Access to energy, climate change, weird weather, renewables and technology justice

November 29th, 2012

Access to energy, climate change, weird weather, renewables and technology justice

Listening to the news last night 4 out of 5 of my list were covered –fierce floods, devastating droughts in the USA, melting sea ice, how can people afford to pay their energy bills, the need for renewables (or not) to power the UK and drive down the rampant rise in CO2 levels.

Missing was technology justice.

What struck me was how the UK discussion mirror global issues and those that are vital for poverty reduction.
Climate change is impacting on poor communities – years ago now I spoke with poor farmers in a remote Andean region whose crops had been destroyed by unseasonal frost, I’ve heard from women in East Africa devastated by drought and recently returned from Bangladesh where floods are an annual event made worse by the fear of sea rise.

Access to energy is vital for poverty reduction – to power hospitals so operations can happen at night and women don’t have to give birth by candlelight, to open up economic opportunities for small business people, to pump clean water, mill grain, lets kids study in the evening, prevent the more than a million deaths each year from diseases causes by deadly kitchen smoke…

We can tackle all of these problems separately – Practical Action takes a very practical approach to poverty reduction – helping people get the tools they need to grow crops, access clean water through solar pumps, reduce the smoke in their homes through clever locally built cook stoves etc.

However we also need a more systemic change in our thinking – the technologies that are needed to feed the world, to tackle climate change and ensure everyone has access to the basic services required for a reasonable quality of life already exist. We are just not using them in the right way – we need to move from a state of technological injustice to one of technology justice where we care for people, our planet and our future. The debate is about poverty reduction but it’s also about how we shape the future for us all.

Wouldn’t it be great if Radio 4 and others could start to talk about technology justice?

Schumacher said to talk about the future is only useful if it leads to action now. We seem to love to talk about the future. Isn’t it time to deliver technology justice?

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