Leapfrogging Technology

NPR had an excellent commentary on Friday about a man who just came back from the Tsunami zone. He was detailing some of the good that can ultimately come from the misery there. New technologies can be put in place to purify water, provide electricity, and provide work for the thousands of displaced and jobless. In the US, he said, we are so entrenched in our power grid, our fossil fueled cars and heaters, making the leap to solar, small scale wind, and other clean technologies would require a sea change and take decades. But in places like Sri Lanka’s coast, where nothing is standing, here is a chance to jump to the next generation.

Simple water purifiers are being used to provide water for one or two houses at a time, (compare these with the massive chlorinating plants we use here), and simple solar panels, wires and a battery can easily electrify a house for less than $50. Villagers spend $4-8 per day just finding kerosene, wood or other fuel to cook with…So jumping in with our assistance to provide these new systems means cleaner energy, plus thousands of jobs for locals to help service and sell the new systems. These countries will be far ahead of us in the long run.

There is a silver lining in this dark, dark cloud, however painful the path is to get there.