"LIFE WITHOUT LIGHTS"
"Are we to decide the importance of issues by asking how fashionable or glamorous they are? Or by asking how seriously they affect how many?” -Nelson Mandela At a time of mounting uncertainty and raging debate over the future of energy, it is easy to forget that 1.5 billion people - nearly a quarter of humanity - still live without access to electricity. And it is difficult to grasp the impact of so-called Energy Poverty. While living in rural Ghana, I realized how deeply the lack of electricity affected the lives of my neighbors. It impeded their progress in health, education, gender equality, agriculture, and virtually every aspect of development. Put simply, Energy Poverty keeps people poor. It is a critical piece in the mosaic of issues contributing to poverty, and often the one least addressed. Issues of energy access and affordability are hardly limited to West Africa, or even to the developing world. On the Pajarito Mesa in Albuquerque, New Mexico, residents legally own their land, but a bureaucratic oversight prevents them from receiving paved roads, running water, and electricity. In England, as fuel prices spiral out of control, those in debt to their energy companies often live without heat and light. In post-war Iraqi Kurdistan, a certain irony is impossible to ignore: on top of one of the world’s largest oil fields lies a region where people live without regular access to energy. While people living without electricity may seem exempt from the energy debate, their plight carries a warning for any region whose economy or energy supply lies on the brink. Life Without Lights is an examination of energy’s past and present, in the hope of contributing to the dialogue on its future.
Abdulai Abubakari holds his infant child, Fakia, in Voggu, Northern Region, Ghana on Feb. 19th, 2010. Voggu had power lines for years, but they were never connected to electricity. The material for the lines was eventually stolen, presumably to be sold as scrap metal.