Tag Archives: poverty

Prof. Hans Rosling, teacher extraordinaire

The world has lost a giant intellect with the death of Professor Hans Rosling, the statistician who breathed life into data and gave humanity an enormous gift. His entertaining and optimistic approach to data analysis is inspirational. His teaching methods will live on in every person who had the good fortune to hear him speak, […]

via Life and Death: The Next Big Thing — Honie Briggs

Statistics and math are not the same beast. Math is about precise relationships, stats is about patterns, and Professor Rosling was about helping people recognize the patterns created by statistics.

Human beings are very good at pattern recognition, but usually that skill is restricted to the small scale – my house, my world, my life. Statistics gives us a tool with which to recognize patterns on a large scale – our country, our planet, humankind. And you don’t have to be a maths wiz to do it. All you need is basic math and logic.

If I could change one thing about education right now, it would be to teach each child about statistics. Maybe then, we would not have a world in which every fact is open to ‘interpretation’.

But don’t watch Professor Rosling’s videos just for his brilliant, visual ways of displaying stats, watch them for the content. However dissatisfied we may be with our world in 2017, I was gobsmacked to learn that the Industrial Revolution – a period in Western history that saw terrible disruptions to the life of the common man – was also the start of an incredible climb up out of poverty. It gives me hope that the Era of Automation will actually lead to an even better standard of living for all of us, not just a few.


#Solar power changing the face of poverty in India

Large, corporate power suppliers often cite baseload [the amount of energy needed to satisfy the minimum energy demands of a given society] as the reason for dismissing solar power. Solar panels/arrays don’t work at night so solar must be useless for baseload.

On the surface, the need for baseload power does appear to leave solar out in the cold, but…all baseloads are not the same. In India, there are tens of millions of people for whom baseload equates to just one light bulb. These are the people living in distant rural areas, or city slums, or simply on the pavement. They are poor in a way we in the West cannot even imagine because, despite their poverty, they have to spend a significant portion of their tiny monthly incomes on kerosene for their lamps, or batteries for their torches. All because they are too poor to tap into the electricity grid.

And this is where Piconergy comes in. Founded by a group of young, well-educated, clever young men, Piconergy has created a super small-scale solar power plant called the Helios [from the Greek word for ‘sun’]. This is the product description from their website:

Product Features

–  Strong and sturdy Power Box which can be easily carried around and/or wall mounted, housing our battery management system & a 6V 4.5 Ah Absorbent Glass Mat (AGM) technology based sealed maintenance free battery.

–  5 Watts-peak Solar PV Module with 4m cable & connector.

–  Three LED Light Bulbs producing up to 200 lumens each with 3m cable & switch to cover maximum area for illumination.

–  USB port for charging mobile phones.

–  Optional SMPS Adapter to charge battery from grid supply.

And this is the product:


Piconergy are making the Helios available to families in the slums of Mumbai:

  • so the children can study at night,
  • so cottage industries can make more products to sell,
  • so families do not have to live in the dark

I cannot tell you how much the dedication and commitment of the young men at Piconergy warms my heart. They are not just talking about social inequality, they are doing something practical to help. But my admiration for them goes beyond questions of social conscience – I want a Helios for myself!

Why? Why would a middle class woman in Australia with solar panels on her roof already want such a small-scale solar device? I’ll tell you why. I want my own Helios because the solar panels on my roof are tied in to the grid. When the grid goes down, my solar panels are turned off as well. In a word, they become USELESS.

I cannot tell you how many times we have sweltered during a 40 degree day because the grid was down. No aircon, no fan and no landline telephone. If our mobile phones aren’t charged then we are literally isolated from the outside world. And then there are the nights when we need torches and candles just to get to the bathroom. Again, because the grid is unreliable.

After the fire that destroyed homes south of the river a couple of years ago [in Warrandyte], SP Ausnet is finally putting in heavy duty powerlines and some underground cabling, but for now we continue to lose power, and I continue to keep torches and candles dotted throughout the house.

For us, the potential for sudden, energy poverty is very real, and I intend to do something about it. More on that later.

For now, though, if you care about those less fortunate than yourselves, may I suggest you give Piconergy a boost in social media. After all, ‘Mighty oaks from little acorns grow.’







#Coal vs #solar – the true cost of electricity for India’s poor

angryQueensland’s Galilee Basin contains a lot of coal which could create a lot of electricity, but let’s not get precious about why we’re going to export it to India. No Australian government, state or federal, is interested in providing the benefits of electricity to India’s poor. They are only interested in export dollars. As for India’s poor, they cannot afford coal fired electricity.

“The poor will benefit from coal-fired power generation only if you ignore the costs of pollution and if industries can be attracted to rural areas. Without industry, though, electrification for the world’s rural poor requires a different model to that offered by coal-fired power.”

That quote comes from an article written by three Australian academics:

They crunched the numbers and came to the conclusion that India’s poor would be far better off with localised, small-scale solar power generation. You can read the Quartz article here:

The deadly cost of bringing coal-powered electricity from Australia to India

Or you can read the original article on the Conversation here:


Now, my fellow Aussies, ask yourselves whether making an almighty mess of the Galilee basin is really worth those export dollars when only large corporations will really benefit?

Then ask yourselves what might have happened had we supported our solar industry [we let it die here or go offshore] instead of coal?

I believe a thriving Australian solar industry could be bringing in squillions of export dollars from the Third World as well as doing a great deal of good for the Third World’s poor. Instead, countries such as China* are exporting solar panels to the world and we are still trying to flog coal.

Clearly the coal industry has a great deal more lobbying power than the fledgling solar industry did. Or perhaps our politicians are just too damned stupid to read the writing on the wall. Or perhaps it’s a bit of both. Either way, we Aussies are the ones who will miss out in the not-so-long-run.

I’m angry,


*This is an interesting article looking at the provenance of so-called ‘Australian solar’.



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