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Cornwall Alliance / September 30, 2019

Dark, Dusty, and Developing: Climate Control Is the Last Thing We Want

What seems like a fairy tale for the children of developed nations is a life-and-death matter in the darkest corners of the world.

By Vijay Jayaraj

Despite decades of rapid economic growth, parts of India (where I live) remain severely underdeveloped.

Though India has achieved energy surplus — producing more electricity than it consumes — it has yet to fix the country’s dodgy transmission network. Houses in villages remain unconnected to the main grid, and pockets of cities suffer blackouts from faulty transformers.

I encounter literal darkness every day. There are blackouts often, either in early morning or in the evenings. These blackouts disrupt normal life.

Last week, an eight-hour blackout meant I couldn’t charge my laptop for work, and we couldn’t use electrical appliances for cooking. For industries, the damage is higher, as frequent blackouts force them to constantly reboot their machines, resulting in low productivity.

And it is not just the electricity sector that needs improvement.

The roads in some cities are extremely bad. In Bangalore alone, 370 miles of road need immediate repair. These bad roads result in excessive fuel waste, loss of productive time, and damage to vehicles. I have yet to recover from the impact of these dusty roads and the dust particles on my eyes.

Even for those like me who are above the poverty line, uninterrupted electricity and basic infrastructure are still a luxury. I can only imagine the plight of others who live in slums and remote villages.

The situation is no different in other developing countries.

Electricity service and roads are even worse in most African countries than in India. Uninterrupted electricity is still a luxury in almost all African countries, and major roads can hardly compete with the standards of those in developed nations.

Thirteen of the world’s 20 least electrified countries are in Africa, and around 630 million people live without access to electricity in sub-Saharan Africa alone. Only 40% of people in the continent have reliable access to electricity.

Extensive use of fossil resources is required to achieve rapid economic growth in African and other developing countries. Some developing countries like India, China, Brazil, and Indonesia have been fortunate to be able to use coal at a large scale. Others in Africa must follow suit.

But the elites in the political institutions of Europe and their well-organized network of radical environmental groups pose a serious threat to these ambitions of developing countries.

Sitting in darkness, with just 15% battery left on my phone, I was shocked to see the proceedings at the United Nations climate summit last week. Greta Thunberg, the child activist, even went as far as to call our aspirations for development “fairy-tale economic growth.”

What seems like a fairy tale for the children of developed nations is a matter of life and death for people living in the darkest and dustiest corners of the world. The apathy toward economic growth and the reasons given to abandon fossil-fuel sources were indigestible and false.

As I live and travel more in the developing parts of the world, one thing emerges clearly. Poverty in Third World countries cannot be alleviated without rapid economic growth buoyed by fossil-fuel resources.

Climate activism is the last thing we want here in developing countries.

Vijay Jayaraj (M.Sc., Environmental Science, University of East Anglia, England), Research Contributor for the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation.

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