Adventures in Climate Change Travelling to the Dirtiest Places

Well, there’s no point in cleaning up clean places, is there?

[WARNING! the following may be distressing to some readers who think travel is pretty and exotic]

Here’s a job tip for you: In the interview, if they ask if you can travel, find out not only WHERE their projects are, but what KIND of projects are they. Example: As I am a Chinese born outside of China, I was excited at the prospect of visiting the Chinese projects and seeing the country for the first time. If they had told me I would be going to mining towns, I may not have been quite so excited.

I didn’t sign up for this job because I wanted to go to exotic Bali (that was just a perk!), but coal mines and landfills? My wardrobe consisted of black jeans, safety shoes, coats that could be rinsed off and wet wipes. Lots of wet wipes. (That should be one of my travel tips!)

Most of the Chinese towns I went to were industrial towns built up around a main mine. I remember scenes as dusty and grey. Seeing how locals lived was like learning a new language! Shops looked different – no neon signs. Towns were often only marked by the “gateway” you drove through (usually red) when you turned off the main road.

It was landfills in Africa. The African safari I went on once in Tanzania is not the same as visiting an African landfill. Same deal with Mexico – it doesn’t matter that there is an agave (for tequila) farm across the road, you won’t really notice it as you are climbing a landfill past decomposing biological matter (and I’m not even talking about the decapitated head – you think I’m kidding, don’t you?).

Africa as well – the main cities like Accra and Dakar were choking on diesel fumes and dust from the unpaved roads or markets or gathering areas by the side of the road. You do get used to it – the same as you get used to the heavy smoke from cigarettes! You either stop coughing after awhile or not!

And landfills! Here’s another tip: if you are going to work with greenhouse gas reduction projects, stay away from landfills (they smell and I still don’t know what’s on the bottom of my shoes), coal mines (ditto) and any type of agricultural waste (pig crap, chicken crap – doesn’t matter who crapped, you just don’t want to have to count it in any season except winter!).

It’s all part of the adventure. The ying to the yang. These were the trips that made life interesting; the colour commentary to the dry spreadsheets of numbers that I dealt with back at the office. These were the true adventures of the carbon warrior!


That’s not fog……


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