Life without energy

June 19th, 2012

Living without energy is tough…really tough. I know, because I’ve just gone without energy for a week. Why? To raise awareness of energy poverty.

Despite the availability of technical solutions, 1.3 billion people are still without any access to electricity and 2.7 billion people cook over open fires – suffering the effects of the potentially choking fatal toxic fumes given off by this fuel.

I didn’t cook my food on an open fire. Instead, I ate food that I didn’t have to cook, and didn’t have to refrigerate – crisps, bread, biscuits, fruit, salad. This wasn’t so bad though, as I could resort to a very simple technology to keep food cool without using energy – a zeer pot!

What I found very difficult though, after waking up (without an alarm clock – interesting!) was having a cold shower or wash, and then not being able to use my hairdryer or straighteners!

I need two or three cups of coffee in the morning to wake myself, so not being able to use the kettle was a disaster! I found it very difficult to find the energy in the morning to cycle into work (a very hilly 13 mile journey)!

Now there had to be one exception to the rule – I had to use energy for work because I need a computer to do my job. However, I did not use my laptop outside of work, or my phone. I had no music and I didn’t watch any television. I read books until there was no longer any light.

I couldn’t use the heating, but as it’s summer (kind of) that wasn’t much of a problem. But it would be a different story in the winter!

I can’t imagine living permanently without energy…but so many people are forced to.

At Rio+20 this week we continue to push for a global effort to eliminate energy poverty and support the UN goal of universal energy access by 2030.

• Energy enables people to work their way out of poverty
• Energy provides better access to education and other basic services
• Energy improves health and wellbeing, especially for women and children

Find out how Practical Action is providing people with the power to challenge their poverty through access to energy and join the call for #totalenergyaccess

3 responses to “Life without energy”

  1. John Hersey Says:

    I tried to post a response on your zeer pot page, more specific to refrigeration.
    Doesn’t show up currently, but perhaps it requires clearing.
    Your article is amusing in a sad sort of way.
    Only 120 years back, an no one had electricity, and the world didn’t fall over and die.
    It was vibrant, and people thought laterally, and inventions poured out thick and fast.
    Ordinary men, had great knowledge.
    Then the last great contribution, 3-phase electricity, by Tesla,
    specifically so you could straighten your hair and have 3 cups of coffee in the morning.
    Since then, nothing new.
    Just modernisations of old ideas, with new materials.
    Some of Tesla’s great ideas, swept under the carpet or destroyed,
    so JP Morgan could sell inefficient solutions to dumb customers.

  2. Rod Larking Says:

    An excellent post! Informative and amusing and highlighting the essential problem of energy poverty.

    I’ve always believed that in terms of development, reliable energy sources are fundamental in providing the means by which people can use their own initiative and hard work to make a real difference. Exactly the sort of work Practical Action does.

    And I’ve never considered what life would be like without my three doses of coffee in the morning either!

  3. Gemma Hume Says:

    Thank you both for your comments.
    John, I appreciate what you’re saying.
    The point I was trying to make in my blog is that we take energy for granted. And yes, 120 years ago people didn’t have electricity, but life expectancy was shorter then. Access to energy has transformed healthcare – even just electric light to carry out operations and to provide refrigeration for medicines/vaccines. Access to energy has also increased productivity and income and quality of life.
    There are still 1.3 billion people in the world who have no access to electricity: almost half the world’s population still cook over open fires. Apart from the physical impact this imposes in terms of fuel collection, the wasted time, and the inefficient burning of wood as a fuel, there is a huge burden on health. 2 million people die each year from the effects of inhaling smoke from traditional cooking stoves in the home.
    The important point is that there are many technological solutions to the world’s problems, but they are rarely accessible to the poor and marginalised people who need them the most. And that is something Practical Action wants to change.

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