100% renewable energy by 2016.  The first country in the world to run off of all renewable energy. Mainstreaming solar and geothermal energies.  The US is really moving forward in the alternative energy arena. Oh no, wait. None of these things describe what the US is doing to solve the problem of dependency on non-renewable energies.  These are all solutions produced by ‘developing’ countries like El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Honduras, according to an article on IPS.

Honduras is planning to put up the largest wind farm in Latin America within the year, hoping to produce as much as 100 megawatts of electricity.  The country is also planning on investing in 52 hydroelectric power plants between 2010 and 2016.  At the moment, fossil fuels produces 70 percent of the energy in Honduras, a fact that the Honduras government is taking steps to change — and change quickly.

Using renewable energies is something that many Latin American countries, like Honduras, are used to doing.  Just 3 decades ago, Central American claimed to have 70 percent of its electricity come from renewable sources like hydroelectric dams.  In the present, that number has dropped to about 50 percent, meaning that 50 percent is also coming from fossil fuels.  Nicaragua is planning to have all electricity come from renewable sources by 2016, changing the proportion from 70% fossil fuels/30% renewable to 100% renewable.  Costa Rica is planning to be the first country in Central America to be 100% dependent on renewable energy (It is already pretty close, 80% of its energy comes from renewable sources).

These big changes don’t come as easily as they sound.  Even these bold steps forward to reducing human impact on climate change and the environment come at a cost.  Human displacement as hydroelectric dams are built, the loss of biodiversity as the new wind fields and dams change the landscape will all take a toll.  The hope is that that toll will be significantly less than the toll that fossil fuels take, and that the environment will be able to adapt to the new measures.  As technology advances, there will hopefully be advancements that make wind farms and dams less intrusive to the environment.

The human factor is a problem that is less easy to solve.  Displacement of people, and of course the people being displaced are the rural poor not those in charge, causes unrest and increases the visibility of inequalities.  This is not something that can be swept under the rug, or put on a list of things that will get better once fossil fuel dependency is broken.  Remembering the human element in any kind of change is what makes change good or bad.  So while I’m excited about these environmentally friendly changes happening in Central America, I hope that the leaders of these nations can create these changes without ignoring portions of their population.  Dismissing the rural poor in order to promote an environmentally friendly image is just as bad as being dependent on fossil fuels, and the corruption and consumption culture that go along with that dependency.  This is an issues of environmental justice — the poor shouldn’t be asked to pay the human cost for the implementation of new energy sources, but rather, they should be a part of the solution and, forgive the overused cliche,  have a seat at the table.  The resources need to be shared among all the population, not just the middle and upper classes.

All that being said, I commend these countries for at least moving toward a better future.  The US seems stuck on repeat, as we continue to allow big corporations to control our resources and exploit them to their advantage, despite the obvious toll on the environment.  Our plans for alternative energy remain just words in speeches and innovations that few are prepared to implement.  By following the Central American countries’ example, we can all begin to move to a more environmentally friendly world, and maybe reduce the impact of climate change.

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