Sunday, June 3, 2007

Sing it Sister - Turn off your Lights, America!

When I visited NYC a few years ago, soon after the start of the war, I stayed with friends who lived down in the financial district, overlooking the hole that used to be the World Trade Center. The recently renovated apartment had no shades. I awoke as I often do 3 AM, struck with yet another bright idea on how to save the world, and looked out the windows on the 22nd floor onto a sea of blazing lights. The cleaning crews from the offices had long gone. There were no signs of life. Yet the lights were all all on, in building after building.

Was this why we needed to go war over oil? To light up empty offices in the middle of the night?

Hey, I didn't like those funny little florescent bulbs at first either. I still don’t. I put a new incandescent in an overhead the other day but at least I felt guilty and bought a new low impact bulb at the market the next day. All the new bulbs will be low impact. I vow it. I promise my new sister, Sharon. I hope that you will too, when you meet her. (read on...)

It is a drag to go around the house every night and make sure that all those little green lights on all the power strips are off. It takes a good ten minutes for my internet and computer to get warmed up after I shut off the computer every night. Ten minutes of “my precious time”. Sometimes, I just leave the power strip on all night.

Really, we are such little drops in the big ocean. Why should we bother?

From the SING IT SISTER department- I bring you one of our new Sojourner Truths: ( addressing the ministers at the Convention of Parties for the signers of the Convention on Biological Diversity, signed at the Earth Summit in Rio in 1992.

Sharon Looremeta, Practical Action Maasai project manager, spoke out about the impact of climate change in Kenya, and the frustration felt by many there at the lack of international progress:

My name is Sharon Looremeta, and I am a Maasai and I work with my farming community —we have mainly herding animals and they have been suffering and continue to suffer from drought. Many of the animals we rely on are dying.

Two weeks ago we welcomed you to our country. We had high hopes that you were serious about addressing the threat of climate change which is destroying livelihoods all across Africa. Now we wonder if you are just like all the other tourists who come here to see some wild animals, and some poor Africans; to take some pictures and then go home and forget about us..

Dear ministers, we hope that the pictures you have taken, remain fixed in your mind while you're deciding what to do. Here is another picture for you:

Parts of Kenya have suffered a drought which started in 2003, these areas have had no proper rains for three years. During this time:

In Northern Kenya, pastoralists have lost 10 million livestock;

Two thirds of the population in Turkana have lost their livelihoods;

In Kajiado, the Maasai country where I come from, we have lost 5 million cattle

We have had no part to play in contributing to this problem but we are already suffering the consequences.

Kofi Annan sent a special envoy to Kajiado in March this year to try and help with the drought.

Not such a pretty picture, eh? And these pictures are repeated all across Africa, and the scientists are telling us that pretty soon, this kind of picture of hunger and suffering is the only kind of picture you're going to be able to see here in Africa. I hope you keep these pictures in your mind when you are deciding whether this COP will achieve anything, or not.

Dear ministers, we never asked for anything that you yourself didn't say was possible here in Nairobi. In all your speeches you said improving the Kyoto Protocol was important. But are you really willing to do the work to make it happen?

We said, "the review of the Kyoto Protocol was important for Africa, because we need more funds for adaptation — more than what we have now", and you said, 'later';

We said, "we need deeper emissions cuts so that our children and grandchildren can have a better chance in life", and you said, 'later';

We said, "we need new mechanisms to help sustainable development in Africa" and you said, 'later'.

I am a mother. I have a daughter. When she asks me what came out of the meeting in Nairobi, I don't want to have to tell her that you said, 'ask me again next year'.

This was supposed to be the African COP - building and strengthening the Kyoto Protocol with Africa's needs in mind. I think this should be called the 'Safari COP'. 'Climate change tourists' is what I call you ... you come here to look at some climate impacts and some poor people suffering, and then climb on your airplanes and head home. Africa is sometimes called the forgotten continent. And it looks like you've forgotten us again….
Just so you know, that this weekend while you head off on Safari or climb on your jet airplanes and fly back to your comfortable homes — and we know that most of you live in comfortable homes, no matter what country you come from, my people will be left out here with very little food, very little water, with our herds dying around us. My people are living on the edge of existence.

We believe your decisions have left a small window of opportunity to meet the demands of the people of Africa and the rest of the world.

If they cannot be made today, they must be made at your next meeting. Give me some good news that I can tell my daughter when I get home.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman/President.


Turn off your lights, America. Let us see the great cities go dark from the sky at night. Show them your hearts. They can see you, down in Africa, on Google Earth.

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