I can’t help becoming disappointed when I see comments on a public forum in Pakistan flatly ruling out any potential relationship between poverty alleviation and sustainable energy. I don’t understand why do some folks want to spread a general impression as if there were no link between reducing poverty and green energy – when there are increasing number of reports stating that these are not mutually exclusive? Whilst there shouldn’t be any denial that nations would be burning coal for energy for many many years to come, we should be aware of its side effects that can be a significant contributor to spreading, In a recent letter to an editor of a national newspaper which throws light on the pollution and environmental degradation coal based energy can contribute, some of the comments tend to write off the fact that the same pollution and environmental degradation will hit the poor first and worst. Thus, making them highly susceptible to remain caught in the vicious circle of poverty.
So when people comment that ” Let us first develop and work for our poverty stricken people, give them food and shelter. Then we can worry about these first world problems of pollution.” and ” I can live with a less cleaner environment as long as my kids get to school and have jobs to go to.” , I feel that Adil Najam‘s recent remark “We tried advising people on ‘what to do’ but now it is time we exhibit ‘how it is done’,” strikes the perfect chord. He urged the development community to come up with feasible social innovations and stories which could be replicated, and a change process can start across the society. Something I have talked about in my latest blog “Green pearls of wisdom”.
There is a strong urgency to educate our society that only sustainable, green growh is the way forward. Energy is a critical pre-requisite to poverty reduction but Green Energy is the catalyst to to sustainable poverty reduction. Green energy will stimulate green growth, new jobs, lift people out of poverty, improve health and open up new educational opportunities.
International power houses like the UNDP and World Bank also recognize the need to fight poverty with green energy. World Bank has recently started an initiative by inviting the private sector to invest in the energy infrastructure in developing countries. It aims to work on green projects with interest of poor at heart. I believe that apart from NGOs, commercial entities should also explore different venues to demonstrate their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) while seeking their economic goals and financial targets – pursuing business strategies focusing on poverty reduction through green growth. One recent example can be a new program of Buksh Foundation‘s of financing clean energy and providing solar based energy solutions to villages in Pakistan. These kinds of initiatives can help generate and consume clean energy as well as alleviate poverty.
For those who wish to remain skeptical, I ask them a simple question, “Will you want your future generation live in a vicious circle of depleting and pollution guzzling fossil fuels, unsustainable consumption patterns, exploding population and failure to address climate change just to find out that there is no enough fertile land to grow food on or no sufficient clean air to breath?” If the answer is no, then get up and act now.