In our many and varied travels, Alice and I have seen the benefits of fossil fuel use, and the struggles to survive without it. For example, in Tanzania we saw a village that recently was aided by Rotary clubs donating a manually operated water pump, a great improvement over the previous need to carry water jugs great distances from the river. However, its users still hand-pumped the water, then carried water jugs instead of turning on a faucet in their homes.
We have many colorful pictures of women walking by the road with jugs, baskets, or bundles balanced on their heads, and not just in Africa. In Guatemala, India, and in rural areas of Southeast Asia bundles of firewood as well as jugs of water being carried by women and children were common sights. In these areas, the vast majority of the population relies on traditional biomass and waste, mostly firewood and dried cattle dung, for heating and cooking. With increasing populations, the walks to gather fuel get longer, and the air in homes and villages exceed our “spare the air” standard every day.
Given these observations of living lives without the abundant, easily accessed energy we take for granted, I wasn’t surprised by a recent study that found that “(T)he benefits of fossil fuel energy to society far outweigh the social costs of carbon (SCC) by a magnitude of 50 to 500 times.”
It’s common sense, which unfortunately is not commonly found in the developed world. We would like to preserve the lives of peoples of the developing world in an imagined pristine Eden, and they would like to live like us.
We don’t want to live like them, yet are surprised they don’t either. With economic freedom, Bill Gates thinks by 2035 they won’t have to.