After a disastrous couple of days in Washington D.C., I was only too happy to return to England where I’d been tasked with awarding one charity for their good works, and for me, good works meant the environment, of course.
I was committed to visiting more than one location of my intended charity and set off early from my childhood home in St John’s Wood for Sidmouth in Devon. Around 10 a.m. I got a call from Daddy to ask if I’d taken his car, which naturally I had in fact done. The sanctuary website offered directions by train, car, or bike but we were currently experiencing a first-ever red-heat warning, and no one in their right mind would be cycling.
It was about a three-hour drive to the sanctuary and I tried listening to the BBC but it was one heat story after another, and not a single one about global warming. Instead they were blaming the source of the warm air (Africa) and banging on about exactly how it had traveled. Honestly, I really wish they wouldn’t confuse people! By talking about a naturally occurring path, people may feel as though there is nothing to be done.
The sanctuary offered spaces for seventy in their car park, though just now I was the only one here. There was no denying today was hot, but with a national emergency having been declared, everyone had taken off for the seaside.
Who can say no to free vegan ice cream?
This alone was rather depressing. Such a crisis should have been made a teaching moment, but instead the next generation had taken to their floaties and their mounds of ice cream without the least concern for our long-suffering planet. With a few minutes to spare, I decided to ring up Daddy and ask him to sort something for me.
‘Yes, Jennifer’, he answered, followed by, ‘what’s that noise in the background?’
‘Good morning’, I said, ‘I think it’s a tractor, but I have a question. I read a rather nasty article about the fall of Sri Lanka and the article seemed to blame environmentalists’.
'Seemed to blame? Or blamed?’
‘Okay, blamed’. I said.
‘No, that noise…’ he asked.
‘Oh, emm, that’s…a donkey. I’m at a donkey sanctuary’.
‘Of course you are’. Daddy replied. ‘Okay, I give up, why are you at a donkey sanctuary?’
‘I’m scoping them out for a possible prize. But back to the blame. Is it really fair to blame us for the downfall of a nation?'
He didn't miss a beat in his reply: 'Yes, absolutely. I wish it were more vague, but yes, it’s fair. And I don’t have a more palatable explanation, so please just accept the yes. All your faults’.
‘Daddy!’ I pushed, ‘The people were STARVING! Inevitably it’s what people DO when they’re starving. It was basically like the storming of the Bastille!’
‘Yes, correct… France had an economic crisis but made the fatal error of trying to make nice with American revolutionaries and soon plunged further into debt. Similarly, Sri Lanka joined up with elitist green revolutionaries and lord only knows how they thought it could end well’.
Sri Lanka: vox populi, vox Dei.
‘That’s not entirely fair’. I said.
‘I agree’. he said, ‘For Western elites to hoodwink a president who was about as bright as King Louis into their ESG pipe dream was definitely not fair. Do you realise it led to an 85 percent loss of crops? Honestly Jennifer, do the math, I don’t see how you can defend your people. Not this time’.
‘But I did look at numbers. The World Bank gave them MILLONS after they implemented a fertiliser ban’, I replied.
‘Well billions actually, and the E.U. gave them a few billion, and China loaned them even more billions. But who is them? Do you really think the majority of Sri Lankans who got used to eating every day would have agreed to eat 85 percent less just to get a near-perfect ESG score?’
‘Probably not’, I said, ringing off and reasonably annoyed. And where was the woman I was meant to be meeting? Still I hadn’t meant to argue with him, but sometimes he can be so dismissive. I’d bet even money he didn’t champion saving donkeys either.
I had really stepped in it. And literally too. Eeew! Fresh donkey piles. Now what? I looked around for a way to rinse off my wellies and near the hose I read a sign that said ‘For over 50 years we have worked to make the world a better place for donkeys’. OMG—really? It further stated, ‘We are transforming the lives of donkeys, by fostering greater understanding, and by promoting lasting, mutually life-enhancing relationships’.
Have you kissed a donkey today?
Transforming the lives of Donkeys? Who was I kidding! I couldn’t go back to my client with this, let alone say it out loud to a room full of donors. I scanned down to ‘Our Vision’ which read:
A world where donkeys live free from suffering, and their contribution to humanity is fully valued.
I’d lose the room at ‘A world where donkeys…’ And I’d be lucky if someone didn’t make a braying noise in the middle of my speech. I started to leave when I was met by the woman with whom I’d had the appointment.
‘Good morning’, she said ‘Did you know that last year we published several peer-reviewed papers to boost the status of donkeys across the globe?’
With that I took off running and didn’t stop until I reached the car. What was I thinking? And all of this while I’d been tromping around in methane-emanating muck.
I was back at square one and was going to have to find some other charity to award. Daddy and Judith wouldn’t be expecting me, as I’d told them I was going to visit multiple locations but obviously there was no reason for that now. Just then, a text from my father:
‘Cocktails at 5:00?’
Well, indeed; there's nothing vague about that, is there?