Hello all and welcome back to my personal masterpiece, The Fire. As this website’s author and founder I have taken it upon myself to make it my personal duty to inspire people through examples of human advancement in science; and what could be a better example of human advancement through science than documenting the strides that African countries have taken to be more eco friendly?
As some may know I love Africa. I’ve only been there once and when I was there I was miserable, but that’s another issue entirely.
I went to South Africa when I was 15 on a family vacation and stayed in a resort in Cape Town, right under Lion’s Head mountain. I distinctly remember meeting three French sisters who were around my and Tenijua’s age and befriending them at the playground. They were all blondes who spoke no English whatsoever. We met at a playground and I made a fool of myself to keep the girls entertained along with my 12 year old sister. I also remember buying a cheap, yet realistic-looking, airsoft gun from a local Cape Town flea market where prices were ridiculously low, in American dollars, and everything was a steal. Then there was the time we all went to the shanty towns of South Africa and got to see how people lived in those villages for an entire day. It wasn’t that new to me because we grew up with family members who lived in the ghetto in Philadelphia who we visited often as kids. But we had never seen anything quite like that.
Then there’s my Uncle who has traveled all around the world and lived and taught in Malawi and southern Africa. I also have family members in Africa; my cousin, whose name I cannot spell, is my uncle’s daughter. Although I have never met her in person I love her and am eager to meet her someday. Let’s not also forget about the whole African diaspora thing that took place centuries ago that put my ancestors in America. Although we have come to live in America for generations now, I still value Africa as the true motherland. Everyone should. It is, afterall, the literal birthplace of humanity. For all who don’t know, everyone, if you go back far enough, is from Africa. Admit it to yourself and kill that racism that you carry with you everyday towards dark skinned people who look like they might be close to being from Africa. People like me.
Sub-Saharan African countries like Kenya, The DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo), Ethiopia, Rift Valley territories, and everyone else in between have tremendous potential to set themselves up as mostly green, clean energy producing countries; with the natural ability to provide stable power to basically every one of it’s inhabitants. These areas also posses rivers with damming potential and there’s also the exponential amount of energy that comes from the sun every single day as many of these highly prospective countries are along the equator, or in close proximity.
Africa still remains extremely vulnerable to climate change because of varying rainfall across numerous regions and desertification caused by overgrazing near the Sahel, or the southern border of the Sahara Desert. In fact, rains once failed across the Sahel for seven years from 1968 and the drought was blamed for harvest failure, widespread hunger, and the death of 250,000 people and millions of cattle. So as you can imagine, people are working diligently to provide solutions to enormous problems such as these. I truly believe if something like this were to happen here in America (perhaps like the Dust Bowl of the 1930s) it would be something we would make sure no one on earth would easily forget, like the attacks on the World Trade Centers on September 11, 2001. However, there are also some other factors that have contributed to such tragedies. These factors stem from political changes involving colonialism that prevent migration and promote crops for export rather than feeding the citizens of that country. And, to be honest, it’s factors like those that make me proud to live a country where I have the access I do to healthy food virtually whenever I want and I would be hard pressed not to find a patriot or two fighting to keep things in order for the greater good of everyone if these types of disasters occur (I haven’t done my research on related issues in America, aside from the ever worsening drought in some western states, so feel free to poke holes in whatever flaws you may find 😉 ).
Desertification is something that is happening today that contributes to lowering the already low soil fertility in sub-saharan Africa. Africa’s soil fertility lies at around 30% with more of it being among the ash covered parts around volcanoes. Some metal rich soils in Africa are actually toxic to crops. This, of course, is a very big problem. People starve and other problems begin to build onto each other like a snowball.
Keeping Africa Lit
Even the dark complexions of the billions of African people you might see living in these areas should make you aware of the powerful potential the sun has on the African continent. It’s those intense ultraviolet rays that billions of Africans endure that makes the entire continent ideal for harnessing solar energy, especially in the Sahel and close to the Kalahari desert. Sub-Saharan Africa is a focus of concern about sustainable development, including strategies to reduce poverty and improve lives without adding to environmental degradation. It’s estimated that two-thirds of the region lacks access to electricity, especially in rural areas, and 80% of the population relies on traditional biomass for cooking and heat, wood, charcoal, dung, and crop waste, contributing to deforestation and loss of soil fertility. This is because access to electricity, gas, or petroleum is very limited.
Solar panels like the one pictured above are being used more and more to power schools, cell phones and computers, and TVs even in rural areas. This contributes to lowering the already low carbon emissions and industrial development. So now people don’t have to wonder what life would be like with immediate access to a Facebook or Twitter account or BBC News, they can simply log on to their accounts and compare themselves to people they know vaguely from the comforts of their own homes. Or in case of the BBC News access, they can watch it with a vague understanding of what the Brexit is from the comforts of their own homes. Everyone wins and the world becomes much smaller. Facebook profits increase as the world becomes more and more connected (I guess that how it works…I dunno).
In order to reverse the trends of environmental degradation women, primarily, and men have come together to find the solutions to these important problems. There is also a social movement known as Green Belt Movement which consist of roughly 50,000 women working together to restore the environment in and around Nairobi, Kenya. Led by the Nobel-Prize winning political activist Wangari Maathai, the Green Belt Movement has planted thousands of trees around Nairobi and has become a model for similar groups in Africa.
A Damming Continent
One of the most important ways that some southern and western African countries receive power is through the use of dams. The hydroelectric potential that many of these dams posses is truly some to appreciate. There were several massive dam projects in the 1950s to provide electricity to industry and cities, and to irrigate agricultural fields: the Kariba dam on the Zambezi River in the southern region and the Akosombo dam in Ghana on the Volta River in West Africa. Some east African nations also utilize this powerful resource through the financial backing of nations like China. There are also some problems that come along with creating dams. There is a much higher likelihood of the spread of diseases that come from the stagnant water downstream of these dams where conditions are perfect for insects to mate and mutate in such a tropical climate. This is where diseases like river blindness, and schistosomiasis (bilharziasis) can be contracted, killing people by the hundreds of thousands. As Bill Nye likes to point out, the thing that humans really have to worry about is germs, just look at how many people were killed by smallpox. It’s germs that have the potential to kill by the hundreds of thousands, just look at the Black Plague.
Yet it’s worth it. It’s well worth it. This is because of the enormous potential these projects have to lift people out of horrible poverty and provide jobs and opportunities to those future scientists and entrepreneurs who will strive to end these diseases once and for all. It’s the future generations who will be inspired whenever loved ones suffer permanently from these debilitating conditions. They’ll be the ones to take up the responsibility of making their countries better through hard work and determination, and they’ll rise to power because they were dedicated enough to stay on their mission. If you’re watching close enough you’ll see plenty of this happening already everywhere in Africa.