Jetting to Africa: a poem by the Carbon Coach
By Ben Brangwyn 14th February 2012
If I don’t fly, why the hell should someone else?
There’s all sorts of degrees of engaging with the destructive impacts of jetting off far away from home. There are some people who will never set foot on a plane again once they’ve taken on board the environmental impact. Others will only fly for life/death reasons. I know a few who are hostages to “love miles”, with beloved relatives on the other side of the planet. Others fly after they do a calculation regarding the carbon they’ll emit vs the carbon they’ll save (as a result of eg training courses).
Some simply have no idea what their carbon footprints are and how they’re impacting both humans and non-humans with their acts.
There are of course all the others for whom flying is an economic impossibility – totally out of their price range.
Then there’s another category altogether. Those who really should know better, who actively avoid counting the cost of their “personal enlightenment trips” and choose to make the journeys anyway. Only they know how they pick their way through the paradox and hypocrisy lacing those decisions.
This is a poem by a friend, the Carbon Coach, Dave Hampton, on the subject, referring to a group he’s working with who have decided to travel to Africa to a place that does brilliant sustainability work with the local people and with the local fauna/flora. Everyone in that group is somewhere on the above continuum, and only each person knows that for sure where they sit on that line.
When I read Dave’s poem I got in touch with my own feelings about this stuff, including more than a frisson of bitterness and certainly feelings of jealous of the experience and insights they’ll gain by making the trip.
I’m dying to fly to Africa
See the tribal elders
Get myself initiated
into state of Grace-land
Always have; it’s in my blood
I’m a wise elder too
and those cool dudes
Boy, they’re in my ‘hood
Cos I’m a Western Soul who can really see
Enlightenment and Gratitude
The Gods and Spirit Fire
Compassion and Humility
When I come ‘home’ I’ll freely share the fruits of my travel
So much they’ll teach me, how to be happy without burning any fossil fuel
How to live a decent life in full connection with each other, and our Home
How to live a life forever free
from white mans guilt – and shame – humility!
And when I stand by shoulder in prayer wondering at the beauty of the sunset will I mention that white men have changed the chemical composition of the sky?
Adding 25 billions tons a year of pollution
(invisible to their eye)
And when I join them in libations, and the ritual pouring of a 10cc of moonshine
onto sacred Mother Earth and all future life she holds fertile below, enjoying my intoxication
Will I mention the 10 oil drums full of kerosene that I poured onto their land
Before I left? So I could share their ceremony of praise for Earth wisdom
And if they should ask why their crops fail
More than they ever used to…
And ask me if – in MY wisdom – if I think maybe their elders…
who are of course accountable to the gods who keep their soil and seeds fertile…
(hushed) maybe aren’t quite as good as they used to be…
Will I offer the possibility of an explanation
for their dying plantations
that white men’s thirst for travel
and desire for all forms of growth..
has fucked up Gaias Lungs
beyond all recognition…
Will I fly to tell them that?
Maybe I will.
12 Feb 2012
And, yes, I’d love to go to Africa too. But I feel I support my African brothers and sisters better if I stay at home, and seek enlightenment and inspiration from the land, the creatures and the people around me.