OnSafari: Carbon Congestion

OnSafari: Carbon Congestion

Dar's Carbon WheelPrint
Dar's Carbon WheelPrint

Kenya’s President Kibaki has advised the developed world’s working group out of the Copenhagen climate summit that the Third World wants carbon credits for protecting its forests.

OK. And carbon debits, then, for their fuel inefficient commutes.

My first four days on safari were spent on business in the capitals of Nairobi and Dar-es-Salaam. I have meetings, go over the upcoming safari itineraries, meet friends and shake jetlag. And as I’ve written before in this blog, I never arrive except at night, because of the horrendous traffic.

I arrived Nairobi Thursday morning at 7 a.m.

This was not my fault, but American Airlines’, who had twice canceled my flights out of Chicago, first to Paris, and then to London. I arrived a day late, had to squeeze everything into a shorter time and had no choice.

And once again, it took us two hours to get from the airport to the Norfolk Hotel in downtown Nairobi, a drive that would take me 20 minutes when returning to the airport very early Saturday morning to fly to Dar.

But I have to admit I had no idea of how bad the traffic had become in Dar. It was Saturday morning! The commute from the Dar airport to The Retreat in the embassy “slip” area took two hours. And it’s a much shorter distance than from the Nairobi airport to the Norfolk. At times my cabbie simply turned off the engine and we would sit, encased by 18-wheelers, for 15 or 20 minutes!

Not my cabbie, or the 17-wheeler (one of the left rear wheels had disappeared) or even the put-putting dark smokey motorcycle was fuel efficient. In fact, these are the most fuel inefficient cars on earth.

Can you imagine the waste? I would look into the faces of the poor folks on buses and remember my conversation with the porter at the Norfolk who explained he had to get out of bed each morning at 3 a.m. to get to work by 8 a.m. He then left at 5 p.m. and would not get home until 8 p.m.

What an incredible waste, not only of carbon, but of human resources. I often hear Africans defending their agonizing struggle into development with the history of the developed world itself. “But think of your own Wild West,” the argument goes, “there was a lot of waste and graft back then.”

Yes, that part’s true. But it didn’t take Wyatt 2 hours to get to his sheriff’s office in a Corolla running on two cylinders.