Thursday, June 12, 2008

Take the log out of your ass please

As a victim of nicotine addiction, I was immediately drawn to a new slogan floating in cyber space:

“Kick the CO2 Habit” - UNEP Says It May Be Easier Than You Think

Alas, the United Nations Environmental Programme has not come up with any magical solutions to save my soul but have launched a campaign to save all our souls by giving us practical solutions on how we may reduce our daily carbon emissions.

Here are some practical tips posted on the Kenya Environmental and Political Blog:

-Backing campaigns to encourage airlines to give free coach and rail miles instead of free air miles in order to promote switches to more environmentally-friendly forms of transport.

-Waking up with a traditional wind-up alarm clock rather than the beep of an electronic one - this can save someone almost 48 grams (g) of CO2 each day.

-Choosing to dry clothes on a washing line versus a tumble dryer - a daily carbon diet of 2.3 Kg of CO2.

-Replacing a 45-minute workout on a treadmill with a jog in a nearby park. This saves nearly 1 Kg of the main greenhouse gas.

As I banged on my electronic alarm clock, reached for a cigarette and psyched myself up to get on the treadmill, one fine polluted morning in Nairobi, I thought...


How much are these environmental specialists being paid to sit around and calculate the carbon emissions my alarm clock gives off while they sit smug behind the closed windows of their 4wd cars spewing diesel fumes in my face as I race to get my daughter to school on time. What do you think the carbon emissions are for a car like this below compared to my alarm clock???

We all know that UNEP has its headquarters in Nairobi. We all know that roads in Kenya got munched away by our government a long time ago. However, we also know that the road to UNEP from which ever direction you are coming from (except if you live in Kibera or Dandora or Kangemi which I have sincerely have my doubts that any UNEP personel even has a clue where that may be), are as good as they get in our part of the world. Tell me Mr. Achim Steiner, do you really, really need a 4wd drive car to get to work? Tell Mr. Steiner, to the hundred and one strong untaxed UNEP staff working to save our planet really really need 4wd cars or ostentatious BMWs to drive to Yaya Centre for coffee??

Didn't your campaign managers see this coming when they flooded cyber space with 1001 wise ways to save our planet?? Did you not see the mileage you would have got were you to launch your campaign by telling us what UNEP is directly doing to reduce carbon emissions?

SHAME ON YOU! No wonder African governments spend borrowed money to buy fleets of 4wd cars for themselves - they have you to set the example.
SHAME ON YOU UNEP! How many millions of dollars do you spend on your pretty documents to tell us the world is ending if we don't stop using alarm clocks and that Africa is going to suffer most even though we have the least amount of carbon emissions?
SHAME ON YOU! Your expatriate staff parade themselves around town with red plates on their duty-free cars with duty free fuel spewing out on to the faces of the countless street children and hungry Kenyans walking miles to work to clean your houses for pathetic wages.

How do you all sleep at night? Don't you see it?

Get the indigenous log out of your asses before you tell the rest of us to take the pin (Made in China) out of ours.


Anonymous said...


oops, am I emitting carbon?


Nice one.

We need a photo exhibition on the Salvation Squad slumming it in Nairobi.

juju said...

excellent post. i guess that's what happens when humanitarian efforts become a full-time job. as maslow says, when you approach the world with a hammer in hand, everything takes the shape of a nail.

Anonymous said...

Its about time someone wrote about this. It drives me crazy to be told by westerners that as an african I should somehow take the burden of the world's carbon emisions.

Reading your post again, I feel its important that the reader makes a distinction between the critiques of 1. hypocrisy of international eco-enviro-dev-NGO's and 2. the use of carbon emissions as (an admittedly abstract nevertheless useful) measure of environmental impact.

To cut a long story short, I'm with you on the hypocrisy thing, and will forthwith start photographing all the red-number-plated prados I can find in Nairobi, then look for a place to post such images. I will also turn my phone off for a week at a time, thereby saving the planet from its horrible carbon emissions.

Anonymous said...

Quite some thought there!Thanks for highlighting it and your incisive articles

Sukuma Kenya said...

hot african pussycat: (I love the name!): I am going to load the photos I am taking on flikr (dpinkenya). Will open a group so we can all add to it...
anon: that was one to many grams of carbon you dropped!
Juju: and Maslow should have added, "driving the nails into your ass!"
Nairobian: thanks and this is just the beginning
I dont want this to die in cyberspace. Watch this space...

Unknown said...

cough...cough....just got out of the should read the book 'Poor Story' by Giles Bolton......there is alot of stuff we really don't know about, hidden behind all sorts of trade barriers, so called preferential agreements etc.........I agree with the writer,once you step into the shoes of a fictitious leader trying to govern a country in Africa, you'll realsise how detached your needs are from the 'support' you recieve and how too little is often too late almost in a continuous cycle. Interestingly enough, the countries that succeed, do it there way. Lets just get on with it in Kenya!

Kingwa Kamencu said...

Woah! Talk about getting to the point. I like. A crying shame the hypocrisy and posturing we have all around us. I'll be politically incorrect here as i say that we too individually need to see what similar stuff we might be guilty of. But its good you've highlighted it, the end needs to start somewhere.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this hilariously bleak post Dipesh.
And what lovely and practical suggestions, lol. I must try them.. of course, I live in a country which boasts heavy boots when it comes to carbon treads.

This first stat shows our tiny country (Canada) of 30 million people can show up the entire continent of Africa when it comes to carbon PLUS we can ruin all your futures! These stats are from David Suzuki Foundation.

# Canadians use more energy than all of the 760 million inhabitants of Africa.

# Canada is one of the greatest consumers of energy per capita, burning the equivalent of roughly 7,700 litres of oil per person each year. This is roughly 50 times the consumption rate of Bangladesh, a country that stands to be largely eliminated by climate change-induced sea level rise.

# Canada makes up less than one half of one percent of the world's population, but is the world's eighth largest producer of carbon dioxide.

Well, one step I will take is to find that old wind up alarm clock..


Sukuma Kenya said...

And thank you Colleen for giving us the facts! Perhaps UNEP should consider relocating to Canada. We could then open an IDP camp in the ridiculous amount of space the occupy here.

Anonymous said...

At the risk of being beaten to death, timidly raises a hand and says: I know a place where some of UNEP's staff, voluntarily, plant thousands of trees every year for the past five years or so. Might be longer, thats how long I have known about it. I also know many Kenyans who drive the carbon emitting Prados who have never and probably will never plant a tree. UNEP is no saint but neither are we. Yes, the West emits all the carbon, Yes we (am Kenyan) will suffer from it. Yes the world is not a fair place. But No, it does not absolve us from taking responsibility for the emissions WE contribute.

Anonymous said...

Well, here is an interesting site for us all to get more detail on our countries rankings.

Though I think you should all sue Canada and the U.S. and China etc etc (perhaps in theatre, a touring production and Mfalme should be the star) as let's face it, industrial places would love to be tied up in court to keep them acting on climate change, this report puts Canada 12th from the top and Kenya at 96th! However, it ranks environmental rank on a variety of criteria.
Colleen wrote:

Here is Kenya's detailed report which

and the page for all the countries

Anonymous said...

Sorry to be so verbose but I do enjoy this subject and thank you for writing about it Dipesh.
It is so true that we all have to do our bit though alarm clocks and treadmills seem quite silly.
What I am learning through a fascinating and shocking book are some major areas of concern in industry where we can make some very helpful decisions as related to water use and pollution:
a) Don't buy a car if possible. I see Kenya has Autoshare, a great organization for people to book a car very cheaply and conveniently when they need it:
here are the stats on water use on cars: (this info is from Blue Gold by Barlow and Clarke)
It takes 400,000 litres or 105,000 gallons US to make one car! Then the obvious other smog/greenhouse carbon factors already covered in this blog post.
b) high tech! High yuck!
Buy second-hand gadgets if you can.
This is from the book and while related to the US, is highly relevant:
Computer companies use massive quantities of de-ionized fresh water to produce their goods and are constantly searching for new sources. In the US alone, the industry will soon be using over 1,500 billion liters (396 US gallons) of water and producing over 300 billion litres (79 billion US gallons) of wastewater each year. Originally thought to be a "clean" industry, high tech has left a staggering pollution legacy in its short history....
.....150 groundwater contamination sites, many related to high-tech manufacturing. Close to 30% of the groundwater around Phoenix, Arizona has been contaminated, well over 1/2 by the high-tech industry.
the book also covers how stupid it is to put high-tech industries in deserts or parched areas like Arizona and California.
Anyway, certainly these are two areas that one can make a decision on and impact easily.
How we eat is another huge area we can make an impact with. Meat guzzling has to stop and people have to go back to a mostly plant-based diet. That will reduce your footprint by as much as 25% I have pages of stats and info on that too but will stop at vehicles and gadgets.

Sukuma Kenya said...

Colleen: this is all fantastic advice and you must not let it get lost in the comments section. You ought to write a post about it. How about we start our own campaign also called Kick the Habit(t) and there are so many places we can post. What's more it is free and done by the goodwill of humans rather than overpaid hypocrites.
anon: I completely agree with you, and I am sure they as individuals to some good but this is about an institution and its employees practicing what they are paid to preach. We all can do our bit but those who are paid to their bit as humans ought to take it one step further. I think it would be good to make a post out of all this...

Anonymous said...

Dipesh, what a fabulous idea to start our own campaign (I love the name, Kick the Habit!) and have joined your just launched group!
These topics and solutions being gathered together and posted in this new group is a fantastic idea. Maybe we can find ways to get everyone finding ways to make an impact that are not about lip service and easy-to-do things like lightbulbs and recycling. Those just won't cut the mustard as truly, it is do or die.
They say (I can't quite remember the quote) that a tiny minority can change the world so let's start now!
Like the Greens say: Accomplish the Impossible or Experience the Unthinkable.
And we can take all the info being brought forward and write and get other bloggers writing too.
Great ideas coming out of your post! Wildlife advocates need to come on board too as no point giving money to some organization if you don't change your own habits.

Anonymous said...

Was at Barcamp and just pop in to see your blogs and what you are up to...

I am a mzungu driving a red-plate car and by the way, I know Kibera... I even know Dagoretti, Kikuyu, Kayole, Pipeline, and all choma place and nigthclub in the industrial area because I used to live there.

It's now three years that I have a red plate, but I only applied for duty-free petrol last week because the price is much too high now.

And as you, I hate the rich expatriate mentality... And, by the way, it is not because you have a red plate that you are rich and expatriate.

So, will you categorize me as ugly UN expatriate driving a red car or a fellow-Kenyan who found a place to work to and trying to save money aside like most of us ??

Anyway, do not put everyone in the same bag...

Then, I can see you are trying hard to create you own network and I understand the question you asked at Barcamp about socializing... Some bloggers have tried the guest-blogging (you blog on someone esle blog on a very diffrent subject than yours) while some laucnehd a competition campaign (like asking bloggers to register and write an article about your blog and place an ads to promote the campaign, then you do a kind of raffle with a big price - e.g. Iphone, phone, Laptop, etc.). The second method can have a great impact.

The Anonymous guy :)

Sukuma Kenya said...

Thanks for the tip anonymous ugly UN expat driving red plates :)! The point is we all know how much money goes to waste in the UN and we also know how much money UN staff make. Surely you would think that UNEP staff would have been the first to have seen this major contradiction? I don't think we should stop this here. This is one amongst many contradictions that we have to pay for and it is bad enough having the govt we have and to add insult to injury we got slammed with UN headquarters!

Anonymous said...

Wow. I'm so glad that people are talking about this. I used to look at these red plates with a lot of contempt years ago but I was young and powerless.

Super excellent post.

I wish someone can start a "Shame UNEP" photo campaign and have everyone send in pictures of all the gas guzzlers they come across on the streets.

Anonymous said...

...oops this campaign has already started. I did not read all the posts first. Please send them to me and I will post them on my blog too.

Anonymous said...

I agree that UNEP needs to do their bit but so do we. However, not sure if getting rid of a perfectly good alarm clock and buying a new wind up would benefit anyone let alone the world.