Saturday, April 28, 2012

I hate plastic bags!

One of the good things that happened in Ireland during the Celtic Tiger years was the introduction of the plastic bag levy.  For those who don't know what that is ten years ago last month the Irish government introduced a 15c (later raised to 22c) levy on all disposable plastic bags, almost overnight those ubiquitous scraps of plastic pretty much disappeared from life in Ireland. 

Both before and after the introduction of the levy my work took me all around the countryside of Ireland and it was phenomenal the change that simple levy made.  In my memeory most trees and bushes had sad scraps of plastic dragging in the wind, after the levy they disappeared. 

The reason that this is in my mind is twofold. 

Firstly we were recently at a turtle refuge here on Réunion and saw how much plastic gets ingested by sea creatures, as a soft greenie it upset me no end. 

Secondly because I was passing through Conakry (the capital city of Guinea) a little while ago and a collegue and I took some time to go for an amble about the neighbourhood where the Golder office is based.  The neighbourhood includes a beach where we walked and came across part of the beach strewn with sand filled plastic bags.

Sand filled plastic bags on the beach

Because the bags are filled with sand they aren't going anywhere

A part of the beach that gets cleaned up (the photo was taken from a beachside bar, the life of an itinerant geologist can be tough)
Now this isnt a rant about Guinea or the people, they have enough problems and don't have the wherewithall to have city workers down cleaning their beaches. But rather a comment on what a lot of other beaches in wealther parts of the world would be like if they weren't maintained and cleaned by local authorities.  We generally don't see the problem because somebody else is cleaning up our mess.

Yet it such an easy problem to address, make people pay for their plastic bags and suddenly they realise they don't seem to need them so much.

So basically what I'm trying to say is that I really hate plastic bags!  Right, rant over.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Tales from the home front. - Happy Easter / Joyeuses Pâques

I know it's been a while since the last article and you probably been wondering (or maybe not) what's been happening here. Well not much...
But now it time for one of the most important celebration of the year (according to the kids): Easter. I actually think it is Samuel's favourite, even before Christmas...

Anyway as you know, Easter is all about chocolate, eggs and hunt. Since we started the "tradition" in Ireland, it also involves bunnies. This year, because of the move and Stephen being away I had to face a lot of new questions and problems that did not occur last year, and all by myself!

First of all the questions from a rather curious 5 years old: Do the bunnies do here like in Ireland? Are the bunnies watching to see if we are good? How? Do they hide? Are they watching us NOW? Is there one or more rabbits? Do they have a big basket? How do they carry the basket? Are they watching me now? Are they going to hide them inside or outside? Do we have to leave the door open? Is the hen coming too? (In France we have either hens or more traditionally the bells from Rome, but that would be a very long way down here).
Then the logistic: in Ireland you buy your chocolate in advance, hide it out of reach until the D day. Here it's 30 degres so it has to kept in the fridge. I had to wait for the last moment and then hide some on the top shelf wrapped in kitchen tissue and some more in the veg box of the fridge dreading that they would find out. Glad they never go for the veggies!

Finally the delivery: the 2 major issues of hiding chocolate in a tropical place are heat and beasties. At night the temperature drops to the low 20s so I hope the chocolate will not melt to much between now and tomorrow morning, But I have to make sure they do find all the eggs early enough. The other reason I was reluctant to leave chocolate eggs all over the place is for the beasties. It's mostly ants, but could attract worse. So I've been a little more inventive and in the house I put none on the ground, but I'm a bit worried to find trail of ants leading to them by tomorrow morning. For outside I wrapped them individually in cling film (on top of the alu wrapper) hopping this would be enough. I started to write down the number of eggs for each room but I got distracted and now I'm not even sure how many eggs were in total (27 or 28).

It's now 2 AM so I should go to bed to be fully operational tomorrow morning for the big hunt and dealing with over excited children high on sugar... but I really like this moment when I have set up everything and just waiting for them to enjoy.

Have a happy chocolate day!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Market day at Moribadou

 Last weekend I took the chance to head down to the local village of Maribadou during the market day (Sunday).  It's a real eye opener, here in the camp we are insulated from much of the outside world and could anywhere in the world and when you are caught up with working its easy to forget where we are and what it's really like.

With the work that is going on Maribadou has seen major changes in the last few years, for one thing it's population has grown from roughly 800 people to about 8000 people in the last five years! 

One thing that struck me (and not for the first time) is that despite the world of difference in location, wealth etc. how similar things are in so many ways.  Day to day life goes on, whether its the group of lads hanging around outside a cafe watching the world (and the girls) go by or a mum leading a crying child by the hand.  And it continually reminds me how lucky and privilaged we are. 

The kids here are great.  Like all kids lively and full of life.  They love the cameras and seeing themselves in the photos (the joy of digital cameras).  While it's tough to see the poverty (mind you not as tough as it would be to live it) it good to know that these kids are likely to have a brighter future than they would have otherwise because of the mine project.  The mining company here puts huge emphasis on social and environmental issues and has a policy of employing locals wherever possible, it really has been impressive and certainly makes one sleep better about being involved in such a project.  Among other things in the short time that I've been involved they have drilled new water boreholes for local villages and carried out improvement works in the local hospital among lots of other continuing work. 

Market day

Downtown Moribadou

Local kids
More of the kids