Bo Ekman formally opens the 2009 Tällberg Forum in his traditional way — philosophically, and a bit theatrically. He asks us to just listen to the drip-drip-drip of a water drop, shown in video on the big screen. He reflects on the “the change of change” — we used to think of nature as the most stable and slow-changing of the core architectural elements of our planet. On the back of nature, we built what he calls “constitutions,” the legal systems, norms, and traditions. On top of that come things like infrastructure and technology and ultimately the fleeting fashions of our day. But now, he says, nature has moved up in this league. Nature is changing faster than things like infrastructure. It’s no longer stable, reliable. Glaciers on Greenland are moving more than three times faster than they were just ten years ago. (Bo’s been going to Greenland annually for 10 years.)
Bo sits on a stump positioned right in the middle of the stage. He invites us all to sit on stumps like this, positioned around the Tällberg, and just talk with nature, facilitate our intuition during these days of reflection on the impossible tasks of our time, the “fiascos’ as he calls them, the embarrassments of unfulfilled promises like the MDGs, collapse of our ecosystem, the obvious fiasco of the financial crash.
Then we hear from President Mori of Micronesia. His nation will be partially inundated by climate change, perhaps even in our lifetimes. He is moving in his humility and earnestness about the need for a dream. We must launch our dream here, he says. Then he reports on a dream launched by the five presidents or chief executives (two of them head US territories) of the nations in his vast Pacific region. I have to say, it does not strike me as dreamlike: they are pledged to conserve 30% of near-ocean resources, and 20% of land resources, by 2020. This is surely wonderful. But I wonder: if our dreams now consist of saving of small fractional pieces of small pieces of our planet’s natural systems …
There is music, “inter-punctuation,” and now Rwanda’s Foreign Minister is speaking. She pokes Bo Ekman verbally, because he has just invoked the memory of his visit to a Gorilla reserve in Rwanda (slide image behind him: baby gorilla, with the word “vision” under it) and even imitated their sounds very effectively (“I’m very good at gorillas,” he says). “I’ll send you a bill,” says the Foreign Minister, “for using our gorilla sounds without patent rights.”
Rwanda’s president Kagame was meant to be giving this address. When visiting clients in Entebbe, the Nile Basin Initiative, earlier this year, I and my colleague Audace Ndaizeye had thought, “Maybe we could get the Tällberg Forum to invite President Kagame to address the Forum. That would be good for the region, and good for NBI.” So I wrote an email suggesting this. I received a very prompt reply, informing me that Bo Ekman was in Rwanda at that moment and that President Kagame had been invited already and had accepted. Our thoughts had paralleled Tällberg’s, completely independently. The synchronicity was stunning.
But anyway, he is not here — I don’t know exactly why, but I do know that the Swedish government did not exactly roll out the red carpet.
The Foreign Minister is now telling the Rwanda story, which of course is an amazing tale of rebuilding — without forgetting — after the worst of human catastrophes. When traveling there myself recently, I was as struck as most people told me I would be by the cleanliness of Kigali, the capital city. The country is now one of the most stable and corruption free (maybe, the most) in the region.
After this opening session of this annual gathering of this sustainable development tribe, under the big tent in the little village of Tällberg in Sweden, I will go down to Lake Siljan. You see, I’m not staying in one of these lovely hotels this year, enjoying the lovely restaurant dinners, etc. I’m camping by the lake. Eating simply. Reducing my footprint, and increasing my sense of pleasure in being at this lovely place, and this special long-sun, bright-night time of year.
It’s not a “statement.” It’s just … what feels like the right thing to do. I like begin by this lake. The photo of me playing the guitar that is on top of this blog was taken at this lake, Siljan, last year. I intend to be doing a lot of exactly the same thing — working on new songs, by the lake — this year too.