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Industrial Morocco:”An abundance of phosphate”

One can succumb to the idea that travelling though other lands and immersing oneself in their cultures is all about the shiny, bright and polished aspects of a journey. Rad has a made a point of showing us a view of his homeland, Morocco, that doesn't sugarcoat the country's less than salubrious qualities.

On the one hand, Morocco is an exotic location renowned for its mystique and the rich diversity of its cultural, political and historical past. We travelled along some roads off the superhighway, that would have got us faster to our next destination. The roads are the equivalent of country roads in Australia with the designation of B and C roads, that is, country roads. These roads are paved but mostly single lane in each direction with cars, trucks and buses having to drive with wheels off the bitumen and onto the dirt when vehicles approach you in the opposite direction. Travelling on country roads showed us elements of Morocco that don't appear in travel brochures.

It begins with good news. Morocco is the third largest exporter of phosphate and phosphoric acid in the world. It has a 700 year reserve of phosphate that may see it control a significant part of the world's food production. The country is also a significant player in renewable energy both domestically and internationally.

Hydro electric, wind and solar along with biomass production of methane through burning trash (and they've got a lot of plastic to collect and burn) are large scale operations. In a recently signed agreement, Morocco will deliver 34GW of power to Britain for 7 million people through a 724 km long subsea cable. That’s 8% of Britiain’s power requirements by 2030.

We could see at least 30 wind turbines on the hills near our accommodation at Essaoueira driven by the strong winds blowing off the Atlantic Ocean and turning constantly at an impressive rates. Unsurprisingly, Essaouria is renowned as a surfing destination.

Despite the banning of plastic bags, the plastic debris littering the roadsides and paddocks in the countryside, urban areas and dry river beds is not only noticeable but a reminder of the deluge of plastic that has yet to be collected and disposed. There are certain types of plastic products, including plastic bags used in hotels to collect laundry, that are ubiquitous. The challenge to rid the country of this scourge is formidable and banning plastic bags is a great start. Again, you need to be hydrated in this arid environment and heat but then the disposal of the empty plastic bottles is an major issue. They are littered across the roads in the countryside and within cities.

Now for the bad news. The production of phosphate causes dreadful pollution and results in phosphate industry workers being affected by asthma and cancer as happens in other countries. It's a balancing act between the economic prosperity of the nation and its ability to control major exports against the well-being of its workers and citizens and maintaining a healthy environment. It's a conundrum.

Not all is a bottomless well of despair. The celestial sphere gave us a reprieve from the gloom. Last night we were delighted to see the sun set into the Atlantic Ocean and this morning I am gazing at the planet Jupiter, that, astronomically speaking, is in opposition to the Earth. All the planets in the Solar System orbit around the Sun. At certain points during these orbits, the Earth finds itself directly between the Sun and another planet. This is the moment at which that planet is said to be 'in opposition'.

It shows me the vastness of the universe and our close and personal connection with it. We appear insignificant yet we are central to everything. Copernicus's heliocentric view of the universe about us not being the centre of the universe may have been displaced by Galileo's understanding that we revolve around the sun, but at this time, let's call it early o'clock, in this place, definitely Morocco, life revolves around fantastic experiences in wonderful locations.

With all that, I'm sitting here writing early in the morning before sunrise in Morocco with the sound of the Atlantic Ocean serenading me nearby and reminding me that life is a balance between the sublime, the day to day necessities and, at times, unpleasant elements of life on planet Earth. Together, they make us embrace life with everything it has to offer like a stinging breeze that you draw into your lungs. And that's something you can't place in a plastic bag.

"Looking at the world through the sunset in your eyes"

Song: Marrakesh

Band: Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

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