how local politicians of the ruling party seem to earn their keep and keep their seats!

For recall, the Government of the Republic of Seychelles received a donation of €3M (say SCRs.36M) from the European Union, to provide for three landfills, including one for La Digue

Now one must admit that the EU does not go about distributing funds to governments of so-called third world countries, without having first received assurances and guarantees that the funds will be used towards the implementation of projects that have been properly assessed.

It boggles the mind that the Minister for Environment and Natural Ressources would blithely admit to a feasibility study undertaken after the country had pocketed the EU checque, revealing that at least one landfill was not really needed after all!

What does this tell you of the seriousness and professionalism with which some public authorities go about their business?

How seriously can one take the Minister’s stance for sustainable, long-term and ecologically sound development for La Digue, when he recognises that the current solid, non-recyclable waste management will endure for a maximum three years but gives no indication of what will be undertaken from then. Three years, that’s in 2011. The groundwork for whatever infrastructure required to take over from the current solid, non-recyclable waste management set-up, needs to be started now!

The ‘Waste free Seychelles’ program, however successful it may be, deals only with the proper management of recyclable waste. Other wastes continue to be produced at the other end of the daily business of living and commerce and still need to be properly managed if La Digue Island is to remain «the pearl of the Seychelles’ crown».

Sadly, the Hon. MP for La Digue (at least his representative, on the day his question was tabled), is not the only one guilty of this blatant lack of interest. None of his colleagues from both sides of Parliament, found it fit to raise the issue further and challenge the Minister to:

a) Ensure that in future, he arranges for serious study of any infrastructure investment projects to determine its necessity, feasibility and sustainability prior to committing scant ressources or reaching out for international donations

b) Come up with a decent, long-term solid waste management plan for the island.

And, presumably, a pro-rata refund to the European Union of the original donation will be too much to ask for!