In late 2011, seven new natural wonders were introduced to the world. The list was determined by popular vote. The idea that we are all citizens of the world is a beautiful one but belonging has layers and when it comes to land, the core of that onion grows in homes, with cities enveloping those homes, and countries wrapping around all that clings to their soil. Only once all those folds of attachment have formed does the world enter to surround them.
The natural wonders poll can be likened to a talent contest in which parents sit on the judging panel, each being entitled to a single vote. The difference comes in when only some of the children have both parents watching from the invigilators’ desk. The results become predictable. Mary Kate finds herself on the podium, ignoring her mom and dad, embarrassed in the knowledge that her victory is rigged.
The ranking of the most sort after table in Cape Town is a testament to national pride rather than an accurate measure of wonder. It is a testament to a population, that has often been divided, coming together for a singular goal. In April I was fortunate to witness the majesty of the ‘smoke that thunders‘. In an age when such discoveries are no longer hiding in forests, the idea that someone could have stumbled upon such a waterfall, filled me with what can, conveniently, be called wonder.
With a city hugging it and a cloth of cloud disappearing and reappearing, at the hands of some magic waiter, on its flat top, the mountain it is unquestionably beautiful. It is worthy of attention on a global scale but if you uproot your feet from your mother country, on an upward graph of awe, it does not reach the graduer of some of its competitors.
If you believe the new seven wonders to have supplanted the old, Livingstone’s finding has fallen along with its unfathomably volume of water. I imagine a kind soul sat Victoria down to break the news to her:
“There was another waterfall Vicky, somewhere between Argentina and Brazil.”
Listening, as the water streamed down her cliff face, over her lip, the explanation tapering off, ending gently with:
“There was only room for one.”
If you take a different stance like Engineer Walter Mzembi, the Tourism and Hospitality Minister of Zimbabwe, the list must be rejected:
“No individual or grouping can delist it or downgrade it. It is only God who can delist Victoria Falls Rainforest as a natural wonder if the world comes to an end. Fortunately, the world has not ended and therefore we still have the Rainforest as a natural wonder. God as He pleases when the world comes to an end may create the Rainforest somewhere, but for all I know it will be back in Zimbabwe.”
In at least one assertion, Mr Mzembi cannot be proven incorrect: the world has not yet ended. It has repeatedly evaded extinction. Our late ancestors named what they believed to be the most remarkable places on earth and our planet’s resilience has made it possible for later generations to decide afresh.