Camping in a sand storm

By Jackie Jennings-Bates

The most fearful night of my life was spent on the border of Morocco and Algeria.

My husband, Mark, was in an off-road motorbike tour, and I was driving the back-up vehicle. We were completely off grid, ready for a night camping in the desert , but just before the end of the day, he took an almighty tumble from a dune and broke his collarbone. Luckily, not his neck!

The terrain and the map had us in safe Morocco, but the GPS and the only person we met that day had us in Algeria. It is not a good border to mess with.

While we were making a sling for Mark’s shoulder, we looked behind us and see a dense, black cloud — a sand storm was heading our way.

Yes, just like in the movies.

We rushed everything, threw up some tents and settled in. It was the most incredible force, like a whiteout, but more painful. Sandblasting is not meant for skin.

Mark couldn't crawl into our good tent, so we borrowed his brother's pop-up Wal-Mart tent. The storm flattened it on our faces; we could hardly breathe, but at least we didn't blow away.

We settled down for a long night — Mark, in lots of discomfort, and me with my rampant imagination.

There were so many strange sounds (like helicopters, flash floods, vicious animals etc.); sleep was completely elusive. The stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol, were doing their job.

So what is fear. What was I afraid of? How did I deal with it?

Fear is a biochemical response as well as an emotional response that alerts us to the presence of danger or the threat of harm, whether that danger is physical or psychological.

Our nervous system automatically responds, sending out hormones, increasing blood pressure and heart rate. The danger doesn't have to be real, it can be imagined. In my case, I think it was both.

We had a medical and a meteorological situation. We didn't have helicopters or flash floods.

We couldn't alter our location, so we had to live with that uncertainty.

How to deal with it? The common expression is to face your fears. This seems to be a useful answer if you want to overcome them. You can ignore them, but then they don't go away and can grow bigger.

For my night in Morocco, I just tried to get through it.

  • We put on iTunes.
  • We talked it through.
  • We tried to breathe and relax our muscles.
  • We tried to think rational thoughts instead of letting our imaginations run wild.
  • We tried to mitigate the problems by administering the best First Aid procedures possible (being trained was very helpful and is a good idea for facing fears).
  • We tried to make a plan for the morning.

I focus on the moment. You can only do one thing at a time, so do the best you can with that one thing. I also try to reason that panicking is not helpful, although sometimes it feels tempting.

Then, we remembered that the worst holiday disasters make the best stories later, and tried to see the humour.

The joy always comes in the morning.

The sun came up, we were all still in one piece and no one was there to arrest us. We wedged Mark in the back-up vehicle, promptly got stuck in the mud about 10 minutes later and a whole village appeared from nowhere to dig us out and make us breakfast.

All fears washed away and our love of Morocco complete.

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ESG principle flawed

There has been lots of talk recently (and YouTube videos) about ESG investment principles.

The talk says that Environment/Social/Governance (ESG) is very shallow and essentially a marketing tactic to simply bring money in to large funds to continue churning money and making more money for Wall Street.

But is Wall Street the right participant in a societal fix for poverty and climate change?

I would say no. The two ideals are misaligned in principle.

If a money manager does not find the return he or she is looking for, the ESG principles are over-ridden in favour of the investment that props up the fund financially and this is one of the reasons that many ESG funds actually invest in the hydrocarbon industry.

The movement for sustainable investing in the SDG’s laid out by the UN (which itself is not making appropriate headway to solving problems) must be grassroots. People can vote with their money.

There is nothing wrong with investing in funds that make you a return. But if you decide you want to invest in ESG principles, then the currency is different and that is in conflict with an ESG managed fund that makes a profit.

For example, protecting the rain forest in a foreign land requires first of all buying it from the government for an equal or higher value than they are selling the rights for harvesting.

Then, you are on the first rung of the ladder in terms of defining a strategy to protect the forest for the locals and the planet.

Second, you must have a strategy for replacing the indigenous income derived from the forest before you purchased it and shut down the family operations that put food on the table and send children to school.

Third, and the final rung of the ladder, you figure out how to transfer ownership to a Trust that will manage the “environmental asset” and protect it for generations.

If you do all of this, there is no profit... you spent all the money and have no return. The profit is solely in preserving the lungs of the planet for future generations.

For this reason, the fundamental idea of an ESG focused fund is in conflict with the idea of deploying capital in to ESG ventures in most instances.

It probably is a good idea to do your research on the contents and decision making behind any ESG focused fund you are looking to invest in.

How to save the world

Like me, you may not have had a chance to read the new book by Bill Gates, How to Avoid a Climate Disaster.

However I have read his interview with Wired magazine. I am quite sure Bill has a more educated guess than me about how to tackle this, so I was interested to see what he has to say, and here are my thoughts.

Of course, it is Bill, so it is all about data. The plan is to go from 51 billion tonnes of carbon emissions to zero, employing a method of “green premium” (the additional cost of using a green alternative), which needs to be low enough for it to make sense to switch.

He believes we have to innovate at an unprecedented pace, like we have for the pandemic. He believes we have to really tackle the hard things:

  • 30% of greenhouse gases come from “making things” such as plastic, cement and steel
  • 18% from growing things.

Plant and animal, we have barely looked at these issues yet.

The green premium is close with solar energy and electric cars, etc., but we are in danger of ignoring the big polluters.

He acknowledges it will take a huge investment in R&D with governments, educational institutions, businesses and the financial world working together.

Climate change has historically not been the focus of the Gates Foundation, which has traditionally worked in health (including the MRNA Vaccine technology), sanitation and agriculture.

However, he realizes it is obviously an area of great importance, and in his opinion, is without a plan. He claims you have to work backward from the goal of net zero, with his style of systems thinking to drive innovation.

He reasons there is no simple, single cure, and we need at least 10 major breakthroughs such as harnessing hydrogen and fission or fusion.

However, he is optimistic; he will be 95 in 2050 and hopes to see as many dreams come true in this field as they did for him in the computer field.

In order to share in his optimism, I have promised myself to read the book (digitally to save paper) and, in the meantime, here is a link to the article if you are interested: https://www.wired.co.uk/article/bill-gates-interview-climate-crisis

Would you save the world?

By Jackie Jennings-Bates

How would you make the world a better place If you had all the resources you needed?

It is a worthwhile experiment. I encourage everyone to ponder the possibilities. I think you will find a passion, something that touches your heart and can inspire you.

In the past, we have focused on safe water. It is the most simple, effective way to break the cycle of poverty. The global task of achieving clean water for all citizens is not complete yet, but it doesn’t stop me thinking about other issues that still need urgent attention.

I really just wait and see what pops into my head and then I do some research.

Child trafficking is one dreadful situation I often dwell on, but I don’t think I am ready to discuss that one yet. Instead, I often wonder how I could improve the life of refugee if I had unlimited resources.

A refugee, generally speaking, is a displaced person who has been forced to cross national boundaries and who cannot return home safely. There are internal refugees as well in many countries.

Numbers are estimated between 25 and 60 million worldwide, a number that has been increasing in recent years.

A refugee camp is supposedly a temporary settlement built to accommodate those fleeing whatever circumstances have driven them from their homes.

However, some, such as those housing Palestinians in Lebanon, have been home to four generations since the 1950s. Accommodations range from tents, tarps, shipping containers to haphazard buildings that have evolved over the decades in the more established camps.

Imagine you were suddenly forced to flee your home with only the possessions you could carry, what would you look for in refuge?

I think you would want:

  • Basic comfort
  • Food
  • Shelter
  • Security.

Any parent would want opportunities for their children, a sense of community and hope for the future.

New technologies can find a home in such places of need. The Ikea Foundation have developed flat-pack shelters and raised millions for sustainable lighting and energy.

Some friends of ours worked to secure legitimate birth certificates for refugee children in Northern Thailand. Without them it was as if they didn’t exist.

Programs developed around play can take a role in lifting the spirits and putting some joy back into the lives of children. Often dance, art, stories and theatre can tell a story, teach a lesson and provide healing, especially if passing down cultural traditions.

Then there are the rather more dull things to think of, infrastructure, water, sewage, waste removal, etc. What about creating green spaces and gardens? How can we make it feel like home?

Ultimately, many camps will become more permanent and then thoughts of governance and assimilation into the local economy need to be addressed.

People need a sense of purpose and many an entrepreneur can be found.

I look forward to having more time to think about these issues, do more research and meet more people who work on the front lines to get firsthand information.

In the meantime I will just be grateful to be in my own home in the most beautiful country, surrounded by friends and family, at least on Zoom if not literally.

At least COVID has taught us some empathy from being separated from our loved ones and of life being disrupted.

More A Focus on Saving Lives articles

About the Author

Mark has been an entrepreneur for more than 40 years. His experience spans many commercial sectors and aspects of business.

He was one of the youngest people to be appointed as a Fellow of the prestigious Institute of Sales and Marketing Management before he left the U.K. in 1988.

His column focuses on ways we can improve on success in our lives. Whether it is business, relationships, or health, Mark has a well-rounded perspective on how to stay focused for growth and development.

His influences come from the various travels he undertakes as an adventurer, philanthropist and keynote speaker. More information can be found on Mark at his website www.markjenningsbates.com

He is a Venture Partner with www.DutchOracle.com a global Alternative Investment company.

Mark Jennings-Bates:
[email protected]

Photo credit: www.SteveAustin.ca 

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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