Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Eco-Friendly Technologies, Rural Development And Transport

Most governments are currently dealing with the contradiction of tackling climate change and other ecological challenges while maintaining economic growth. In December this year governments from around the world will gather in Cancun, Mexico to discuss how these challenges and contradictions can be addressed at the UN conference on climate change Guardian 15 Oct 2010.

One such challenge is the fact that in many emerging economies a significant proportion of the population still living in rural poverty. The poverty and lack of opportunity in these regions is causing a wave of urbanization that is placing increasing pressure on urban infrastructures and contributing to social, ecological and economic instability. Guardian 17 Jan 2007 As a result of such instability and contractions, many governments in emerging economies are concerned with developing rural regions into economically and ecologically self sustaining communities to stem migration to urban areas, for the time being at least, and to offer alternative and more resilient paths of development than those that have been experienced in economically developed countries Guardian 15 Oct 2010.

It is perhaps fitting that the very place where the UN conference on climate change will be held is itself engaged in alternative development pathways for rural areas that will have postive impacts on the climate, environment and health. The Mexican government, for example, has recently been promoting a set of simple, cheap and more eco-friendly technologies that can be used in poor rural areas. These technologies include the solar water purifier, the waterless toilet that also converts human excrement into fertilizer and drinking water, the solar food dehydrator, and efficient wood burning stoves.

What is less commented on is the potentially massive impact these technologies could have on transport demand. Rural areas in large emerging economies are increasingly dependent on the transport of nearly everything- medicine, money, fertilizer, food and water. These technologies have the potential to reduce the flows of these products either by mitigating the need for a certain product (e.g. by promoting healthy living and therefore reducing the demand for medicine) or by facilitating the sourcing of local produce (as with water, food and fertilizer). Furthermore, by creating more ecologically and economically sustainable communities the rural to urban migration pattern, which itself creates a significant transport demand, will also be stemmed.

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