New Internationalist Issue 284
Energy and Equality
What a mess! If the South uses energy in the same way as the North has done, we are heading for a future dominated by global warming, toxic waste and air pollution. But the arguments for sustainability do not necessarily go hand-in- hand with those for equity. Vanessa Baird constructs a conversation between Claire, from the energy-glutted North, and Gloria from the energy-starved South. Can they ever share the same priorities - and a common vision for the future?
Quickly, she moved out of the lecture hall, along the corridor and through a pair of swinging doors, violently at odds with each other. No time to think why it was always like this, before she reached the room with her plaque on it: Dr Claire Green, Senior Lecturer, Renewable Energy Studies. A student caught her eye. 'Can I talk to you?' 'Sorry. Can it wait till next week?' A tome slipped off her pile, 1160 pages of it, entitled 'Energy Forever'.
'God, I could do with just a bit of it right now,' she thought as she closed the door behind her and poured herself an evil-smelling, thick, black liquid from the coffee maker.
'Relax,' she told herself sternly, gazing out through the window at the Heart of England University campus. It was one of those sunny, windy days that should be a joy to a renewable energy freak. Her computer whirred quietly in the background. Next to it, her answerphone was flashing. She switched it to 'play' and heard her lover informing her that they had agreed to meet for lunch. Remember?! Before she could make the requisite grovelling, apologetic call, her phone buzzed.
'Your visitor from South Africa is here! Shall I send her through to you?'
Claire did not know quite what she had expected of Gloria Thembisa, community leader and NGO worker, with a special interest in rural energy. But when she appeared Claire realized what she had not expected: a woman six-feet-tall, wearing jeans and a big crimson, floppy shirt. Behind her large spectacles, Gloria had a slight squint that gave her a permanently quizzical air. But her smile lines were deeply etched, Claire noticed with relief. If she was going to spend five days accompanying this woman on a study tour of energy alternatives, a sense of humour would be a plus, if not an essential requirement.
After the initial polite exchanges Claire went to her printer and ripped off a list she had prepared the previous night. 'Just a few ideas about different kinds of energy systems your community might be interested in.'
'Ah yes, yes. Wind, solar, wave. Mmmm, solar hydrogen. Very interesting...' said Gloria. 'But there is something missing here. Something that really does interest me...'
'Yes. You have heard of it?' said Gloria, with a smile.
'Yes,' Claire flustered. 'Do you want to...'
'Visit your newest nuclear power station? Yes, I would love to!'
Claire had a sinking feeling as she made the arrangements. 'Yes, we are open every day of the year except Christmas here at Sizewell,' said the chirpy voice on the other end of the line. 'You can book a tour now. And you will probably want to spend time in our Visitors Centre... It's one of the best in the country..'
©Copyright: New Internationalist 1996 NI Home Page Issue 284 Contents
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