Energy Poverty as a Reality
42.6 Percent of Africans have access to electricity, mostly in cities and towns. 600 million Africans have no access to electricity
Source: International Energy Agency
Let’s take a mental trip to what life is like in most of Africa. Imagine what would happen if the developed world suddenly was without electrical power, maybe a massive snowstorm or an electromagnetic pulse, (EMP), wiped out the grid for months or years. At first, it would be inconvenient to be without lights, phones, cell phones, TV, radio, heating and cooling, cooking, or refrigeration at your home or business. Hospitals and other emergency facilities would go to emergency backup generators that run on gasoline, diesel, or natural gas. Most gas stations without backup generators could not pump gas because the pumps run on electricity. Without gasoline or diesel fuel, transportation would soon grind to a halt.
No deliveries mean even these backup generators would soon be useless. No deliveries would mean gas pumps, pharmacies, grocery, and other stores would run out of supplies. You would not be able to buy food or gasoline or refill needed prescription medicines. You would have to walk or ride a bicycle to a doctor, your job, a school or a library because cars would be useless. Many businesses would grind to a halt. Hospitals would not have power to preserve medicines or lighting to perform surgeries.
Without electricity, municipal or private water pumps would not work, so you would need to collect water from gutters or streams. Water purification would be a problem because water from streams is not usually safe to drink due to chemicals and biological contaminants. Filtering through sand, along with chemically treating with bleach and/or boiling would be required to avoid diseases and parasites. Sewer systems would not function, so alternative outdoor toilets would need to be dug and built. For those on private septic systems, it would be possible to use existing toilets by pouring water into them for flushing, but that would require carrying and storing more water from sources. What about toilet paper? That would run out and alternatives would be needed: newspaper, other papers, leaves, corncobs like they did in the not too distant past. All frozen and refrigerated food would spoil unless immediately preserved in another way, such as canning, drying, or pickling. If a disaster like this happened in winter, some foods may keep temporarily outdoors or in sheds.
Even if you had stored several months of survival foods, your chances of survival may depend on what season of the year such an event occurred. If it occurred at the end of winter, the chances would be best for nonperishable food supplies to last until you can plant and harvest your own food, but if it happened in the fall, you would have to keep yourselves warm and fed, not just until spring, but until harvest the following summer and fall, assuming you have seeds and a place to plant them. Nicely trimmed lawns would be impossible and would have to be turned into gardens for food production or pastures for livestock. If you have a fireplace, trees could supply wood for a time, but most trees would be destroyed in a few months to supply wood for heating and cooking. Would you make it through the first winter? Many would not.
If you are in a safe community, neighbors would probably help each other, and working together would offer the best chance for survival. In an urban setting, criminal activity by helpless and desperate people may be a problem. You would be on your own, stranded, relying on your meager food supplies that would soon run out. You would need to cook many of the foods, but even with gas grills, fuel would only last a short while. You may end up burning furniture, fences, sheds and trees for cooking and to keep you from freezing to death. Then what?
If you are lucky enough to own a little land and have seeds to plant, in several months, through backbreaking manual labor, you could have garden vegetables to eat, but you wouldn’t be able to get fertilizer or insecticides after initial supplies run out. You won’t have refrigeration, much less a freezer, to preserve your crop, so you will need a cellar for fresh vegetable storage and would need to can, pickle, or dry foods that can’t be saved that way. Canning requires heating a water bath, using precious firewood or dwindling supplies of propane from leftover tanks, so it is less desirable than drying.
Obtaining and preserving meat would be more difficult unless you were able to either raise chickens, ducks, rabbits, goats, or small game, or to fish and hunt enough game to support yourselves. Remember, everyone else would also be hunting and fishing those same areas, so raising your own would be more secure. If such a condition continued for years, seeds would need to be saved for subsequent years, small animals would need to be kept, fed and bred to provide an on-going supply of protein from meat, milk, and eggs. Those that survive would necessarily become small farmers just to live. Over the years, homes and farm buildings would need repairs and you may not be able to get needed supplies so you must improvise with whatever you can find. It would also be important to protect gardens and farm animals from poaching and from animals.
Such a disastrous loss of electrical power is about as close to the conditions in Africa as developed nations would come. Even at that, we still have certain advantages many Africans don’t have because of the infrastructure already present, such as secure, insulated houses with doors and windows to keep out the cold, insects, and rodents; roads and railroads to get from place to place by foot, bicycle, or horse; trained medical personnel, albeit with dwindling supplies; hospitals; and schools. There would be no more Internet or YouTube videos to learn almost any skill needed, so books would make a big comeback. We also have the advantage of knowing about the microscopic world that causes disease and food spoilage.
Now imagine if most of Africa and other underdeveloped countries had electricity. Everything involved in economic development and community well-being runs on electricity, including the infrastructure that provides gas and oil, water purification, sewage systems, development and maintenance of transportation systems, industry, medical clinics and hospitals, and schools, trade schools, and universities. Clean water and sewage systems could replace unsafe water carried from streams and open pit toilets at best, or open defecation in fields and streams that breed disease carrying flies. Screens on doors and windows could prevent insects from getting inside, and electric fans could be used for cooling. Refrigeration could provide safe food storage. Clean electric or natural gas burners could replace smoky bio-based heating and cooking fires that cause indoor air pollution.
With electricity, gas and oil exploration, pumping and refining could supply needed fuels for transportation and heating. Gas pipelines could pump natural gas to local community service centers and into homes. With adequate fuels and gas stations, roads and railroads could be built to accommodate trucks, buses, and cars and provide transportation to get to doctors, hospitals, schools, and other places. Industry, agriculture, and mines can provide jobs for millions and raise people’s living standards; improved roads and railroads could transport products and produce to markets. Needed fertilizers, insecticides, and medicines could be manufactured locally and transported to areas where they are needed.
The two greatest needs for Africa are power and disease control.
With these two needs met, Africa has a bright and promising future. Without them, much of Africa will continue to wallow in disease, poverty, and misery. Of these two, electrical power is the greatest need because it will facilitate solving the other problems and connect isolated areas. Disease control is also very important because healthy workers are needed for industry, agriculture, infrastructure, medicine, and mining. It would be very difficult to run any kind of business if a significant portion of the workforce is absent each day because of diseases such as malaria, TB, or dysentery. It is important to address both power needs and disease control simultaneously, along with education, to raise their standard of living and kick start a potentially booming economy.
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The book: Saving Africa from Lies that Kill: How Myths about the Environment and Overpopulation are Destroying Third World Countries will be published on October 23, 2018. Print and e-book will be available online and in bookstores.
My first book, Perverted Truth Exposed: How Progressive Philosophy has Corrupted Science was published in 2016. It is available in print and e-book, on line only, through World Net Daily store, Amazon, Books-A-Million and Barnes & Noble. See the companion blog at www.realscienceblog.com for related posts and pages.