In March 2010, global scientists and engineers will convene in California, to talk about trials of radical ideas, such as putting mirrors in space to divert the sun’s rays to fertilising the ocean with iron to kick start carbon sucking ecosystems. They will do this because despite what some people still think, the planet is changing. People might be the losers.
I have an alternative but equally radical solution, which could help end war and poverty, whilst improving the livelihoods of millions. At the same time it will deal with climate change. Sounds impossible? Read on.
Africa’s deserts were once forested paradises, and so they must return. Using large scale desalinisation plants on the coast, fuelled by concentrated solar power, hydroelectric, and wind, water will be pumped across the land, to turn this arid landscape into a green paradise. The excess salt will be sold to the rest of the world, where amongst other things it can be used for assisting in extreme cold weather events. Where sand once existed plants will grow, fuelled by clean water, and it is these plants that must start to form the basis of a new strong economy. The biomass acting as a as carbon sink will also supply food, ecological services and anthropogenic resources. The clean water will be a keystone to improving health and fuelling economic development, just as it did for all the developed countries before.
The construction of such a large scale irrigation project will create thousands of jobs, and it must be the entitlement of all Africans to be able to provide their labour. Other than the benefit of employment, they will benefit from contributing to their continents development knowing full well that the water will improve the lives of their own people. Power tensions arising from low water reserves will diminish, and gradually the continent will transform. Enterprise from forestry will start to boom, and as it does more and more carbon will become locked away. Wealth will be made from helping the rest of the world lock carbon up in biomass, and as it does wealth will take on a new meaning. But here is the difference, Africa will have to show the rest of the world what a sustainable economy really looks like, and along the way the politicians will have to work out what is the most efficient and equitable political model to make this all happen.
This has the potential to be one of the greatest legacies of our civilisation.
To keep checking that things are not damaging the environment is no easy feat, but then again it’s probably easier to do if your slate is relatively clean to start off with.
Once the water is flowing, some of the greatest challenges can start to be overcome at a faster pace. Sustainable economic development, healthcare, climate change, poverty and technology will all advance at a quicker pace. Of course some will be jealous, it’ll threaten corrupt institutions and change power relations, but surely the long term reward for all generations is greater than the short term reward for the few? In the words of Nelson Mandela S., African black civil rights leader ‘Sometimes it falls upon a generation to be great. You can be that great generation’.
The speed of the development need only be constricted by all our greatness and the speed of positive collaboration, co-ordination and competition.
Of course I don’t pretend to have all the answers, I’m only one person. Only together as humans could we make such an idea work.
If I won the lottery, I know what project I would start…. and it wouldn’t be a big car. I’d plant an acorn to start this green transition.