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Is Energy a Basic Human Right? Organization's Work Answers Yes

Posted By Prucia Buscell, Thursday, November 25, 2010
Updated: Thursday, February 17, 2011

Will the patient be OK after four hours of oxygen? Can we turn it off? If she looks really bad, can we turn on the generator?

No doctor wants that conversation, but it happens in places where electricity is scarce and unreliable. The Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF),is an independent non-profit that works to design and implement solar power in the developing world. Its mission asserts that energy is a basic human right that underlies advances in education, health, agriculture and economic growth. Watch an inspiring film that shows how SELF has brought renewable energy to a remote Village Health World Clinic in Africa, which allows doctors to have access to refrigerated vaccines andto medical information and tools on the internet, as well as light and clean water. Thousands of people in nearby areas benefit.

Working with governments, industries and other organizations, SELF has worked on solar electricity projects in 20 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. One of the projects is a Solar Market Garden in Benin, in West Africa. SELF and other organizations install solar powered pumps that use low-pressure drip irrigation, which conserves water and increases crop yield in arid regions. For an engaging conversation about how energy can be brought to homes and whole villages in the developing world, read the Harvard Business Review blog posts on the idea of Vijay Govindarajan and Christian Sarkar to design a $300 house that could be replicated to create whole communities. SELF's Bob Freling suggests it's possible.

Solar power does more than improve the quality of life by providing reliable and inexpensive energy. Energy sources that replace oil products and batteries help the planet. According to the SELF website, the organization installs 1,000 solar systems a year in developing villages, averaging 50 watts each. By replacing the use of kerosene and diesel fuel, the organization estimates that each system will offset six tons of CO2 emissions over its 20 year life. The organization estimates that its present installations prevent 6,000 tons of CO2 from entering the atmosphere each year.

Curious about how readers answered last week's New York Times budget deficit reduction puzzle? Click here.

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