NIGERIA, 2014

A group of men drag a log out of the water near the Oko-Baba sawmill on the Lagos Lagoon

Akinleye

© Reuters / Akintunde Akinleye

 

Abandonment of fossil fuels and energy transition are widely advocated. Moreover, in a world heavily reliant on non-renewable sources, the question of energy supply is complex and cannot be dealt with solely from an environmental perspective, ignoring the equally important social and economic consequences.
For most of its history, mankind has relied exclusively on organic energy, obtained by harnessing biomass (plant and animal) and muscle energy. Even when people began to exploit the natural kinetic energy of wind and water, they continued to depend on the uncontrollable availability of natural resources. It was not until the 18th century, with the increasing use of coal, that man gained control of energy sources, with consequences in terms of efficiency and development still today clear for our eyes to see.
Access to fossil energy sources has not, however, been equal. While a lucky few have progressed economically, increasing their power on the global stage, for a large part of the population, enjoyment of these resources has been, and still is, denied or severely restricted. Many people in the so-called developing countries have inefficient and very expensive energy sources that do not even allow them to meet such basic needs as cooking or heating safely. According to the UNDP (United Nations Development Programme), about 1.5 billion people have no access to electricity and still rely on fuels such as wood or coal.
Implementing an energy transition is imperative, but the energy sector must be structured so as to be more environmentally sustainable and to guarantee greater equity in energy distribution and access.

Sofia Belardinelli