Saturday, August 20, 2016

Chanterelle risotto

Today, I decided to make some chanterelle risotto with white truffle oil for dinner. While toasting the carnaroli rice I received an update from a former student from Seoul who is now in Cambodia installing off-grid solar panels in rural communities. Despite all my academic work on energy access and mitigation policy, I somehow intuitively felt that she was doing a great thing when I saw her pictures of those photovoltaic panels coming up. But there was something with the setting that made me feel deeply uneasy. Here we have a student from South Korea, which probably more than any other country should remind us of the value of grid electricity and comprehensive modernization, travelling with jet plane to Cambodia to facilitate the spread of off-grid electricity and, then, transmitting images of the ongoing installation to me, standing in a kitchen in North Sweden, making some exquisite Italian dish.

Thanks to the solar electricity, Internet connectivity is likely to improve, meaning that those suffering from agrarian poverty in rural Cambodia could soon, hypothetically, begin reading this very weblog (yes, Google Translate does Khmer these days). And somewhere there, it is becoming increasingly clear to me that what we are doing is not even necessarily making agrarian poverty any more bearable, maybe in fact the very opposite. Not the least through the Internet, the experience of global inequality is made acute. While I am of course not suggesting that ignorance is any better, I am more and more inclined to see the mitigation work undertaken by “green climate funds” as nothing but carbon colonialism. No affluent society would accept off-grid intermittent electricity and neither should Cambodia. As a friend at Breakthrough put it: "asking poor people to stay poor to solve a problem they didn’t create in the first place would be a supreme act of injustice and misanthropy”.

So, what is the solution? To be honest, I can only see one, the same kind of great transformation away from agrarian poverty that Sweden and all other industrialized countries have already gone through, powered by centralized and reliable electricity. 


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