The temperature was about 30 deg, humidity felt like 90%. We had just finished our external side event, tucked away in an obscure corner closet of some mezzanine floor in a building at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. Numbers had been few because we were hard to find, facilities were missing and so we were delayed, but with a Joseph/Jeremiah’s swingometer in hand we had a productive time.
Then I had 30 minutes to transfer for a scheduled live TV interview at the COP17 main venue.
This should have been easy.
But, first we had to get to our huge “Taxi” van. However, UKZN had made us park far from where we had been holding our event, so that used a non-trivial amount of time, exacerbated by the fact that a bunch of our audience was trailing along to get a free ride. Now I know what real taxi drivers feel when driving a “loaded” van.
The electronic GPS lady, courtesy of KS, informed us in a pleasant voice to turn left into a tiny road that took us away from the destination. After she was admonished, a course correction was achieved thanks to the in-car real human GPS. At this stage we still had enough time in hand … barely. However, we then managed to take an unintended off-ramp into the traffic congestion of Durban city center. After negotiating that, we did finally arrive, and emerged from a taxi-like stop on a yellow line in a no-stopping zone by the security perimeter of COP17.
The first info desk could not direct me to the e-tv studio. So rushing past a bank of outdoor TV cameras, none with any e-tv label, and with the sweat beginning to build, the media center was eventually found in the back corner of an unmarked construction. Unfortunately no e-tv! At this point the producer was phoning me every few minutes, and I said there was little chance I was going to make the noon broadcast. I thought now I was off the hook. Unfortunately another phone call a few minutes later informed me that they had reshuffled the weather forecast to make space for me to follow … a somewhat ironic juxtaposition … but it meant I had to stay on the prowl for e-tv.
So, after trekking across to the main ICC building, traversing the length of the ground floor twice, a stair case was found to the lower bowels of the building which eventually brought me to a remote corner of the underground parking garage, no aircon, and the international broadcast center. My sympathies to the international journalists for surviving down there.
The e-tv people were there, but unfortunately this was not where they did the live broadcasts from.
Departing from there, I was accosted by a frazzled looking journalist with a cell phone fixed to her ear, and who had been hunting for me. Talking to me or perhaps the person on the phone, I’m not quite sure which, she stated that we were going to rush to the broadcast venue. At a half trot we hustled through the parking garage and out into the sunlit heat, ending up at the bank of cameras I had passed on my way in.
Depositing me with two guys who looked a bit put-out by my arrival, my guide disappeared, presumably into some air conditioned respite. The sound man hastened to hook me up, sticking his hand up my sweating back to feed cables around my torso — the life of a media man is no easy job. Then I had a tube stuck in my ear, through which the interviewer, from his cool air-conditioned studio somewhere else in the country, could ask me his questions. A quick sound check revealed a harshly distorted voice telling me how he had been looking forward to this interview the whole morning. A bit of testing decided the audio was comprehensible enough for the interview to go ahead. I was positioned like a chess piece to some magic point in front of the camera, instructed to look into the lens while a 30cm spotlight was pointed into my eyes, and left to begin.
Now understand that by this stage I was overheated, standing in the sun, a spotlight in my face, sweat trickling down my back, and trying my best not to squint, while all the time trying to concentrate and hoping I could speak with some measure of intelligence. So perhaps you’ll understand that I was not too guarded with my words.
Thus it was that, in the heat of the moment, I said on national live TV things like “Canada’s behavior at COP17 is ethically indefensible”, and other fairly forceful statements.
Well, they seemed forceful at the time.
The interviewer seemed to like them.
On reflection, I think that despite the heat of the moment, I stand by all I said. But I probably would have been more tactful, more discrete, and more boring, if I had been cool, calm, and collected. Perhaps there is some value to the heat of the moment.
Postscript: today Canada was again given a fossil of the day award, but more of that in another posting.