A bit of a monologue from 6th April…
If the ocean is blue here, its probably more down to the prevalent colour of the rubbish than anything else. A beach strewn with all manner of human detritus…plastic and broken glass; bottles and cans, broken plastic implements and even the odd spent shotgun cartridge. Behind the beach, that strange landscape of apartment buildings apparently being simultaneously built and falling down, scattered amongst them the temporary (though probably as long-lasting) block and corrugated shacks of the less well-off.
It is no wonder we stare at the long vistas of waves breaking on the shore and out to the horizon…past the rusting ships…out to a blue haze where all seems well with the world. I sat and gestured conversation with an old guy about nothing much, facing the inland chaos which was more relevant to his life than the distant horizon the tourists come to enjoy.
Driving West from Fez, the landscape changed from flat to hilly, and from dry to damp and green. The small scale producers selling their fruit and veg by the side of the road fading away, replaced by bigger fields and more machinery. But all the way was occupied by human food production, though the rural population seems pretty low compared to other places. Nearer the coast it seemed ever more French…the road markings and signs the same with added Arabic…the bare rolling hills like an impoverished version of some of the less interesting parts of Northern France.
The roads full of overloaded trucks…through towns with whole new zones of modular smart apartment blocks laid out in rigid grids. Where are all these people coming from to fill them? Consumers and profits needed for the ever-improving efficiency and scale of agricultural and industrial progress?
So biodiversity and people don’t seem to mix. It seems to me that is not the accidental effect we like to think, and which we can do something about. At root, food production for people underlies our entire society and all its jobs and industry the rest of us occupy ourselves with. And what is this agriculture but the deliberate and increasingly efficient destruction of biodiversity? We choose a few species which we need, and manipulate the environment to produce vast quantities of those few species and systematically exclude the others. And whilst we all look out to sea at the pretty blue horizon, this all-consuming machine behind us is driven by our system of economics to extract more and more to support ‘growth’.
The species we choose are even manipulated, through unnatural selection and even genetic modification, to produce more of the bits of them we need. Imagine what would happen if there were no people? Very few of our favoured species could survive without us, so we’re hardly doing them any favours. So basically, people are very bad for the world. Developed people are even worse as we consume more. It is with these thoughts in my mind that I arrived at the coast, ending up camping on a patch of grass and concrete in the rain between some sheep and chickens and concrete apartment blocks.
The next day was supposed to be another visa-gathering day, but I had added a trip to the Toyota dealer to see if I could find some genuine mirrors as the after-market cheap ones I’d got were busy falling apart. Sadly, the mirrors would take 20 days to deliver, and the Ghana embassy weren’t going to issue a visa in less than 10 days…at which point I gave up and headed South towards Casablanca, pitched up at l’Ocean Bleu and set about fixing the mirrors with glass-fibre paste and crossed fingers and contemplating all that is wrong with the world! And there I was going to leave you…but I prefer to end on a high note, and I had one today, so…
Today is the last day in the highly populated coastal area, as I am picking up Yury and Maria from the airport tonight and tomorrow we head East to the mountains and deserts. They requested a first night hotel…reasonable enough after travelling from St Petersburg via Frankfurt and arriving after midnight! So I booked into an Ibis in Casablanca and headed into town via petit-taxi – for lunch at the Vegan Cafe. This cafe is open for lunch in a yoga centre, a quiet oasis in a busy city on a busy coast, and the food is just delicious.
Whilst there, in my own blue horizon perhaps, it seemed that there is hope – with development comes positives as well as negatives for the non-human world if we use it well. Vegan food is a much more efficient use of resources than processing animals, so maybe that is where we go next and reduce the impact of our increasing development and growth? I still don’t think it is enough – biodiversity is the world’s protection against change, it is what keeps life going long-term. By using land and sea for our own purposes we deliberately and systematically reduce diversity wherever we are active – the long term solution has to be to reduce the places we are active and allow nature to repair some of the damage we have already done?