The eyes of the world are upon the United States as we struggle to help Iraq regain its freedom and self-reliance. Any hesitation, half-measure or self-serving action on our part will add fuel to fires of suspicion and hatred that are already smoldering throughout the world. To avoid being branded a rogue nation ourselves, we must wage peace with the same level of passion and ingenuity that we waged war. And since Iraq inadvertently became the testing ground for our entire arsenal of new high-tech weapons and tactics, wouldn't it be fitting if we could support its transition to a free-trading democracy using the latest developments in life-affirming green technologies and sustainable business practices?
Helping Iraq construct a future for itself is going to mean more than putting in roads, schools, shopping malls and McDonald's, and stepping back to watch democracy bloom. It will take listening, as well as doing, to ensure that we build upon the culture that is already there, rather than simply paving it over. Here's where using so-called green technologies could create culturally appropriate solutions that greatly hasten Iraq's journey toward democracy and self-sufficiency.
A fresh approach to Iraq's energy needs would be a great place to start, since the oil that sits under its ground is a mixed blessing. While it generates much-needed cash for the country, oil creates relatively few jobs for its ordinary citizens. This is part of why the very nature of the oil industry tends to encourage the petro-fascist regimes found in places like Saudi Arabia, Nigeria and other oil-patch nations. This is why there would be no small measure of justice in seeing to it that Iraq was eventually powered largely by its own abundant wind and solar energy.
Of course, oil would still play a role in Iraq's economy, but even in a mixed fossil/renewable scenario, the distributed-grid generating systems described in the book Small Is Profitable (www.smallisprofitable.org) could do it more efficiently. Several test projects are already demonstrating high efficiency, reliability and profitability in Western power networks. They could be easily adapted to Iraq's needs with whatever mix of energy sources was available. This idea contrasts sharply with the inflexible, capital-intensive cookie-cutter solutions from the Bechtels, Halliburtons and Carlyle Groups of the world.
And rather than letting Baghdad and other large Iraqi cities drown in pollution and sprawl as their economies boom, we could sow the seeds for energy-efficient transportation and promote the construction of high-tech "green buildings" that stay cool with a fraction of the power used by conventional structures. The same philosophy could be applied to food production by promoting the latest water-frugal, soil-friendly farming techniques to help the nation feed itself.
Appropriate technologies are only one part of creating a hopeful future for Iraq. The political and economic solutions must work in concert with green technical solutions to empower the people and the land. And in doing so, we will be also contributing to a more peaceful future for ourselves.
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