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We must be realistic on alternative energy

5th January 2012
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Editorial cartoon

Underscoring the importance of discouraging the use of charcoal and firewood in preference for environment-friendly and therefore healthier options can be enjoyable talk able to make working towards that goal sound very simple.

Yet, it is always much easier said than done, particularly in circumstances where families or communities are too poor to afford even basic necessities of life.

The result, as noted across the globe over the decades, is even worse poverty compounded by the impact of climate change in the form of unpredictable changes in weather patterns and having a terrible time dealing with drought-induced deforestation, floods, etc.

Still, the search for renewable and other alternative sources of energy is both unavoidable for humankind to make genuinely meaningful social and economic development making it possible for even the world’s poorest people to add value to their lives.

The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) has worked hard spreading word on the need to preach the gospel of alternative sources of energy, but without ever forgetting to send out reminders – that sermons will be of little use unless the people they target have access to options that are friendlier to the environment and to public health.

For instance, the UNEP Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum held in the United Arab Emirates in February 2006 was introduced to a range of environment-friendly technologies, among them renewable energies and waste-reduction systems to solar-powered fridges for storing vaccines.

Also unveiled were roads made out of sugar, ships powered and propelled by the sun and grease-consuming bacteria.

The UN agency used the occasion to explain that local and international companies ought to feel compelled to come up with imaginative, creative and practical ideas leading to technology able to play the “vital role” of delivering a cleaner, healthier and more stable world.

Delegates then deliberated at great length on the submissions made at the conference, many expressing hope that the technologies recommended would help in solving the energy crisis by reducing water, soil and air pollution, and that governments, civil society and industry leaders would find that inspiring.

Just recently, a forestry expert with Tanzania’s Natural resources and Tourism ministry underlined the need for the government and the country’s development partners to invest more funds in projects engaged in the war in deforestation.

The expert readily admitted, though, that recourse to alternative sources of energy was seriously inhibited by poverty – that many people cling to charcoal or firewood simply because better options such as solar power and natural gas are either inaccessible or unaffordable.

Thus, while it is impossible to defend the continued use of traditional sources of energy such as firewood, charcoal and cow-dung, urging people to go for the likes of kerosene, natural gas and electricity will only make sense if conditions support such a switch.

Of course, we all need to embrace the change if we are to realize the set of time-bound antipoverty targets popularly known as MDGs particularly as relate to the war of malnutrition and disease.

SOURCE: THE GUARDIAN
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