My dream had come true – a request to write a journal editorial about Africa, and it had arrived on the same day that Bono edited The Independent, too.
‘May I say without guile, I am as sick of messianic rock stars as the next man, woman or child.’ Those are Bono’s words from 16 May, but substitute ‘geologists’ for ‘rock stars’ (they’re almost synonyms, after all) and perhaps you’ll soon agree.
The African geology conference in London earlier this month placed the wonders of the continent firmly at centre stage. I’ve been fortunate to witness something of African geology from Cape Bon to the Cape of Good Hope, and my geological travels have revealed many highlights in between, from the souk in Tripoli and the coffin shop in Tema, Ghana (Planned City at the Centre of the World) to the snow-capped High Atlas peaks rising beyond Marrakech.
And one of my most formative experiences as a geologist and a politically-conscious human being was a summer spent on a diamond prospect in the darkest Karoo.
So what have the musings of a messianic rock star like Bono to do with life as an explorationist?
A very great deal, I believe, because it is unarguable that an education in earth science does bring with it an entirely different appreciation of our planet and its troubles.
As geologists and explorationists we are acutely aware of our responsibility towards the wild environment. This year’s Africa conference title, ‘The Elephants* of the Future,’ provided an apt reminder perhaps that in extending our science to the search for new resources, we should redouble our personal commitment to the rigorous environmental standards which will provide for the real elephants of Africa’s future as well as the metaphorical ones.
Together we can make a difference, and just as our generation can no longer claim to be unaware of pressures on the global environment, so can none of us any longer claim to be ignorant of the enormity of the problems faced by Africa today.
History will judge our generation differently from all those which came before – and exactly because we are the youth of Bono’s Live Aid era. We were, over twenty years ago, already aware of the suffering of war and famine in Ethiopia. We were the same grown adults who watched the horrific scenes from Rwanda and Darfur, and we are the same rock fans who flocked to Live8 last summer to see middle-aged rock stars lobbying G8 and the world on African debt.
We are, quite simply, the generation who knew.
So what can we do, as professionals working in Africa ? Very little, and yet so much. We can commit ourselves and our employers to doing right by the continent and her people. We will support and maintain educational and training opportunities, wherever we can. We will involve ourselves and our companies in local aid and health programmes, not just for the duration of a drilling campaign, but for years beyond.
And above all we will strive to ensure that our commercial practices do finally deliver returns to more than an exclusive few.
Africa has much to offer the Earth, and as earth scientists we owe Africa the debt of responsibility and integrity in return. We’ve known it for years, and it’s time to deliver.
So now then, where’s my guitar ?
* giant hydrocarbon discoveries
Bono Mali image © (RED)
92. Live from London – Live8
103. Atlas shrugged – in the mountains of Morocco
102. Moroccan red – Marrakech
Wield that axe, friend ! Crank up that bank of Marshalls to “11” and blast those riffs until all can hear!!
‘So, this is our moment. This is our time. This is our chance to stand up for what’s right’.
– Bono, 02 July 2005.
Stop Press: The Independent goes (RED) for a second time, tomorrow, 21 September 2006 .
Here is the editorial from Giorgio Armani in today’s (RED) edition of The Independent.
I’m grateful to Bill Taylor for this alternative, post-modern perspective …
There’s this rock fan who dies and is getting a tour of Heaven from St. Peter. They see Elvis and Jimi Hendrix and John Lennon and then… Bono.
“I didn’t know Bono was dead,” says the rock fan.
And St. Peter replies, “No, no, that’s God. He just thinks he’s Bono.”
Africa is always going to be a tough nut to crack – we will always attempt to foster our western ways on a non-western continent and, not surprisingly, it never sticks. I do believe that there needs to be more African Solutions to African Problems instead of just flinging cash and C-grade non-European-compliant vegetables in their general direction. As for the environment: we’re always super-mindful of our physical impact during drilling campaigns – but no-one else thinks to take their litter home with them 😉
That’s agreed, Lu — it would be so much better to help Africa to help itself. The difficulty is that decades of economic misery and corruption have in many ways left the continent without the structures and financial resources to resolve the problems without a new approach from us as well. And a glance at the headlines on the famine in East Africa shows just how critical the short term need will remain until we can find a way to imagine and implement longer term solutions.
As for our responsibility to safeguard the environment — the mindset of industry is surely improving, but there’s still some way to go. The deepwater Gulf of Mexico disaster of 2010 underlines the need for endless vigilance offshore, whilst fresh news of Shell’s environmental problems in Nigeria shows how the risks extend onshore as well.
Best wishes, coming from foggy Aberdeen in Scotland this morning.
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