November 4, 2011 • Emerging Technology

Developing countries, part I

by Ann Barczak

It’s that time of year again.  The weather is turning colder, football is in full swing, and the kids are back in a school routine. Once school starts in our house each fall, the crazy begins. No matter how much preparation goes in the night before, mornings are chaos. There is fighting, moodiness, confusion, yelling… . Breakfast is every man for himself and resembles a scene from Lord of the Flies. The dogs circle the kitchen, desperately hoping that the baby is just sleepy enough to drop his waffle on the floor. A child screams, “Where’s my belt?” Well, it’s right where it should be of course – looped around the bathroom door by one brother to keep another trapped inside.

There is a lot of crying, a lot of searching… . I can’t guarantee that everyone has brushed their teeth, but I have never left a man behind.  (Really, that is just a matter of time, I swear.)

Treacherous yes. Screaming children, no.

I have dubbed our morning adventure, “The Chadar.” As a parent and an energy professional, I identify with a documentary I once watched about a father who takes his two children on a six-day hike through the Himalayas via the frozen Zanskar River in order to get them to school. This trek is known as The Chadar. The deadly route is the only path to school for the people of Ladakh. Parents risk their lives and their children’s lives to make this journey and give their children a chance at education.

I can definitely empathize with this man.  My mornings are filled with peril, but I make the life-threatening journey for the ultimate goal – get them to school!  There is no real danger in my children’s journey (depending on my mood), but there is a lot of noise. As I watched the children of Ladakh maneuver the treacherous mountains, I noticed no screaming, only careful thought and obedience. Their parents’ preparations are not wasted as the mindful children follow every instruction.

I cannot get my sons to share a toaster streudel, but there are parents who lead their children through the valley of death safely each winter.

Providing safe, reliable energy to underdeveloped regions of the globe, like Ladakh,  is a campaign that is becoming increasingly relevant. As energy managers, we are learning that the methods of advancement used for centuries in the West may not show the same success in foreign arenas. Cultural stipulations,  governance, supply of natural resources and geography are many of the variables that energy pioneers face each day. How will we determine the best path forward? Like the dedicated parent who cautiously navigates the Earth’s extremes for the benefit of his children, energy innovators must consider the immeasurable impact that safe, reliable energy will have on  the quality of life for millions of people.

To be continued…

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