How geothermal could increase independence for Pacific Islanders
The legacy of invasion and coercion by colonizing forces has left Pacific islanders with significant economic disadvantages that are crippling in many ways but there is a chance that renewable energy sources have the potential to transform lives for the better — if done correctly.
In 2004 I visited the Philippines for a month, touring around Luzon and a few other islands. I saw a wealth of beauty in the people and places I was introduced to but I also saw considerable monetary poverty, pollution, open corruption, and lack of access. In seeking the causes of these ills I found that these were largely symptoms of detrimental influence from outsiders of the past who unlike travelers like myself — were interested in profiteering, occupation, exploitation, or pillaging. Nations from around the globe have invaded this country many times over and the World Bank/IMF has enabled international corporations to swindle these islands into a burden of debt far larger than they could be expected to pay. This is not unusual behavior for these organizations but it I think it was especially easy to draw the lines of cause and effect in the Philippines. So as a result, the country has been saddled with terrible loans and bleeding out money in all directions to foreign private interests who either build misguided infrastructure or just own things outright.
I couldn’t help trying to think of some ways out of this situation. Jubilee has always been off the table, so there’s not much point in people pursuing that. Starting from so many disadvantages already makes a lot of things other countries have done impossible — so solutions would have to be different. Among many other things the Philippines has going for it, some things stood out to me.
- Childhood education is highly regarded and supported throughout the country.
- Independent ownership is a cultural norm in much of the region.
- The islands have a big potential for renewable energy production: a significant amount of geothermal activity and a great location for solar, wind, and tidal power generation.
Geothermal is the most cost efficient way to produce electricity and if that was both supplemented with the other methods and combined with hydrogen fuel cells — the islands could be producing enough electric power to become an exporter of energy. Design, construction, ownership, and profits could be sourced and retained within the country. Even more so, that domestic ownership could and should be decentralized. If thousands of independent owners of this technology and production were operating as a decentralized collective, so too would the decisions made as to what should happen with profits.
Externally fuel cells could be shipped out, used, and returned to be recharged. Internally they could be used to replace fossil fuel usage. Electric tricycles and jeepneys cleanly roaming the land while electric banca boats swiftly cross the water. Electricity throughout the islands could be constant and either cheap or free for most people.
If business is good enough, power could be shipped farther away and maybe profits could grow enough to erase the international debts. Without those debts, people might finally have the freedom to invest internally in a wide range of people-centric and environmentally sustaining activities. To me things like Universal Basic Income (UBI), adult education, research campuses, staffed sanctuaries, sustainable housing, and rehabilitation centers come to mind — but I’m sure people in each region can think of better and more appropriate programs than these.
There are a lot of social ills that it couldn’t solve but it could at least have an easing effect, softening the pressure that often contributes to making social problems worse.
I personally was never able to take this idea anywhere but time has passed and from what I’ve seen in subsequent visits, I think it’s still relevant. I figure if I can’t then maybe someone else can. In recent years I feel like the profiteering has changed over time but it doesn’t seem to be slowing down. International trade has been unfair — putting staple activities (growing rice, making clothes, etc.) out of business for no good reason. Wealthy foreign interests are still meddling with the country and suggesting dangerous and outdated economic and infrastructure projects. Debt is still crushing down. Some cities have grown and modernized but it seems to be at the cost of increasing inequality for most people and the surrounding countryside.
This story and my energy-based idea to enable empowerment are not unique to the Philippines. I suspect many marginalized populations around the world and especially in equatorial pacific island nations might be able to build this and benefit in these ways.
Does this spark a real interest? Are you able to run with this idea? Have a similar plan or project? I’d like to hear about it if so.