Renewing the World

In order to hasten the decline of poverty, several critical needs must be addressed in order to foster a population capable of working and achieving economic growth and eventual prosperity. Possessing enough water, food, shelter, education, and medical care allows a country to have a reasonably high GDP. By providing disadvantaged countries with a large supply of sustainable energy, those needs will be fulfilled, allowing the population to have sufficient time and skill to take up white-collar jobs, as well as more advanced blue-collar jobs.

According to a 2014 report from the International Monetary Fund, about 40.6% of people living in low-income developing countries (LIDC) earn less than 1.25 US dollars per day. The IMF makes clear their definition of an LIDC, the largest component of which is a frontier market. Frontier markets are similar to emerging markets; Vietnam is cited as a frontier market. Commodity exports ensure that most of their exports are major commodities or fuels, like Nigeria. Finally, fragile states (Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo) have either unstable governments or internal conflict (sometimes both). While emerging markets have a much lower 6.6% poverty rate, poverty still exists and poses a calamity to every nation. Countries like the United States, with impressive GDP and a strong urge to improve global prosperity, should be able to drastically decrease global poverty rates. This is not the case.

America’s method of cleaning up the economic split focuses too much on money, not what comes out of spending that money. The effect that poverty inflicts upon its victims is to deprive them of basic needs: clean water, nutritious food, proper housing, education, and medical care. Why waste time and money on giving out food stamps and monthly health care plans, when one action would fix all of it? Renewable and sustainable energy, which is scarce in developing countries, would assist in the process of ending poverty.

Clean, potable water creates many issues among the poor. As of 2006, 2.6 billion people, many of whom suffer from illness, lack proper water sanitation. When contaminated, water becomes life-threatening. Unfortunately, many people (1.1 billion as of 2006) must trek for hours searching for water, a job mostly left to women. Wives and mothers must carry heavy buckets of unclean water every day to provide for their families. If pipes ran from sources to villages, a clean drink or warm bath would be a few minutes away. Along with a setup to filter and clean the water, a generator could save many hours, devoting that time to providing for other tasks, namely healthier diets.

The United States is home to many grocers and supermarkets: Walmart, Target, Safeway, Fry’s, Whole Foods, Sprouts, etc. Some of those companies, like the last four on the aforementioned list, sell organic foods. When food from those grocers is either expensive or inaccessible, people turn to processed food, like McDonald’s burgers and similar items. Unfortunately such meals are the best-case scenario; days without food are not uncommon for quite a few children. Nutritious food, with an ideal balance of healthy ingredients, requires large production plants or massive farms, depending on the product. Such facilities consume large amounts of energy and require many workers. These workers must be alert and well-rested, requiring for all of them to own a comfortable resting place.

Even with a hearty supply of food and water, the poor have little refuge from the elements. If hungry animals raid a pile of nutritious food, the affected family will suffer. Rain, wind, floodwater, and temperature all possess the potential to kill. Proper housing is crucial; a corrugated metal roof on stilts would collapse in a flood. Since poverty is a global issue, the types of housing will vary widely, from a small flood-resistant house erected on a concrete pillar to an excellently insulated desert residence. All of the houses will need power to run them and expertise to build them. Hiring realtors, architects, and construction workers would stimulate economic growth, but where will they come from? To create a workforce capable of maintaining real estate, education is a must.

Any level of education contributes to workplace skills. A high school diploma alone would allow a poor child to sustain a family, albeit without much room for comfort. However, going beyond high school in all areas, attaining even more skills, will require the grid to spread across the entire Earth; running a higher-education institute is impossible without power. As of 2007, over 70 million children who should have been in primary school could not attend. Imagine the results if every child received a college-level education! All areas would gain a workforce, causing economic growth and decimating the poverty rate. Like any college, the higher-education schools in a disadvantaged region would offer a wide range of classes: liberal arts, science, math, fine arts, and other occupations. Such an education would allow maintenance of the power, food, and water supplies. Given many years of studying, a student could save many lives with a knowledge of proper medical practices. The World Health Organization’s estimates claim that about 35 million people lived with HIV in 2013; in the same year, 1.5 million died from AIDS. Ironically, HIV/AIDS can be stopped; however, many victims of AIDS lack the money to receive treatment, let alone to fly to an advanced hospital. Alternatively, the patients must wait for a doctor to come along and help. Travelling doctors would allow for early detection through an HIV antibody test. Afterwards, the positive-tested individual must take an antiretroviral drug to inhibit, but not cure, the disease. Unfortunately, a medical professional must analyze the test results and determine the best solution; Earth simply lacks the necessary manpower.

Educating the population in medicine and fostering a generation of doctors will put an end to such nasty epidemics. Some speculate that even Ebola would have faltered if the native doctors and nurses had the resources and ability to ensure cleanliness. Given an energy supply, rural doctors will have access to the same crucial instruments as a doctor in a metropolitan emergency room. Increasing the number of medical professionals will create a spike in innovation; among the millions of new doctors may the HIV vaccine emerge. Diseases could be eradicated by the hundreds as labs from around the world collaborate with rural doctors; both parties will have equal potential and capability. The medical field will grow tenfold as previously impoverished doctors make novel ideas and discoveries every day.

While certain sources of energy (solar, wind, etc.) last indefinitely, other sources like fossil fuels will hardly last hundreds of years. The entire fossil fuel industry may falter by the 22nd century. In order to deter poverty, the whole world must use a sustainable source. Extending the grid to wrap around the planet will put an end to poverty; nevertheless, in order to ensure long-term success, the grid must stem from an infinite power supply. Renewable energy or not, lighting up developing countries will cause a massive increase in GDP for those areas, not to mention an improvement in the global economy.

GDP is dependent upon several factors: consumption, private investments, government spending, exports, and imports. Increasing the first four terms or decreasing imports increases GDP. Increasing the supply of renewable energy provides a GDP increase. The formerly poor will become educated consumers for their country; give them Internet access, and millions of people have caused a demand spike in the electronic commerce market. Some people would rather choose to make investments, possibly earning millions by investing in a startup company. The government will spend more to maintain its energy supply. Thanks to an increase in education and potential investors, businessmen could supply goods and services to a domestic market, driving up consumption further. Growth of such businesses could lead to an increase in exports and a decrease in imports. The only outcome is a substantial decrease in poverty.

Many engineers and entrepreneurs consider tactics for exploiting renewable energy sources. Quite a few proposals work in theory, but fail when applied to urban settings. In areas with little to no infrastructure, these proposals would catalyze economic prosperity. Sidewalks that harness energy from footsteps. Roads that function as solar panels. Zero-energy buildings, which are nearly 100% efficient in energy usage. Wind turbines floating thousands of feet above their anchors. These ideas are brilliant, some say, but will not work. “It won’t help anything,” “we can’t get back what we put in,” “there’s no potential,” and “we really can’t test them.”

Such renewable energy critics have a point. The developed world creates hundreds of ideas to benefit itself; that’s where the criticism stems from. We have the right ideas in the wrong places. Implementing new roads and sidewalks in a complex, existing infrastructure defies both economic and common sense. A cost-effective plan to replace roads with solar panels would create plenty of taxpayer dollars to rip up the current road, unless the region has no roads whatsoever. In that case, one must begin with an excellent foundation in order to facilitate later improvement.

Certain critics may stand fast, declaring that the idea is economically infeasible despite its potential effectiveness. They ask, “How will this plan help us?” Eradicating poverty will allow for growth of the consumer and factor markets, decreasing prices in both due to an influx of consumers, workers, and entrepreneurs. Unlike other plans to lessen poverty, creating a power supply will both lessen poverty and boost global economy.

Increasing access to water, food, shelter, education, and medical care will create a gradual, yet strong, economic rebound in countries well known for poor standards of living. By creating a central, renewable energy supply, these countries will recover from economic downturn and take a step toward lessening, and eventually ending, poverty throughout the world.

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6 Jan. 2015.

by Miguel Opena, age 14

BASIS Scottsdale, Scottsdale

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