Friday, July 22, 2011

The Weekly Sneak: Keep it Green

Not that it comes across very strongly, but I have a thing for environmentalism and the green movement and all that tree-hugging stuff*. I am a bit of a provincial actually: Dar es Salaam is the biggest city I have ever lived in in my whole entire life. Mega cities give me the willies actually. I like them the way people like rollercoasters. A couple of rides and it is time to go home. Trouble is that Bongo is trying to become a bit of a modern urban mess. Which makes me sad because if there was one thing that I always relished, it was the feeling that by living in Dar I was getting away with a delicious advantage. Everyone is obsessed with Nairobi, thank goodness, leaving us tourist-free residents to our own devices. It has remained a wonderfully under-appreciated corner of tropical heaven for the longest: hot, humid, torrid, complex, confounding, stagnant, vibrant, dynamic, sarcastic, inscrutable, welcoming, warm, playful... evidently I could go on for a bit, this here love affair has twenty-something years on it.

But of course, change must come. Recent work with some activists was instructive: the practice of urban farming is alive and well. I hope we stick with it, that would go some ways to making up for the visual assault of all those inorganic, mirror-fronted, puce- and violet-tiled, no-car-park having monstrosities that are going up around the city with impunity. Anywho, I wanted to do a combination love-letter, nostalgic commentary and "think green" piece for The East African this week. Here's a bit:

"Now that prosperity is trying to knock on Tanzania’s door- in spite of the fact that all of the lights are off inside- we seem to have found entirely new uses for the open spaces in our lush city. Land grabbing seems to be in Tanzanians’ blood, as anyone will tell you who has legally bought a plot and left it unattended for a month or less. Bars and food establishments are usually the first offensive: it is a rare space that hasn’t at some point been taken over guerrilla-style by a handful of plastic chairs to become the refuge of after-hours folks who prefer to have dinner and catch the evening news away from their domestic arrangement. Such a gentle approach to land-grabbing usually left a little patch for neighborhood kids to play, not to mention a corner for an enterprising sort to hook up an illegal water connection and grow vegetables."

Don't worry, the ranting comes later. One way of getting a bit of a feel for the Dar that rarely shows up in popular consciousness is, of course, to buy the Dar Sketches book :)

*a propos tree-hugging: how is that an insult? Everyone has tried it at some point in their life. Believe me, you ate bugs as a kid and we both know you've hugged a tree or two in your time. Nothing to be ashamed of.

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