Opinion, by Mathew Carr
Aug. 1-2, 2021 — LONDON: The Olympics and sportsmanship inform us of the type of thinking that’s required to get a greenhouse-gas-limiting deal with teeth at planned United Nations talks in Glasgow in November — one that will hopefully save the crippled climate.
Back in December 2012, Spanish runner Ivan Fernandez Anaya defined the notion of behaving honorably.
He was in second place in a long-distance race, behind race leader Abel Mutai, a Kenyan runner.
As they entered the finishing straight, Fernandez Anaya saw the Kenyan athlete — who at that point in the race was certain to win — mistakenly stop running about 10 meters before the finish. He was apparently thinking he had already crossed the line as he gazed at his watch to check his timing.
Instead of exploiting Mutai’s apparent mistake to overtake him and claim a victory that he arguably didn’t deserve, Fernandez Anaya stayed behind and guided the Kenyan to the line and let him cross first (see NOTE 1 for a video).
Fernandez Anaya was instantly rewarded by Mutai on the other side of the finish line, who turned around to shake his hand.
But much more than that, Fernandez Anaya became an internet sensation for his honesty, integrity and mindfulness. He was apparently respectful and humble enough to instantly realise that winning under the circumstances of exploitation would have been a hollow victory.
Later, a journalist asked Ivan why he didn’t take the opportunity to win, and he explained (see note 2):
“My dream is that someday we can have a kind of community life,” he answered, simply. When pressed and reminded he was seconds away from victory himself, he said: “But what would be the merit of my victory? What would be the honor of that medal? What would my Mom think of that?”
Climate envoys from about 200 nations are meeting in November at the Glasgow talks, to try for one of the most complicated multilateral political deals in history.
For 30 years, they’ve been thwarted. There’s been a highly damaging global blame game, much demonizing, victim blaming and crazy zero-sum thinking from both sides, but especially from the wealthier countries. That’s the main reason why there’s no effective global climate deal yet.
I’m not holding my breath until this happens, but when rich country envoys (governments) adopt Fernandez Anaya’s honorable thinking to the global-warming negotiations — when they realise they should not exploit the situation any further and when they allow emerging countries to leap frog into cleaner ways of doing business — only then will the climate crisis be all-but solved.
And the whole world will win.