Sunday, 4 December 2011

COP17 - Things Fall Apart

Its funny how we tend to leave the tidying of the house to the last minute before our visitors arrive - I tend to do a quick superficial clean-up about half an hour before hand. Durban municipality it seems is no different - I always look forward to the big events (COP17 being the most recent) that get hosted here in Durban from time to time because things get cleaned and planted up properly. Its really just window dressing, but I'm torn between embracing the effort that gets put in because at least things are being done, and feeling frustrated that things are being done in such a slap-dash, hurried way.

What's left after the last major Durban landscaping effort. Photo via Dying in Paradise
During the 2010 Soccer World Cup, thousands of palm trees were planted throughout Durban in an effort to spruce up the tourist areas, and lend a tropical aesthetic to Durban's sup-tropical climate. They looked beautiful for a couple of months before a large portion of them began dying off, leaving their cut-off stumps exposed above ground. The reason for the wholesale 'biting of the dust', was that the trees were obviously not correctly prepared before being dug out, they were often transported huge distances and then re-planted days later. All in a superficial effort to get things done at the last minute.

COP17 has now entered its second week here in Durban, and it seems a similar mindset pervades. At this stage, the talks appear to be nothing more than empty rhetoric - talks about talks, backtracking, greed and lack of commitment. The US, China and India together make up more than half of the world's carbon emissions - essentially the 3 biggest polluters of our world.
You have to wonder, what is the point of flying half way across the globe and making such a half hearted attempt at addressing the concerns of us ordinary citizens. Why did delegates from these and some of the other stiff-necked self-serving countries even bother showing up?

At the same time, I have noticed an increase in the general awareness on the issues of climate change and the environment. Its effect may well be further reaching than the fat cat politicians with their bloated expense accounts, with school children and the general public becoming for the most part, better educated. Hopefully some of the momentum that has been created by the hype around COP17 will be sustained in the long term.

Or maybe it'll be too late by then, and our children will be digging up the dead root balls of the fragile ecosystems that hold our beautiful planet together?
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