March 12, 2012

Carbon neutral – lets pick the low hanging fruit first!

Whatever government that comes in to help us live our lives in harmony, the carbon neutral policy is one that needs to continue. For economics or for ethos, we need that. I had a delightful opportunity about a year ago to help the government streamline its health and environment plan into its overall environment plan. It was a wonderful collaborative exercise among the various relevant ministries in how we could come up with consensus. One of the objectives of the national environment plan was on achieving carbon neutrality.

If implemented well, this policy will prove very cost effective to our communities, and it will preserve our way of life for generations to come. And it is the right thing to do. But where can we begin? Take for example, our age old habit of walking, and keeping fit in the process, even without noticing that we are doing so. In Male, right away, a third of our population is hindered from experiencing a peaceful walk. In Male this can be a perilous experience. We have filled our little island with vehicles that are literally choking it and us in the process. Either bravery or questionable sanity can make you venture onto the streets of Male. Although we may not be aware – it is a high tension moment in our motor vehicle thronged streets that lack walking space. Two-foot wide pavements that wobble with the unevenness of its latticed cement blocks leave us with many a sprained ankle, and the dripping water from curing cement of newly laid concrete work of buildings or the overflow from air-conditioners keeps the pressure up leaving the hapless pedestrian guessing where to place the next foot-step. As if this is not enough, the barrage of on-coming pedestrians occupying the same narrow pathway and also mutually meandering through the narrow spaces in-between the army of parked motor cycles, keeps one moving in fits and starts. And then not infrequently also there is the obstacle of having to constantly sidestep gaggles of guest workers who have no other place for chatting than on our narrow pavements, and who often seem oblivious to the urgency of a pedestrian in a hurry – sometime to be the object of ogle or having to avoid the spray from the ever-present spitting. So making our streets more pedestrian-friendly must be a prime objective of our carbon neutral policy. If we have more walkable pavements, less people will opt not to drive gas guzzling vehicles or take the 20 rufiyaa taxi ride to the next block 20 meters away. So could be the reduction in vehicles. It cannot be that people don’t know of or experience such agonies and wish for a solution -- perhaps few actually know of ways to address it. This is what the Male Municipal Council could put to public debate or reflection. It would truly be worthwhile, and I am sure very good ideas will emerge, if the Mayor puts this to an open forum

Our marine vessels also carry the potential for carbon neutral action. Thus, one query I would pose is as to why we don’t use our sail any more? Even on a good windy day, we just continue to burn our diesel or petrol without a thought to this possibility of cost or carbon reduction. The hurried life our minds have got us so accustomed to, pushes us to be energy intensive – of course without really being aware of this. But in this new promise of carbon neutrality we have made for our nation, every opportunity must be taken. And these couple of approaches seems like low hanging fruit that can be picked quickly and easily before we reach out for those on the higher branches --such as those related to wind and solar energy. These latter are certainly the ones in vogue in global media and so in our minds also whenever the idea of “green” is flagged. But let’s look at functionality before fashion. Given the global financial climate, we need to be frugal and prudent in our present choices not to ditch posterity into debt. Let’s pick the low hanging fruit first!

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