Good Energy

The guys at Good Energy have been really supportive and excited about the expedition, so much so that they have made a contribution which allows me to keep the blog regularly updated during the expedition, so they and everyone else can follow the journey. Good Energy supplies 100% renewable electricity sourced from wind, water, sun and sustainable biomass. CO2 from coal-fired electricity generation is one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions in the world. Switch your electricity supply to Good Energy using this link and not only will you be supporting the pioneering community of independent green generators, but for every sign up they get they’ll make another donation to help get the bus around the world. It helps you cut your personal CO2 emissions, helps them grow a great business, and helps me get round the world.

Monday, 11 January 2010

Delhi Conversation

I had some heavyweight intellectual company in Delhi. Jen Boyle founded a school and bank in Rwanda and Kenya after living there for 3 years. She’s now studying an MPA (I’d never heard of it but its the civil servants version of an MBA) at Harvard.

Mike Blanche MBA and Noogle (newbie at Google), was also in Delhi for a friend’s wedding. Mike had also helped me with the bus build back in Thornton Heath, so it was great to be able to catch up with him.

Jen and I talked for most of the evening about development while drinking quite a lot of Bombay Sapphire and tonic. I still don’t trust the ultimate goal of “development”. It feels like a process which only ends when every African family has a plasma screen they can watch adverts on. No one can begrudge the ideals of lifting millions of people out of poverty, but aid money is almost always linked to commercial interests that means in practice development is driven by the aim of turning poor people into consumers or consuming indigenous resources. The Japanese build roads throughout Africa so they can sell Toyotas. The Americans build roads so they can ship out oil and minerals. The Libyans build museums and cultural centres so they can flog their petrol, and the African mobile phone revolution has proved that even poor Africans are a market that can be used to turn a good profit.

In the end I got so drunk I invented a 2 step doctrine which will alleviate all global inequalities. Firstly export all our (developed world) costly welfare state to the 3rd world. Using southern Spain as a model, all the infirm, elderly, jobless and retired get shipped off to “care communities” in the developing world, run at a fraction of the cost of providing welfare services in Europe. Plus they’d provide massive new industries and investment in the developing world. It’s already happening in expat enclaves in Costa Rica and Senegal.

Secondly, open all borders. I spent 3 months working undercover in the UK immigration system, covertly filming for an award winning BBC documentary. During that time I met detainees who had risked their lives to reach the UK and were being sent back because they were economic migrants rather than political migrants. In my eyes this key difference has become meaningless. If someone has no opportunities because there are none in his country, or if they have no opportunities because they are being persecuted, it amounts to the same thing. They need to get out. The clandestine journey from Africa to Europe is literally murderous. If someone is so desperate they embark on it, in my eyes that makes them sufficiently needy that asylum should be granted regardless if its politics or poverty driving them.

Open borders for a global free movement of labour would bring about a quick and uncomfortable rebalancing of a lot of 1st world/3rd world inequalities. Let Africans and Indians come to Europe and America to benefit from the wealth created by the colonialists’ exploitation of their resources, and all our old folk can see out their days in a specially built resort which happens to be somewhere like Ghana.

The doctrine probably needs a bit of sober finessing. Perhaps the deportation ships full of pensioners isn’t quite congrous with the libertarian open borders concept.

In the 60’s the hippy trail started out as a backlash to societies post war rigidity, but by the 70’s it was bringing back new thinking which challenged the status quo and authority (Vietnam protests, Paris riots) and it slowly impregnated the mainstream (The Beatles in Rishikesh). I don’t know if the anti-capitalist/environmental movement will ever have the same strength of influence as the hippies did, but I think there is a hope the tie-dyed earth-mothers will achieve more than persuading McDonalds to serve fruit smoothies. Society’s rigidity today lies in its unquestioning importance of the search for personal wealth, and as much as this sounds like hippy claptrap, the counterculture backlash should be about creating lives made rich by being part of a non-consuming community. Not a million miles away from the hippy ideals.

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