Can't help but smile

Hit with a usual bout of culture shock upon his return from Africa, Jonathan finds designing a carbo

Back from Sierra Leone – with a smile on my face. The last few days in the country were light and graceful, filled with the positive energy that comes with working alongside people who are serving the needs of the poor and marginalised in their midst. On my last morning, as a token of appreciation, I was presented with a beautiful length of woven cloth, hand-made by one of the groups that MAPCO has been training.

Back in the sterile half-light of Heathrow, it feels like God has taken the great remote control in the sky and turned off the volume, the colour and the heat – along with the smiles.

Bums and boobs moon off the top shelf of the newspaper stand. ‘Phwoaw’, roars the headline in one over a photo whose caption alleges Prince William is groping a young woman’s boob – he clearly isn’t, but what has that got to do with newspaper sales? A row of vacant faces stares at an item on the television in the lounge on the launch of Sony’s new Playstation.

The culture-shock involved in going to Africa is a mere shadow of that experienced coming back ‘home’. Countless times on re-entry into this country I have pondered on how impoverished we are in so many ways compared to our African brothers and sisters – how much we are in need of a comprehensive development package to address our profound social and spiritual poverty.

I learned that the African Union offered to send election monitors to oversee the last US presidential election. (The offer was politely declined.) I do think we should seriously consider receiving teams of experts from Ethiopia, Sierra Leone and Chad in community solidarity and the art of living.

Back in Findhorn, it is comforting to be greeted by Craig who is showing around a group of inner-city London youth. This visit is the first of a series to explore the suitability of Findhorn as a venue for workshops aimed at helping young people from the cities get exposure to the natural world. We are too white and bourgeois by half and the kind of energy they would bring in would likely help shake us up in the most interesting and creative ways. Fingers crossed.

Back at my desk, a really interesting piece of work has come in. A small team of us has been invited to design a carbon-neutral island – a notional rather than specific island, at this stage at least. The only specifications we have been given are that it should be off the Scottish coast and have a population of between 500 and 1,000 people. Scotland has been described as the ‘Saudi Arabia of the Solar Age’ and it is fascinating to begin to deconstruct the various elements of the carbon footprint knowing that, provided populations are prepared to put up with small wind parks, it may be possible to balance the carbon account-books.

Here at Findhorn, our four wind turbines make us net energy exporters. Not only is this very satisfying from an economic point of view. Also, every time I come over the crest of one of the surrounding hills on a windy day, at the sight of our wee turbines spinning merrily away, my smile extends from lips to heart.

Jonathan Dawson is a sustainability educator based at the Findhorn Foundation in Scotland. He is seeking to weave some of the wisdom accrued in 20 years of working in Africa into more sustainable and joyful ways of living here in Europe. Jonathan is also a gardener and a story-teller and is President of the Global Ecovillage Network.
Getty
Show Hide image

Donald Trump vs Barack Obama: How the inauguration speeches compared

We compared the two presidents on trade, foreign affairs and climate change – so you (really, really) don't have to.

After watching Donald Trump's inaugural address, what better way to get rid of the last few dregs of hope than by comparing what he said with Barack Obama's address from 2009? 

Both thanked the previous President, with Trump calling the Obamas "magnificent", and pledged to reform Washington, but the comparison ended there. 

Here is what each of them said: 

On American jobs

Obama:

The state of our economy calls for action, bold and swift.  And we will act, not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth.  We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together.  We'll restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost.  We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories.  And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age.

Trump:

For many decades we've enriched foreign industry at the expense of American industry, subsidized the armies of other countries while allowing for the very sad depletion of our military.

One by one, the factories shuttered and left our shores with not even a thought about the millions and millions of American workers that were left behind.

Obama had a plan for growth. Trump just blames the rest of the world...

On global warming

Obama:

With old friends and former foes, we'll work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet.

Trump:

On the Middle East:

Obama:

To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West, know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. 

Trump:

We will re-enforce old alliances and form new ones and unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the earth.

On “greatness”

Obama:

In reaffirming the greatness of our nation we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned.

Trump:

America will start winning again, winning like never before.

 

On trade

Obama:

This is the journey we continue today.  We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth.  Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began.  Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week, or last month, or last year.  Our capacity remains undiminished.  

Trump:

We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our product, stealing our companies and destroying our jobs.

Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength. I will fight for you with every breath in my body, and I will never ever let you down.

Stephanie Boland is digital assistant at the New Statesman. She tweets at @stephanieboland