The Struggle for Humanity: A Message for our Leaders
Five years ago, I thought the problems facing developing nations could be solved simply by the introduction and implementation of solar energy, by in fact providing governments a strategy to eliminate the need to buy foreign fuel to generate electricity (keeping in mind these nations are borrowing foreign money to buy foreign fuel), while improving economies, stimulating growth and improving the health of its citizens, not to mention the environment, in general. I thought real independence for these mostly freshly-minted sovereign countries was within reach.
After all, a hundred years ago and more colonial administrators enabled the construction of power plants around the equatorial belt to process raw material in local factories, taking advantage of cheap labour and ensuring efficient shipping, not to provide street lighting or air conditioning.
The leaders of this world, our world, need to take notice of bureaucracies in place thwarting the great intentions of people who can take what is good about humanity, such as our notions of getting along and sharing the fruits of our labour, while ensuring our children will grow up to be happy, to be educated and employed to the best of their ability, and enjoy life as was also expected by those people who survived the Great Catastrophe and evolved over thousands of years of migration and struggle across an era we now call The Stone Age.
Even those cave dwellers, the men and women and their ancestors having survived the sudden collapse of the Ice Age and who found shelter and lived in cold, damp caves, for want of a better house, knew that without the sun the human race would die. They continually sought the light that rose in the east each day. Sad but true, children will leave behind the comforts of home and family, to seek a better life, for an ideal mate that lies somewhere over the horizon; eventually some will return with tales of wonder and splendour, some will not; adults will seek the riches of others obtainable beyond their borders, to seize the opportunity of improvement. It's in our genes.
Those aforementioned bureaucrats need to leave their ivory towers and begin to solve the problems we the world are facing and not be the problem.
There are truly many solutions available today that by harnessing nature can provide energy in a manner both renewable and sustainable, yet all requirecapital to build, manage and maintain. Since the Industrial Era set the world ablaze, populations around the world have boomed that, try as we might, have not been abated by several rather devastating wars and catastrophic pandemics, augmenting the occasional earthquake, volcano and tsunami, interrupting lives and killing indiscriminately. Death, for all of us, is inescapable and accidents are unavoidable. Life involves tackling challenges and making decisions, and effecting change for the cause of good.
I, together with the people who launched Solamon Energy, took a straight-forward message from our comfortable homes in Canada out into the world: our sun's rays are free, and the technology and systems required to convert daylight into energy would simply require people to work alongside to achieve an elemental goal of delivering power to the people. With this power in their hands, and not controlled by a foreign utility or off-shore corporation, they could filter and pump desalinated water, and irrigate lands, provide cold storage for food and medicine, and offer light to schools and homes, among the many other beneficial uses of electricity, of raw energy.
We thought, with the many new technologies being added to our expanding shelves, solar panels would span both rocky fields and sandy deserts, and shade livestock, while also cover parking lots and shade cars. We thought blooming cell phone towers could benefit from solar power - rather than relying on diesel generators or remote transmission lines - and communities could gather in central locations to power their new devices, whether at bus stops or cafes. We thought much-needed homes could be built en masseand supplied their electricity from communal solar farms.
We took our message of hope first to the democratic leaders of the Caribbean islands, from the large to the small, and then to the Sandinistas who ruled Nicaragua and had fought for power and their independence... yet to learn they would prefer to dam valleys and flood the lands of indigenous populations; and to the Sri Lankans who had fought a costly Civil War for over two decades and, upon its cessation, needed to rebuild their country, their beautiful isle, without the assistance of an unsympathetic United Nations. Micro-grids are their answer.
After the fall of Ghaddafi, we took our message to the Libyans, and to many other African nations, and last year ended up in Ghana at the height of the Ebola crisis and as Boko Haram was escalating its activities in neighbouring Nigeria. The Libyans who we met in various European cities were well aware solar power could easily be generated on a very large level across their sunny country, and were prepared to deploy the funds being returned to them to finance the launch of an ambitious program that would electrify their nation and set the bar for all of North Africa and the Middle East, given the knowledge oil was a scarce resource on which to bank the future.
We cared not who ruled these countries or to whom they prayed. Teach a man to fish, so the saying goes. In each country, we were treated by our hosts with respect. There has been never of shortage of either the product nor the expertise to deliver power to the people. There has never been, nor will there ever be, a shortage of capital to power the people. Power does not come out the barrel of a gun, despite the opinion of a minority. Power can be bought, however. A century ago, the world was engulfed in a horrific war which took the lives of many millions on several fronts, and displaced many millions more who sought a better life, and in particular a better life for their children.
I have found people tend to do what they are told. There are people who speak, and speak well, and people who listen, and listen well. Some do both. Money speaks volumes, and can easily influence opinion and decisions, and access to capital is paramount to the success of any venture or idea. People of all varying professions need to understand their role and, when acting together, can effectively execute change with money in hand. Business plans are written with an eye to executing change for the benefit of achieving a desired goal, where the benefits for all are plainly written in black and white. For lack of better definition, these are the rules for all to see and adhere to.
Londoners, and Britons in general, were aghast in 1915 that commanders of high-flying Zeppelins would break the rules and be so cruel as to drop bombs on their city and that the resulting explosions spread not only panic and fear but kill and maim innocent people. Americans were equally enraged to hear German torpedoes fired from lurking submarines in open seas would sink ships carrying their neutral passengers. War is terrifying. People who are comfortable have no reason to fight, to harm a neighbour or engage an enemy in a fight. Yet, people are people, and people do fight. Some are leaders and most are followers, but all want a better life for their children.
Land is limited. Water is limited. Air is limited. Humans have fought for all three, and still do. The implementation of solar power requires land. The acquisition of land requires permission.
Solar power is not a panacea to the troubles of the world, but leaders - especially in developing nations - not intent on creating empires but a solid foundation for a prosperous tomorrow, and intent on preparing for a peaceful future, where the sun's light is a warming and nurturing beacon of hope, and a source of power, for at least another 10 million years, one to help feed the people in this period of climate change and to educate their children in this period of admitted destabilization and critical upheaval, to ensure a diplomatic system across the planet of mutual understanding and admiration among unique nations, and their cultures and customs, while we still have time.
Canada, for example, can take the bull by the horns and assume a leadership position on behalf of all developing nations. Canada is a diversified nation and has a dearth of talent to assure change for the positive. It is a country with an array of technology, whether solar-powered or not, to deliver change. Its recently elected leaders in Ottawa profess real change and this is their opportunity, and they must seize it, and now do so on a global level, by not building a bigger bomb but extending a hand of friendship, of assuring trust and providing a beacon of hope, of offering light in a darkened place.
These leaders of Canada can act not by merely admitting and re-settling a few thousand refugees, but by providing power and a sound plan for development, and self-sustainability and the empowerment of future generations to build their own countries in the lands they love, and welcome and invite foreigners to visit and to share their cultures and customs with open arms and friendly smiles. It is a big world out there and we really do not have to destroy it.
We can and should learn from the experience of our ancestors and understand the fundamentals: we're here for a short time, so let's try and enjoy it, though not necessarily in a cave.