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.
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.
So now then, where’s my guitar ?
* giant hydrocarbon discoveries
Bono Mali image © (RED)