TL, Global Warming and environmental footprints

One could argue it is warm enough here already, but with the UN report on global warming about to come out, I thought I would oar in and comment on the TL contribution.

Back in my western world, I have long practised the art of turning off lights, rejecting useless packaging, recycling to the point of analness, using a compost bin, cycling when feasible, public transport when possible and no doubt some other particularly rectal pursuits.

In the expat world, many expats may have their electricity paid for by employers or at least, bundled into an accommodation package.  If you live in a hotel or serviced apartment etc., this will certainly be the case. So do you turn off un-necessary lights, turn off the air-con – usually no.  And when the power blackouts cut in, there is often a diesel generator to take up the slack. (Note that the last 2 weeks has been pretty bad for power cuts. I heard that the issue is contaminated fuel this time.)

And there is no recycling system, so bottles, cans, paper all go into the same bin. Maybe there is some separation done at the rubbish dumps (whatever that is). For locals, waste disposal is into public concrete bins with easy access for the local pigs to snorkle up every last morsel of nutrient. After the pigs have done their job, the left-overs are burnt. This often causes palls of dark smoke which a few months ago, was disconcerting as it was not clear if this was another house going up in flames in the distance.

You do see plastic water bottles being recycled for re-use as containers for diesel/petrol and “tua” – the local palm wine and fire water. And occasionally, glass drink bottles are seen doing a similar job.

But it seems like many expats have a large 4WD and use it for everything. If one wishes to avoid breaking out into a huge sweat, the 4WD with AC on full bore is the norm. And with current security concerns, it is seen as better to travel in 4WD with windows up and doors locked at all times. Use of taxis has plummeted following targeting of taxis by rock throwers and reports of taxi drivers conducting dubious practices in their vehicles particularly with foreign women.

The air is a big winner. With no industry to speak of, it is only the vehicle pollution to worry about. Without strict controls on vehicle emissions, some vehicles are a disgrace in this area and can cause significant local distress to those otherwise appreciating the fresh air in their vicinity.
At the end of the day, it is the same old picture. The locals at the lower end of the income scale find themselves unable to contribute much to CO2 footprints. While the well-heeled foreigner probably is at the other slothful end most of the time.

As for the rise of sea level, most of the damage will be in Dili where the already crumbling sea walls cop a pounding during storms at high tide.  There are many breaks in the walls and it is not uncommon to see the esplanade covered in sand after a storm.  I guess this will get worse.  Mostly, it will upset those that have the means to sort themselves out.  The people at the lower income end will probably just move their small rustic palm frond and tin shacks further away from the beach.  Most places on the northern coast tend to drop sharply to the sea so probably will not have much of a problem, except maybe Com.

2 thoughts on “TL, Global Warming and environmental footprints

  1. Very good description! I also noticed that in Timor you often find “energy saving lamps” (don’t know exact name in Eng.). As for burning the trash, it is their way to get rid of the rubbish since (probably) ever. Of course when they do it at your door step it is not a pretty sight or smell :). Then you have (I did) wild pigs and a monkey running around the neighborhood’s street spreading the rubbish. This together with the daily flooding caused by the rain and dirty gutters… = sanitary problem + lack of good sanitation = pollution = environmental damage. But there are institutions working to improve this in ET. Finally, global warming is a major problem that we often forget because there are already so many (other) problems in this world. Promoting “green policies” in all countries as part of a global effort is a must (do). (Check:

  2. Pingback: Global Voices Online » Blog Archive » East Timor: UN Environment Report and East Timor

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