Grandiosity and Irrelevance

Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago speaking to 193 empty seats at the 74th UN General Assembly, 2019. Image courtesy UN/Cia Pak.

The UN Secretary-General, being aware of the dire nature of climate change, declared the 74th UN General Assembly on September 23rd, 2019 a “Climate Summit”. The Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, who spent two weeks at this most important summit at taxpayer’s expense, had nothing to say about climate change before, during, or after the summit. Nothing about how Trinidad and Tobago planned to help. Nothing about how TT is to change its ways as the highest per capita plastic waste producer in the world. Nothing about innovative technologies to drive sustainable economic growth and clean the environment at the same time. No words about a switch to green energy. No token of solidarity. Not even a pledge to plant a tree. Not a word. Not one. Zero.

Instead, his contribution was as empty as the denuded gyri of a typical Third World leader’s brain. He had much to say about matters that factored large in his ego’s estimation. In other words, matters of irrelevance with regard to what the whole summit was hinged upon in the first place. Why was he there? Did he hear Greta Thunberg’s emotional plea to world leaders to wake up? Her warning to world leaders to adhere to their responsibilities and listen to the science: to act to preserve life for all species? No, he heard not at all. Ironic considering that climate change directly impacts Third World island states the hardest of all. It has already begun. Even as the Prime Minister boarded a flight to attend the summit rescue operations were being carried out for persons flooded out after a powerful tropical system inundated central Trinidad.

If the Prime Minister wanted to get noticed, which he did – as they all do, perhaps a better strategy to adopt would have been to introduce pioneering innovations and research from the University of the West Indies to buttress ambitious targets in curbing Trinidad and Tobago’s greenhouse gas emissions (the third highest in the world per capita). Eliminate fossil fuel cars by 2025. Lead the world in something for once; in something other than crime, at least. Lead by example. Turn around the country with the worst environmental record to become one of the best. Show the world how to change. Show the world how to make money by leveraging new fields in sustainable technologies. Revamp the University of the West Indies to reflect these goals. Close down the faculty of petroleum engineering. Fire all department heads who sit there doing nothing in relevant research. This should have been on the front burner since the turn of the century. This website has archives going back to 2004 begging for the government to fund University of the West Indies research into sustainable technologies. Now we have missed that boat too while other countries announce breakthroughs every week.

One little girl can change the world and be an inspiration for change for generations to come. What is wrong with these old men? What is certain, despite their feverish efforts, is that history will not remember them, or, at best, they will be remembered in infamy.

Someday, some Trinidad and Tobago leader will surprise us in a good way. Today is not that day. When one hears the Prime Minister speak about his contribution one would be forgiven for thinking that his was the most significant contribution in the history of humankind. Oh, to be grandiose and bellicose! He thinks supporting the Venezuelan dictator-by-action and human rights violator is in Trinidad and Tobago’s best interests. That will work out well.

So life continues as usual. But not for much longer. The science is clear and we are close to the threshold of no return. It is time that irrelevant leaders, immoral leaders, enter the dustbin of history. We must stop recycling this particular brand of trash.

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