Many climate change activists, scientists, and theorists have often agreed that poverty is directly linked to a lack of sufficient energy. We all know that without proper electrical support, many people will find it hard to have the electricity that they need for refrigeration of food and important medical supplies. What if, however, there was one person who felt that energy is actually not so grand in the larger scale of things? Well, according to one man, energy that is linked to poverty depends on one’s perspective.
Dr. Daniel Chidubem Gbujie is a climate change activist and founder of the Team 54 Project which works to bring awareness and fruitful action to climate change initiatives throughout the world. He’s not only a representative selected by Al Gore to speak within the United Nations on environmental issues, but he is also the creator of the RepClime App which is a real time reporting system that enables global people to become environmental stewards on climate incidents in their location.
Needless to say, Dr. Gbujie has done his fair share of work toward finding the answers to the question of a sustainable climate. He’s from Nigeria and he has seen his fair share of poverty as it ravishes one community at a time. With such a background, he has found that his own understanding of energy and its presence, or lack of, in poor communities is very different from most.
“I believe that energy is very important because it contributes to the thriving of a community, and of the world,” said Dr. Gbujie when asked about the link between poverty and energy. “However, energy has the power to serve in a very negative way that could potentially cause further damage in poor societies,” he stated. It was not a matter of whether energy served a great purpose or not. Instead, it was an issue of how energy served a community that mattered. “Yes, energy drives production and humans need the coordinating machines in order to have that production,” he said. “Yet what people fail to realize is that the core of what we use for energy can create great devastation.”
The theory that Dr. Gjujie shared consists of the idea that a country might have oil, but the exploration and digging of that oil is what causes greater environmental damage. “My home Nigeria has the 4th largest oil reserve but we haven’t harnessed the energy–we just export,” he said. “We destroy our environment through the exploration of oil because our digging brings up deadly toxins that were buried in the earth along with the oil.”
Dr. Gbujie believes that when an environment is destroyed by the exploration of resources such as oil for energy, the people in the region suffer because they will be the first to breathe toxins from the exploration and their health will be significantly affected. “The degradation of land brings forth the insecurity of the people who live there. If they are insecure, then there will be conflict. If there is conflict, there will be a problem with education. Without proper education, bad judgement and illness will invade and lead to a poor structure.” With all of this, it is the belief of Dr. Gbujie that energy can be deadly due to its indirect outcome. Although the oil in his country was not used, the exploration of that oil created further poverty of his people.
It is Dr. Gbujie’s analysis that energy and poverty have a very casual relationship. “The subsidiaries of energy can either help or hurt depending on how it is used,” he stated. “An example of this is the oil spill that occurred in 1994 in Ogoniland that took 50 years to clean,” he continued. “Due to this spillage, the people of the region were unable to plant on the land and the water was completely polluted. This is how resources utilized for energy, even when unused, can create years of devastation.”
Although it is obvious that fossil fuels and coal are just a couple of items that cause havoc on our ecosystem, we often ignore the fact that these things can be deadly even when they are not being harvested for energy. The only viable solution, according to Dr. Gbujie, is to focus our attention on renewable energy solutions. Only then can we protect our planet and the people on it from deadly resources that have the power to kill all living things.