Power to the village, electric:

Life in a little village, as among a band of hunter-gatherers, no doubt gets rather tedious.  Nobody new turns up.  All the stories anybody in town knows are stories everybody in town knows.  There are no books or board games.  There are neither video games nor internet.  And, alas, if one is young one probably finds ones life to be directed by elders, most likely the older women acting in concert.  So there are few important choices, and one day is much like the day before.  If the population is 210 and average life span 70 years, one has few contemporary friends.  The day is filled with routine chores necessary to survival and the night, unless all agree that a meeting should occur and brings a little firewood, then the night will be spent staring up into the darkness waiting for sleep. 

The city has one and only one function: to entertain.  Absurdly imposing buildings abound.  There are theaters and sports arenas.  There are libraries.  There is talk about the Rights of Man.  There is technology and maybe even science.  “This will give us a much more profound understanding of the universe,” are words that are just about certain to shake the shekels out of the ones who hold the shackles.  It’s all entertainment.

And then there are books.  Well something good had to come out of it.  And a book is not much account in the village. You are working all day, and it’s dark at night.

Ah, but that changes if there is electricity.  The village life has much to be said for it, and if there is light, nice and cheap, then you can read at night.  That makes things far more appealing.  So there is a movement to bring light to villages.  (John Homes, Bernie James and Brian Heap, Smart Villages, Science vol. 350 no. 6259 October 23, 2015 page 359)  When I first caught wind of it I thought, “Sure, sure.  Extend the shaky power grid out to the villages so people get used to it and are beholden to the cities.”  But nay, it’s better than that. 

What they are doing through the Smart Villages Initiative supported by the Cambridge Malaysian Education and Development Trust and the Templeton World Charity Foundation, is to develop ways to make the power generations systems suitable to the size and needs of villages. 

I am floored.  What a great idea.  And they make no bones about it; making village life better will encourage people not to leave.

So at the end of the day, maybe there is hope, or at least there are people working for good things.  It is most splendid.  Maybe I should write them and cheer.  (johnlholms@earth.ox.ac.uk, Bernie@e4sv.org and rbh22@cam.ac.uk.  It would be nice to be able applaud without getting down to chiding, which is my wont.

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