Saturday, December 05, 2009

Wangari Maathai

The British Council invites me to a lecture, in a series called Talking without Borders (logical enough I should be there, I guess). It's at the RSA, and is given by Wangari Maathai: the Kenyan founder of the Green Belt Movement, who in 2004 won the Nobel Peace Prize. She's on her way to Copenhagen, where she'll be lobbying at the summit on behalf of Africa, the forests and the poor.

The lecture is very good, although nothing she says is particularly surprising. There are some exciting new ways of putting old problems - I particularly liked her question as to how we can make a tree which is standing worth the same, economically, as one which has been felled. What is perhaps more striking about the evening is the way in which climate change activism has become establishment. You don't get much closer to the establishment than the British Council at the RSA, with the Acting Chair doing the introduction. Lots of the guests, who all toe the line, are people from embassies, government departments, quangos, even industry. The man sitting next to me turns out to run BP. "I'm interested in environmental issues", he tells me.

So - with Copenhagen on the way - the burning issue is surely not "there is an environmental problem", not "what can we do to solve the environmental problem?" but "why are we not acting to solve the environmental problem?"

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