Climate, the Kyoto Protocol, and Cape Bojador: A Parable of Portugal Linking 1499 with 1999

By Lawson, Richard L. | Executive Speeches, October 1999 | Go to article overview

Climate, the Kyoto Protocol, and Cape Bojador: A Parable of Portugal Linking 1499 with 1999


Lawson, Richard L., Executive Speeches


Ambassador McGowan, Director General Coucello, Chairman Potter, Chairman Sieper, valued customers of U.S. coal producers, future customers, U.S. coal producers, ladies and gentlemen:

Let me add my personal welcome to the U.S.-European Coal Conference, the ninth in the series, our second in Lisbon.

These meetings were begun almost 20 years ago as the result of a political disruption in the global flow of energy in the form of imported oil and a corresponding sudden rise in worldwide demand for energy in the form of coal. From the beginning they have had more than one purpose.

The first purpose, of course, is specifically to discuss and conduct the trade in coal; but beyond that we meet for the following reasons:

* To establish and maintain the personal and commercial relationships that facilitate this trade, especially against the stress of unforeseen disruption and sudden demand;

* To discuss and evaluate the prospects for energy in a global economy;

* And to discuss and inform one another on the pending political and economic policies and questions that might affect the flow of energy in order to adjust individual decisions to events as they develop.

Lisbon and Portugal lend themselves to such discussions and evaluations, especially this year.

This is an important anniversary year for Portugal and Lisbon--the 500th anniversary of an achievement that has a direct, if figurative, connection to the business we are about today.

Five hundred years ago this September Vasco da Gama sailed into the harbor here to report history's first voyage around Africa to India--the first direct link of east and west.

This achievement broke barriers of time, of distance and of perception as represented by fear of the unknown and the limits of knowledge. It was a triumph of long-term Portugese policy. It broke down other barriers of economic policy and political policy and military power.

The story behind the achievement is a virtual parable for our time offers morals concerning both the unknown and fears of it.

Permit me a personal reference in going to the point: For I have the honor to be a member of the Order of Henry the Navigator, a distinction conferred by the Government of Portugal; and this tie has led me both to explore and to appreciate the tradition of which I shall speak.

The intellect and spirit of Prince Henry the Navigator were the motive forces driving the formal policy that brought on da Gama's achievement. He gathered the knowledge and created the technology that made the policy possible.

At the beginning of Henry's century the world knew little of itself and was focused inward on the Mediterranean Sea. The Mediterranean was dominated economically by certain Italian states and, at strategic points, politically and militarily by a contending Turkish empire, the Ottoman.

The policies and the objectives of the Italians and the Ottomans dominated the flow of goods and resources from Asia to the rest of Europe. Warfare was a fluctuating constant. Other constants were economic depression and isolation and want. At the same time legends from antiquity and rare reports of overland travelers suggested there had to be an alternative by sea.

In these conditions Prince Henry, third son of the King of Portugal, created an establishment dedicated to reaching out rather than turning inward.

First, the enterprise required the accumulation of knowledge and, then, the selected dissemination of knowledge. It required knowledge of the sea and landfalls and coastlines and navigation from those who made successful voyages, and maps to relay that knowledge to others so that the achievements might be replicated.

Thus, Henry's establishment transformed cartography from fanciful art into cumulative science. Portuguese seafarers were required to keep and pass on accurate charts and logbooks. …

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