The off grid revolution
By Hassan Arshad Chattha
A great deal of noise is made about the impeding end of fossil fuels and of catastrophic global warming and pollution. This has unfortunately been successfully countered by the rise of the lucrative and insidious fake news industry in the west. The tragedy of this development is the planned and successful disruption of constructive debate on the true potential benefits that may be reaped by tackling this issue. It does not factor in the massive potential of renewable energy and its complementary technology to bring into effect a paradigm shift in the way we live on the planet.
Although the debate has been raging on for years, any tangible hopes for true progress in the field of renewable energy were quashed with the rise of Trump to the Presidency of the United States. Being a businessman first and a leader second, Mr. Trump prioritized corporate interests over those of the people and rolled back and reneged on many commitments that the US had made on the issue of combating climate change.
However, this is a blessing in disguise for China. Due the failure of the US to pursue a path for the greater good of the planet, the onus is on China to rise and take this opportunity to be in a leadership position to reshape modern human living for the new age. What most fail to comprehend is that much greater things can be achieved by working on renewable energy than just the most obvious yet critical prevention of global warming and devastating amounts of pollution.
Renewable energy holds the key to the holy grail of solving a great deal of the problems of modern living; the realization of a truly distributed yet integrated, off grid lifestyle. Currently there is a large problem of mass migration to urban centers in the pursuit of better paying jobs and access to better facilities. This has led to unsustainable growth of sprawling megacities which are becoming a nightmare to manage and live in. Furthermore, they have a negative effect on surrounding regions as they become a hub for attracting vast amounts of population to them, depriving surrounding places of growth or talent. This also creates a disparity of lifestyle, thinking and wealth distribution and threatens the internal unity of nations.
Although many would prefer to live in such cities, but for a large number of people, there simply is no alternate option to get around this issue. The equation of life in these cities is paying a lot for the opportunity to work more to be able to spend more and have less. Save for a lucky few, the quality of life in most of these cities is not anything to brag about, and that does not factor in the other factors as astronomical property prices and the stress of living in densely packed urban centers.
Developing countries have wreaked havoc upon their economies and development by trying to link up faraway places to the grid and are now facing catastrophic energy shortages and circular debt in the energy sector. The mistake: trying to provide unsustainable solutions based on metrics developed elsewhere inapplicable in their case.
However, through the combination of renewable energy generation, storage, distribution and integration through the internet of all kinds of critical services, it is quite possible to enable access to a vast array of jobs to faraway locations as well as provision of modern facilities and amenities to those locations. Renewable energy can provide effective solutions for necessities such as water purification as well as effective sewage disposal, recycling and now even transportation.
This will yield multiple and far reaching benefits as it will enable healthy, sustainable lifestyles and families being able to live together in their native regions and cities. Furthermore, this will drive down the meteoric rise in living costs that are threatening the very social fabric of urbanizing societies around the world and improve the quality of life.
A simple glance at the disparity in development between eastern and western China is an easy way to illustrate this. Rather than reinventing the wheel by first bringing modernization with all its baggage, a better solution would be implement the off grid revolution to those places and make them a benchmark that can be implemented in the vast tracts of the world that are struggling to implement unsustainable urbanization and ensuing chaos and disruption it brings to societies.
Combined with the OBOR initiative, off grid technologies can work in tandem and synchronicity with the project and usher in a new and better way of living to the regions that have yet to make that leap into the modern age. China is uniquely placed in history at this point with a capable, determined and devoted leadership, possessing the technological prowess and economic might to bring about this revolution in the world.
The author is a digital media analyst, futurist, and struggling filmmaker. Currently based in Beijing.