Why are peanuts political in Bangalore

: Energy slaves in the poverty trap


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Lingamadaiah / Delhi Mr. Sapota financed the loan for his piece of land with the release money after 16 years in the Indian army. Sons and daughters, nieces and nephews helped him transform the overgrown property into a small garden of Eden: he planted rice, peanuts, mango trees and mulberry bushes, millet and vegetables for his own use, "and over there" - he points out dry scrub - "tobacco will grow soon".

The farmer is concerned, however, because in dry months the crops for sale only thrive if he irrigates them from deep wells. And the electricity supply for his pump cannot be relied on: "Sometimes electricity flows for a few hours, sometimes the voltage is too weak - quite often nothing works at all." In the case of neighbors, the electricity chaos has ruined the whole harvest.

The residents of his village Lingamadaiah south of Bangalore already enjoy real luxury: after all, they are connected to a power grid. Around 750 million Indians who live in smallholder families have to get by without electricity - three quarters of the population. Power lines to remote areas, which cost up to $ 20,000 per kilometer, cannot be afforded by the energy companies. Oil and other fuels are also not affordable for ordinary farmers. Many farmers therefore cook and heat with wood and cow dung and often exploit forests and soils with them. Like two billion people, a third of the world's population.

The fact that population growth and rural exodus have dramatic ecological consequences is a largely inconsequential standard statement in energy policy Sunday speeches. Another connection is underestimated: "The greater the energy shortage, the greater the population growth," says SPD energy expert Hermann Scheer, who was awarded the Alternative Nobel Prize last week.

Using statistics that historically compare different living and economic conditions, he also demonstrates the positive aspects of this "social impact of energy systems": "Secure and inexpensive access to energy sources and technologies" leads "gradually to stagnation in population growth".

Energy replaces labor - Munich physicist Hans-Peter Dürr once described this banal fact with the vivid picture of "energy slaves": the energy service that is average in rich countries - from industrially produced food to washing machines to hi-fi systems per capita and year is equivalent to the muscle input of a hundred workers.

In the rural regions of the Third World, however, real energy slaves still toil: instead of water pumps, tractors and engines, family members work. Children, too, who are born in such large numbers as in rural Europe at the beginning of this century - many children work a lot. From Hermann Scheer's point of view, the lack of electricity and fuel is therefore not on the edge, but in the center of the spiral of underdevelopment and high birth rates: Without an energy strategy, he says, provoking current population policy, "literacy, birth control and women's rights programs can change little ".