Tuesday, September 11, 2012

An uphill battle with a dodgy leg

Oh the joy of discovery! The past week I went on  some fairly epic swims through the park in order to start filling the blanks of where we have yet to survey. In the process I've seen some epic sights including a sea-grass bank with several turtles all feeding in the same area and new coral areas I've not visited before teeming with snapper, sweetlips and barracuda. Steadily I'm peeling back the unknown areas and finding hidden worlds of beauty.
Sadly though the world around me is as hostile as ever. The Daily Nation reported this morning that natural gas has been stuck off the coast of Malindi only 60km from the reef. Who knows what sediments and chemicals this will throw into local waters killing coral and impact it will have on climate change and future coral bleaching. Yet most of the meals in my life have been cooked on gas, so what can I say really? I guess what worries me the most is the lack of conservation ethic in Kenya and poor attention to detail, which will make accidents more likely.
This past week I had a Kenyan volunteer assisting with the marine programme, who I asked to look at the conservation of sand dunes in East Africa and find out what studies have been done. His report concluded, that we should plant sand dunes with exotic tree species to increase the productivity of that habitat. I was horrified by the lack of understanding about conservation, but even more I felt quite vulnerable when I explained "A Rocha's" view on conservation. In order to help him understand I tried to get it to basics saying that we believe that natural systems are the goal we should aim for, not "improved" or altered for economic extraction. On this simple level I felt the conclusion was quite shaky and in reality it is. A Rocha may want to see natural systems, but maybe the Kenyan people want money and productivity. Who is correct? Am I just a rich kid, free from serious economic worries, enjoying nature as a luxury most people cannot afford?
Of course I don't believe this view in reality and recognise that people cannot live from eating money. A Rocha and other conservation organisations have shown that environmental degradation usually hits the poor the hardest and it is the poor that need conservation principals the most. However, the attitudes which govern decisions while drilling for gas to those decisions about sand dune conservation are very real and something one must be aware of working in this context. There are many people who simply don't understand why anyone should care about the sea. I have an uphill battle to fight.
Newly discovered patch reef I have dubbed "Round Reef"
Currently I am fighting that battle with a nasty Staphylococcus infection in my left leg, which makes walking painful, often flares up in fever through my whole body and is definitely keeping me out of the water. This morning the ASSETS volunteer, Furaha (which means Happy), came to the breakfast table and said, "Come I've heated the water, let me wash you." She took me by the arm as I limped to the laundry buildings where she nursed my illness with a care and attention I have never before received. She took a stick from the undergrowth and carefully cracked out some splinters from the heartwood. She used these to scrap away the infected pus surface, then proceeded to gently squeeze the red inflamed area of the gooey white substance within. The entire time she never shied from the disgusting nature of the task and always with intense attention to minimise pain caused and pausing when her patient was wimpishly flinching. She then cleaned the wound and carefully added salt which she infused into the area with a single drop of water deftly placed from her little finger. She then finally blew onto the are removing heat and ache of the raw, but treated illness. You may wonder why bother telling this story, but for me it was the attentive care I have received (apart perhaps from Mum's magic beds when I was a kid) and it was a privileged insight into one of the many complex finely tuned skills African children learn in the village, but which are so rarely recognised in modern society. Thank you Furaha, you have made me happy today.

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