Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Post # 94: Sacrificing Africa

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Africa_%28orthographic_projection%29.svg

By now, most of you have (I hope) read my last post (#93).  In that post, I discussed "my take" on the climate change debate.  I won't rehash that discussion here, but I do want to draw your attention to a related and thought-provoking Op Ed piece in today's Wall Street Journal by

Rossiter's article contrasts the UNCERTAINTIES regarding climate change and options for mitigating it, to the CERTAINTY that restricted access to fossil fuels will doom many hundreds of millions of human beings to a short life filled with struggle and suffering. 

The picture I have in my mind is that of a physician who refuses lifesaving radiation treatments to his cancer patients because the physician is concerned about the possible impact of background radiation on the public at large.  Dare I say it... "misplaced priorities"?

Personally, I believe it is immoral to deny (or work in opposition to) a technology that will save lives TODAY, based on an (uncertain) fear that other lives may be impacted in the FUTURE.  It's (as always) about risk and risk management.

Rossiter's article is a sobering reminder that intellectual humility (freely admitting we don't know what we don't know) and empathy for our fellow man are not optional for those of us in the scientific and technical enterprise.  Please read the article... an important commentary on technology and culture in today's world...

Just Thinking,



  1. Well done! I agree. Kenya, for example, will never be able to build its first nuclear power plant (whatever that ends up being) without some infrastructure in place, before then; this will include electric generating and distribution assets that will themselves allow construction of the nuclear plant, and of course be sophisticated enough that the nuclear plant isn't in a continuous LOOP or else black-start situation. I think it makes perfect sense that they build what they desperately need right now, and step up to nuclear as soon as it's practical.

  2. Thanks for your comment, Will.

    I feel (here in the West) we too often forget the enormous "bootstrapping" hurdle non-developed countries face in moving to truly sustainable energy solutions.

    The mass availability of solar "micropower" is a reasonable first step towards transforming the quality of life for millions of people.

    Small solar charging stations to power cell phones and cell towers – coupled with small wind, solar, or fossil-powered energy sources to power wells for clean water – would revolutionize life for millions TODAY, while we're working to provide the electrical grid backbone and central generation facilities to enable major leaps forward.

    Sometimes those of us who believe technology is one of the keys to a better life are guilty of telling our starving neighbor we'll get them a steak next week, when what they really need is a piece of bread today...

    Cheers, and thanks again for reading my blog.