Tuesday, 24 February 2009
moving through a changing world
"Adam Fier recently sold his home, got rid of his car and pulled his twin 6-year-old girls out of elementary school in Montgomery County. He and his wife packed the family's belongings and moved to New Zealand -- a place they had never visited or seen before, and where they have no family or professional connections. Among the top reasons: global warming." This from a story in the Washington Post yesterday.
As one of his reasons for the move, he says that one of his daughters "will still be alive in 100 years" (which implies great longevity...) and he wants them to live in a place that provides the best quality of life.
I remember when I moved temporarily to New Zealand with my first husband in 1980, people were choosing to live there because it was the best place to be in case of a nuclear war between the US and USSR.
Its interesting what makes people move. I believe the itchy feet of the migrants are something that is genetically wired into many of our DNA. The work of Dr Spencer Wells and his team on the Genographic Project shows that early people moved up from southern Africa to populate the world.
This last week I was working at a workshop to launch the first regional Sustainable Urban Development Network. You can read some of the stories we produced there. One fact that really stood out for me was that 100 000 people a day are moving into cities all over the world but most rapidly in Africa.
Lars Reuterswald, Director of UN Habitat, said at the workshop: "There are 1.3 million architects worldwide. Of these, 30 000 are in Africa, (the same number that there are in Italy). And 20 000 of those African architects live in Egypt, so there is a huge issue of capacity and quality.
"These are very important issues. our mandate is not to solve the problems but to highlight issues that need to be taken seriously.
"We are looking ahead... there are 25 'Cape Towns' needed every year, on a continent where the slum population increases by 70 000 every day. Our prime task is not to upgrade slums but to go to the source and to stop them developing, hence our focus on sustainable development. We need to make sure that we focus on the systemic changes that can and will change the world. I know it can happen. We have to change the way things are and how they work."
I was inspired by his commitment, passion and hope. What a contrast to people who choose to leave without trying to make a difference. (And yes, as I know only too well, sometimes you want to leave out of desperation, when trying to make a difference just doesn't seem to be working.)
When it comes to issues of sustainability and global warming, there is still lots of work to be done. As one of the delegates at the workshop told me, "In Namibia we don't mind about climate change. Our country is a desert. If the climate changes and we get more rain, that will be good for us."
In other parts of the world, it seems that people are desperate enough to try anything.
According to the Danish daily Berlingske Tidende researchers will wrap an area at the edge of a glacier east of Kangerlussuaq in the western part of Greenland with 10 000sq m of snow white synthetic foil to reflect the sun and ensure that the temperature will not rise.
Should we really be going that far to hold back the tide?