Solar Power Fights Climate Change, Poverty, and Lung Cancer

Solar Power Fights Climate Change, Poverty, and Lung Cancer
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My writing for DeSmog, and other blogs, has focused on the problems related to climate change.  The burning of fossil fuels is at the root of these problems. 

The fossil fuel industries (oil, coal, gas) spend millions of dollars in PR campaigns and political contributions to downplay the consequences of their continued monopoly on world energy while portraying non-fossil fuel alternatives, like solar power, as impractical and too expensive to meet the energy needs of the world.   

The large oil, coal and gas companies don’t want us to be aware, for example, that renewables already account for up to 20% of total global electricity production, according to one French-based study.  A recent report in Scientific American states that renewables (solar, wind, hydro, together) will soon become the ‘second most important’ global energy source’ (after coal) and are “becoming cost competitive with fossil fuels”.    

While governments have been slow to support the widespread introduction of renewables (despite the scientific necessity), awareness of private and non-governmental programs, such as that of the WakaWaka Foundation, helps provide the public more confidence in the inevitable, necessary shift toward solar, wind and other non-fossil fuel sources which don’t wreck our climate.   

Take the example of one new solar manufacturer.  WakaWaka, a Netherlands-based NGO, provides solar products to some of the world’s most vulnerable populations. WakaWaka runs several programs which combat extreme poverty AND promotes the use of solar power.  The foundation develops climate education kits for local communities and schools; provides micro-enterprise support  for start-up solar power entrepreneurs (including the provision of micro-community loans as necessary); and, donates solar products directly to some of the most isolated, poorest people on Earth, including those in humanitarian crisis zones.   Current programs are in Haiti, Africa and South America; they recently began a program serving a Syrian refugee community.

Their focus is on ‘‘off the grid” communities who otherwise depend on indoor kerosene – a potent greenhouse gas emitter which is also highly toxic to human health (particularly to the lungs).  According to the WakaWaka website:

There are an estimated 1.5 billion people, around the world, who are dependent on portable kerosene lamps for their sole nighttime lighting.  In addition to being a potent greenhouse gas source, the toxins emitted by Kerosene combustion, according to Waka, is profoundly damaging to the lungs, comparable “…to the dangers of smoking two packs of cigarettes per day.…. these people should not wait for the arrival of old-fashioned, large scale energy grids which largely run on fossil energy.”

The flagship program is the provision of small solar powered lamps.  In some cases they are provided at low cost to international NGOs who then distribute them locally – in other cases they are donated directly to communities in need (over 12,000 in Haiti, for example).  

These lamps are small (I have one), provide excellent bedside lighting (very bright, and can adjust for dimmer preferences) and last approximately 24 hours on a full charge.   (It takes 4 to 6 hours in sunlight to get full charge – about half that if you plug it into your computer or wall socket FYI).   


(photos: Don Lieber)

This is but one example of how solar power is becoming – slowly but surely – more prevalent as a power source, even in some of the most remote areas.   

So spread the word about WakaWaka – and the progress of other solar programs (and other non-fossil fuel renewables like wind and offshore ocean turbines, while you are at it).  

If you are so inclined, WakaWaka is offering special holiday solar-power gift ideas (including the bedside reading lamp as pictured).  FYI:  Alll funds from sales support their solar-power assistance programs.   

Supporting solar power (and and other renewable sources) now will help quicken the necessary transition away from non-fossil fuel sources.    And, as I reported on DeSmog earlier this month, there is no time to waste in making that transition: climate change due to runaway greenhouse gas emissions is occurring 10 times faster than at any time in the past 65 million years.  

  
Children in Syrian refugee camp (left) and Kenya, with solar powered lamps.  Below: Schoolteacher in Kenya.  Photos courtesy WakaWaka Foundation.  

Below: Author’s cat with the WakaWaka solar power reading lamp.   

Solar Power Fights Climate Change, Poverty, and Lung Cancer
Don Lieber has written for the United Nations, The Associated Press, The International Campaign to Ban Landmines, The Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, E-The Environmental Magazine, and numerous non-profit organizations involved in international humanitarian affairs, the environment, and the arts. He contributes environmental reporting regularly to several blogs including DeSmog. Based in New York, he is also the bass player for the band WIFEY.

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