Dreaming of Decentralization... and Happy Children
Ra’iatea, Sunday 2nd of August 2009
In the morning I went to church with Suzie. The choir was amazing and it was quite funny how the priest kept swapping between French and Tahitian but I still can’t say that I am particularly fond of the church as an institution – at least the Catholics and the Protestants here get along really well: they have a joint Christian school together. Afterwards we went upstairs to the museum of Saint Therèse – it was… interesting (she suffered great pain and died at a young age (of tuberculosis) but still loved god to the very end (I wonder what makes some people so dedicated to something/someone… and I hope I’m dedicated enough to make a difference). Then we went to see and old lady whom Suzie always visits after church.
In the afternoon Nelson, Tefa, Tauirai and Caroline took me for a hike up a mountain from which we had a magnificent view – of Ra’iatea, its neighbour-island Taha’a and Bora Bora and Huahine in the distance… I wondered what Rai’atea looked like about five hundred years ago and if I would have gotten along with the people (human sacrifices were voluntary and not for women and children ;)…
Raphael still felt quite dizzy and had itchy eyes.
Final thought of the day: If god exists how can he tolerate so much (unjust) suffering?
Ra’iatea, Monday 3rd of August 2009
Today I planted my first pineapple (you just cut off the prickly leafy part and stick it in the ground – after about 9 months a new one sprouts out) and read outside in the backyard. The climate here (no “proper” seasons) does have a big advantage: you can plant and harvest all year round!
After lunch I cycled to Uturoa (Raphael is feeling better but hasn’t fully recovered yet) and finally met Dominique. He is planning on installing a waste incineration plant to provide warm water heating. I didn’t quite understand why they don’t want to use the heat to generate electricity first. I must admit he didn’t seem highly knowledgeable (at least not in the field of renewables)…
I also found out why the community doesn’t want to connect their gasoline power plant with the other one from EDT: they’re making about 50 million CFP a year. This is because they only have 12 km of grid to maintain (for a 6 MW power station) and the other one has 83 km for a 3 MW station…
Since the demand in the capital Uturoa is rising they want to replace the 6 MW with a 10 MW power plant (or 7,5 MW thermal (fossil) and the other 2,5 MW renewables – unfortunately he couldn’t tell me about the exact details for the renewables mix – he just said it would consist of solar, wind and waste (latter I wouldn’t really consider a renewable energy source)).
A few words on waste incineration: yes it’s gone when you burn it but I know, at least in Germany there are too many waste incineration plants with too much capacity which compete with/discourage recycling/make recycling rates go down.
About 20 tonnes of waste are produced in Ra’iatea each day (so about 1,8 kilograms per inhabitant – we should have trusted the inhabitants from the start: there are about 11 000 of them). They get dumped on a landfill site/pile which now has an area of 6 square kilometers and a depth of 12 to 15 meters. When I asked if the gas could be captured and function as a (supplementary) energy source he told me that they hadn’t planned for this 30 years ago – the site wasn’t sealed, the rubbish was just dumped directly onto the earth (happy ground water pollution!). They are having big problems with the dump because the rubbish keeps self igniting and there is no space to dig it over or move it – at least it keeps the fire department busy…
He did say one positive thing: they want to cover the administrative buildings with PV-panels in the near future (whatever that means)… although the feed-in tariff doesn’t seem to be working here (yet) because there is not enough administrative staff to take care of the massive amounts of paperwork connected to this well-intentioned political incentive…
Dominique thinks the government is too centralized – all the decisions are made in Pape’ete (or in France – on the other hand he thinks France should be sending over more money to develop renewables and encourage recycling) and there is a lack of communication not only between the different ministries but also between Tahiti and the other islands and atolls. Decision-making takes place over the top of the heads of the people concerned – and what’s news?!
Dominique responded to the questionnaire in a fairly “ecorrect” way but maybe that was only because he likes blond hair… why do words and actions often differ as much as day and night?
In the afternoon Caroline, Xavier and I set out to find a waterfall “with a great swimming hole” (according to my tourist guide) – we ended up sitting down in a little wading pool that was about 90 centimeters deep – while Raphael stayed at home and made (what we thought to be our last) dinner (with the family).
Final thought of the day: Can one truly speak of political will and then build another fossil dinosaur (gasoline power plant) – accelerating towards the abyss well aware of its presence?
But comme toujours there is not enough money. Our economic system is really making me sick – the solutions are all there and we can’t simply buy a new planet when we’re done with the old one!
Ra’iatea, Tuesday 4th of August 2009
Nelson had reserved two Taporo-tickets for us and took Raphael downtown to pick them up. It turned out they don’t take foreigners because they complain about it being too wet (in the spot on the freight ship designated for passengers). Suzie suggested we take a PLANE to get back – aaaahhh.
We’ll try again tomorrow (there are two boats going back to Tahiti). I shall underline the urgency and if necessary I’ll play on the captains heart strings or “push on the lachrymal gland” as we say in german.
Caroline told me about her plans with her English class – she has some pretty good ideas… I found the excerpts in the “Tahiti Projekt” about education for her to read and she seemed to be quite fond of the idea. She said the French (=Polynesian) system was fairly good for academic students but not very suitable for the students who have more practical qualities. She had a few doubts concerning the realization and pointed out that it lies in the nature of mankind to be competitive and competition is of central importance for almost everyone. I’d like to believe that this is a pretty pessimistic point of view… or maybe it’s realistic?!?
In the afternoon I went to work with Nelson who dropped me off at the Marae (didn’t get to read all the signs the last time we went). It had rained cats and dogs pretty much all day and it was fairly windy so I was there all on my own (no tourists :). I climbed on a few trees and talked to a teenager (the only other person around) who more or less happily answered all the questions on my questionnaire. He showed me a Mape (they slightly resemble chestnuts) on the ground so I gathered up a whole bunch to take home. Nelson picked me up and showed me a waterfall (from the distance) on the way home. We also picked some sweet grapefruit and a papaya – I’d love to try and live off local fruit and vegetables for a while – unfortunately we’ll live in the city when we get back to Tahiti…
After dinner everyone had ice cream and chocolate but I had to think about child labour on cocoa-plantations (you can get a child for about 25 € in the Ivory Coast (quality kids imported from Mali or Burkina Faso) and once it has become too weak from all the backbreaking work you simply toss it/leave it somewhere on the street – wonder if that’s what’s meant by “efficient usage of human resources”?)… bloody ethics I really love ice cream! Raphael had some and remarked that one can’t really lead an ethical life living in a screwed up system…
Final thoughts of the day: I’m glad that Raphael is feeling better and I really hope we can leave tomorrow – I’d hate to take a plane!
I wonder if I’ve lost some readers due to my lengthy and partly monotonous moraliser-reports…