"It is a city of blue, red and green. Above you have deep blue sky, around you there are omnipresent red burnt brick houses and at distance on the horizon you see green forest", explained the Minister of Environment of Colombia while describing Bogota. I was there in April 2010 for the regional workshop which was opened by the Minister. Mr Carlos Costa Posada is an unusual Minister of Environment in more than one sense. Firstly, he came 45 minutes before the scheduled time! This is because he was keenly interested in discussing with me on the 'Climate benefit of Ozone Layer protection activities'. Secondly, he gave an extempore address although he had prepared a speech. Thirdly, he was the Minister with engineering background topped by education in UK.
He sent a message to me through his office early in the morning at 7 am suggesting a time for a bilateral meeting. That itself was very unusual. Normally, it is I who seek an appointment with the busy ministers. And here is the Minister who is seeking to talk to me. We decided to meet 45 minutes before the scheduled start of the workshop. During our conversation he told me that he is a civil engineer. That was good enough for me to strike the right cords and notes with him. Later, when I was explaining the opportunities that exist, like 'low hanging fruits' , of reaping the climate benefits while implementing the Montreal Protocol, he himself added, "and let us not forget the economic benefit that we will gain by improving the energy efficiency of air-conditioning machines!". He was ahead of me.
I also read about innovative thinking of Bogota's former mayor, Mr Antanas Mockus, who gave Bogotanos a whip of fresh air in their perception of policies and governance. He is presently very popular candidate for the Presidential election due within a month. When I visited Bogota, I read his rather sage-like statement, "If we do not change culture and ethics and the way of life we cannot solve the environmental issue." That was quite a departure from many of us who believe that addressing environmental issues, first of all, need finances and technologies. His unique character not only stands out because he was a professor of mathematics but also because he solves the polynomial 'social equations' with very direct linear approach of transparency and high ethical standards.
I decided to take ride on Bogota's world famous new bus rapid transport system (BRT) called 'Transmilenio', I realized the importance of resolving the environmental issues through changing the culture and ethics of the civil society. Another former Mayor, Mr Penalosa, who forged the fuel saving system of BRT, and who is now supporting Mr Mockus in the election, together have formed the Green Party. Nor technologies, neither finance are of any use unless people change their culture and ethics. While taking a ride in Transmilenio the changed culture of commuters was evident.
Mr Penalosa banned parking on sidewalks, built bike lanes, turned major avenues to pedestrian zones.
In the workshop titled 'cooling without warming' participants from 12 countries discussed cooling technologies without use of HCFCs. In the conclusion, I said that there was no one technology that would fit all the needs; there is no 'silver bullet'. One has to view the technologies with the sense of direction and as per one's needs. We have to look at the technologies through our own perspective. World renowned Colombian painter Botero, painted everything fat and his sculptures of fat people amuse many. I refuse to believe that Bolero's paintings are about fat people, fat horses or fat women. They are about the perspective of Botero as he saw it and as he wanted to convey it.
In the evening along with a couple of friends I went up to the top of Bogota's hill Monserrate by cable car. From a height of about 10,000 feet I saw below the valley covered by a carpet of lights. Thought came to my mind that it is a sense of direction that matters. Columbus missed and reached the destination that he never planned.