So former British PM Tony Blair and Chinese kung fu superstar Jet Li have teamed up to form a dynamic duo of putting solar panel lights in villages around China (and one day, the world!).
Called the 1,000-Village Solar LED Initiative, the five-year project is a joint effort between Blair’s The Climate Group and Li’s One Foundation. It will engage 400 villages in China during the first two years before moving onto 600 other villages in China, India and Africa.
The idea is to do something small but useful on a person-to-person scale rather than the usual national dignitary-to-dignitary meet up – in this case, by installing LED lights powered by solar energy. LEDs are much more energy efficient and the solar panels help ensure that even villages off the grid can benefit from adequate street lighting. Time has a great piece that goes more in-depth about what the project hopes to accomplish.
As Blair told Beijing recently, environmentalists should stress change rather than sacrifice, since it was impractical to demand that developing countries stop consuming the way their counterparts in developed countries do. As quoted in the Guardian:
“I think the way we consume has to change, but I think it is completely unrealistic to say to people you can’t have a car, you can’t use a motorbike. It is just not going to happen,” he said.
Instead, he said, the focus should be on developing low-carbon technology and expanding the manufacturing and infrastructure for hybrid and electric vehicles…
While many environmentalists stress the need to curb consumption worldwide to deal with global warming, Blair emphasised change rather than sacrifice.
“We are changing the way we live not so that we don’t consume and get the material benefits that people like ourselves actually enjoy, but we are changing it so that we do so in a way that is sustainable,” he said.
While we agree that a mantra of “Don’t buy that. It’s bad for the environment and c’mon, you’ve been using bikes all these years – keep at it!” is implausable, we’re a little worried that Blair’s conclusion – that technology and energy efficiency could save us from becoming a polluted cesspool of a planet – is equally so.
There have been numerous studies showing that 20th century consumption levels can not continue, no matter how “green” these products we buy get. We’re not saying products shouldn’t get greener, but in the end you’ve got to face that even though you bought a Hybrid or even a fully electric car, you’ve made a bigger dent on the environment than if you chose to live somewhere where you can walk/bike.