[ExI] Solar panels and dope

Keith Henson hkeithhenson at gmail.com
Wed Jul 29 22:05:33 UTC 2020

>From Slashdot

Helmand Province in Afghanistan produces two thirds of the world's
opium. Its opium production has more than doubled in the past eight
years, due mostly to solar power. "Solar is by far the most
significant technological change" in the region for decades, says Dr.
Mansfield, author of the report (PDF). The first solar panels were
introduced there in 2013. More recently, solar panel installations
have doubled every year, and now stand at 67,000. In Lashkargah, the
capital of Helmand Province, solar panels are stacked in the market in
great piles three stories high. For an up-front cost of $5,000,
farmers can buy panels and a pump to irrigate their fields, and then
there are virtually no running costs. "All this water is making the
desert bloom," says Richard Brittan, a former British soldier whose
company, Alcis, specializes in satellite analysis of what he calls
"complex environments."

$5,000 is a lot of money -- the average dowry is $7,000 -- but the
panels pay for themselves within two years. Farmers used to rely on
diesel, which was more costly, unreliable and adulterated, which led
to frequent machinery breakdowns. This "is perhaps the purest example
of capitalism on the planet. There are no subsidies here. Nobody is
thinking about climate change -- or any other ethical consideration,
for that matter. This is about small-scale entrepreneurs trying to
make a profit. It is the story of how Afghan opium growers have
switched to solar power, and significantly increased the world supply
of heroin. What does this tell us about solar power? That is simple.
The story of the revolution in Afghan heroin production shows us just
how transformative solar power can be. Don't imagine this is some kind
of benign 'green' technology. "Solar is getting so cheap that it is
capable of changing the way we do things in fundamental ways and with
consequences that can affect the entire world," reports the BBC.
(Those consequences: far more opium in the world; water table dropping
by 3m a year; and a major crisis brewing in 10-15 years when the water
runs out, the land returns to desert, and 1.5 million people are
forced to migrate.)


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