By Kasimu Junior
Our standards of living are based on inexpensive energy in the form of electricity and gasoline powering automobiles that are the major contributors to environmental problems in the world today, but let us not forget that earlier in history; automobiles were actually heralded for solving a distinctive environmental problem at the turn of the century.
As cities boomed and people left farmlands for jobs in factories, horses were causing massive pollution problems ranging from horse urine and manure to their accompanying odor, health, sanitation and disposal problems that became a critical issue in every major city.
It was once estimated that, if we still had horses doing the work that automobiles do each day in our cities, every major thoroughfare would have to be cleared of an equivalent of five feet of horse manure every week.
And what would our lives be like without electricity? Without electricity we would not live so long. Electricity not only makes life easier and so entertaining, but also prolongs life via refrigeration, purification of our water and supports medical technology.
The irony is that the price for such benefits is the destruction of our natural environment-at least that is true, according to how we are doing things now. The most appropriate solution dared is conservation, but once again, this is a solution derived from a position of scarcity.
Alternatively, I can say let’s use more power, but change our source of energy; look for cleaner, more efficient sources and create them according to the principle of more for less. Can it be done? Yes, it can.
The orient has several billion people all wanting a good life and they are progressively achieving it, because Japan, China and others are figuring out ways to do it with alternative sources of power. For 25 years now, the world has had ability to transport power over great distances.
The reason we don’t has more to do with politics than technology; it is technically possible to shut down inefficient, high polluting and price exorbitant power generators that pepper our national landscapes and use more efficient power plants further away.
The reason we don’t do this, is again because it would mean a loss of jobs. Each utility company does not want to close down, so they lobby our politicians and their plants stay open. We all lose so that a few can win. If those clinging to their jobs could think beyond scarcity, they would realise that they would be much better off, in a healthier and more prosperous world.
Nevertheless, the change will come any way, Japan already leads the world in solar electrical generation technology, they will soon be able to put solar panels in the great deserts of the world and ship electrical power thousands of miles to where it’s needed via large power grid systems.
Russia and Europe have extensive grid systems; Africa (Uganda) has only a few. We continue to think small and protect old industries instead of developing new and more appropriate technologies that would meet the challenges of today; and all we do is short term planning that we pay for in the long run.
Australia today could lead the world in exporting electrical power since the country is set up with a great desert in the middle, they could ship it to southeast Asia, money would come in and not only would the Australian standards of living go up, but also the standards of living of developing countries would follow suit. As economies expand, millions of poor people suddenly would earn prosperity.
Those who had once been beggars would become customers; thirdly, world health would improve, the need to cut down trees for fire wood would decrease: there would be a reduction in infant mortality as refrigeration cuts down on bacterial infections; birth rates would drop due income growth as modern medicine would become available and life expectancy would go up.
Finally, I predict that the first country to switch entirely to renewable, nonpolluting electrical power will be the next economic world leader.
The writer works with Green Organisation Africa
Poverty and greed: the major culprits of environmental degradation