Monday, June 8, 2009

A dark future

Thomas Friedman discusses the concept of "energy poverty" in his book Hot, Flat and Crowded.

In the 21st century, electricity is a fundamental building block of modern civilization, and yet one out of four earthlings have no dependable supply.

I experienced this first hand on a visit to Bangladesh last fall. When the sun sets, the country villages go dark. In the city, open fires contribute to the choking air pollution.

More than 70 years after the rural electrification of North America, 1.6 billion people around the world still spend half their time in blackout.

For these, there is no electricity to pump water for drinking and bathing so it must be carried, often for a considerable distance. Classrooms can not be lit, so there is no adult education. Firewood must be collected for cooking and heating. There is no refrigeration for food and drugs. There is no energy to operate medical equipment. There is no television or internet, and therefore no current knowledge of the outside world. There is no light by which a child can do her school homework. It goes on.

Imagine, if you can, how much this impedes advancement on every level.

The tools of progress are unavailable to the very people who need them most, and little is being done to remedy that.

Power generation and transmission require lots of capital investment. Investors require peace and stable governments, both lacking in most of the so-called "developing world" that is more aptly described as just "deprived," as any real development is agonizingly slow.

Of course the moral dilemma is that, if electricity comes to the dark world from generators powered by fossil fuels, the climate change consequences would almost certainly be catastrophic for all of us.

1 comment:

  1. Hmmmm....then can we take them solar and wind power?