Essay by Eric Worrall
But apparently has not dampened your enthusiasm for playing white saviour.
Refusing to fly has lost me my job as a climate researcher. It’s a price worth paying
My company in Germany has demanded my swift return from climate-change fieldwork near Papua New Guinea. I can’t do it
Thu 12 Oct 2023 23.12 AED
Two weeks ago, my employer presented me with a stark ultimatum: return to my offices in Kiel, Germany, within five days, or lose my job. I am a climate researcher and since March 2023, I have been completing vital fieldwork into the social impact of climate change almost 15,000 miles away by overland routes, on the island of Bougainville off the coast of Papua New Guinea.
This weekend, I will set sail on a cargo ship to return to Germany, travelling to East New Britain in Papua New Guinea. From there, I will cover the remaining distance to Europe by cargo ship, ferry, train and coach.
Many people have asked why it is so important for me to travel as low-carbon as possible. I have three reasons. First, I want to be consistent with my moral commitment to avoid flying. …
Second, I promised all the 1,800 participants in my research in Bougainville that I would return low-carbon. I want to keep my promise. White men (of whom I am one, as I am frequently reminded here) are often referred to as giaman – liars, fraudsters in Tok Pisin – probably with good reason given the country’s turbulent colonial past. I do not want to be seen as giaman.
Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2023/oct/12/fly-climate-breakdown-germany-climate-change-papua-new-guinea
New Guinea is a dangerous place, which appears to be plagued by corrupt authorities, violent drug crazies, and religious maniacs. A word of warning, don’t click the religious maniacs link unless you have a strong stomach.
I think the professor is deluding himself if he thinks his example has somehow made a difference. His presence is a footnote, a colourful visitor in a long line of colourful visitors, who will nevertheless quickly be forgotten. Life in such places is simply too intense to hang on to memories of people who are no longer present.
Don’t get me wrong, there are good people in New Guinea. You’ll find good people even in the most troubled places, as I have personally experienced. But good people cannot always help you, if you attract the attention of the wrong people.
The following travel video by Kurt Caz gives a fascinating on the ground glimpse of life in New Guinea. Kurt is a crazy South African who visits lots of dangerous places.