Rebuilding Haiti: Solar Power Essential

Repairs and rebuilding has been going on in Haiti after the powerful earthquake hit the country about two weeks ago. They aid teams have run into a problem around energy – there’s not enough diesel. Things that rely on solar power are still working – bizarrely the traffic lights are on such thing. The good news that comes from all of this is the revived interest in renewable power for disaster recovery.

We can all benefit from this research into renewable energy sources for disaster recovery.

Solar setups are quick to install, mobile, and relatively inexpensive compared to the price of rebuilding a damaged electricity grid. They can also be incredibly robust. Alan Doyle, a science editor at MSNBC, recently wrote that a single solar water purification system, recovered from the rubble by the Red Cross, is now purifying 30,000 gallons (over 110,000 liters) of water a day.

Sol Inc, a US-based solar street lighting company, has sent a first shipment of lights for roadways, food distribution, and triage sites. This may sound mundane, until you imagine trying to perform street-side surgery or find family members in the dark. The LED lights can also withstand hurricane force winds – no small thing in a country that has also recently been hit by tropical cyclones. Sol Inc has promised to match donations for people wanting to contribute to the program.

Communications are another crucial need being met by solar. China’s ZTE corporation has donated 1,500 solar cellphones and 300 digital trunking base stations. The same technology was used in China when an earthquake hit the Sichuan Province in May of 2008. A similar project is being set up by a group from Holland.

Renewable energy in Haiti is not a new. Walt Ratterman, CEO of non-profit SunEnergy Power International was working on the electrification of Haitian hospitals at the time of the quake. He is currently still missing.

Keep reading at WorldChanging.

In Natural Disasters Regular People Behave Well

This good news is mixed. When hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans it was announced over the media that people were raping, looting, and causing chaos – this behaviour was grossly exaggerated. Today people tend to assume that New Orleans became a chaotic post-apocalyptic wasteland, those people are wrong – people were in reality very nice to one another.

Except for the police and other people of privilege. That’s the mixed part of today’s good news: people in positions of authority began roaming the city like gangs while other people – average people – helped each other through the disaster.

Read about here.

The story that few can wrap their minds around is that ordinary people mostly behaved well – there were six bodies in the Superdome, including four natural deaths and a suicide, not the hundreds that the federal government expected when it sent massive refrigerator trucks to collect the corpses. On the other hand, people in power behaved appallingly, panicking, spreading rumours, and themselves showing an eagerness to kill and a pathological lack of empathy.

Most people behave beautifully in disasters (and most Americans, incidentally, believe Obama was born in this country). The majority in Katrina took care of each other, went to great lengths to rescue each other – including the “cajun navy” of white guys with boats who entered the flooded city the day after the levees broke – and were generally humane and resourceful. A minority that included the most powerful believed they were preventing barbarism while they embodied it.

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