I haven’t properly posted in a long time because:
(1) I’ve been learning so much and I’ve had so many ideas I just didn’t know where to start!
(2) This master’s program has been so much work, and there is so much going on in London!
(3) I’ve been grappling with having the confidence to have an opinion when there is so much I don’t know and I want to be sure that I am rigorous in my thinking.
However, the time has come for me to start again. We are beginning work on our dissertations and I’m beginning to hope that the process of sharing what I’m learning with the interwebs may lead to interesting discoveries and discussion. I hope that the blog sees a transition from becoming a place where people stumble upon new information to being a place where people discuss and debate issues surrounding my dissertation: sub-Saharan Africa, political ecology, and renewable energy.
The research I’ve done on my blog’s behalf took me from knowing virtually nothing about energy and energy geopolitics to being very supportive of renewable energy technologies in the world in general* and supporting UCL and other schools’ divestment campaigns.
Big renewable energy projects in sub-Saharan Africa embody many ideas and paradoxes that I find fascinating. They tap into the “Africa rising” narrative that is becoming increasingly popular but may simply be another narrative that encourages and excuses imperialism. These projects can be seen as being part of a “deep green” environmentalism, but at the same time can be seen as promoting a dependence on idealizing Western ways of thinking on the African continent because they are being spread largely through neoliberal capitalist mechanics. Many people imagine that big renewable energy projects can help the continent’s poor “tunnel” through the Kuznets curve and environmental Kuznets curve, although those arguments–and the very ideas of Kuznets curves–are problematic anyway. In short, I’d love to know whether history will find that “this” (meaning renewable energy) “changes everything” or whether “everything must change so that everything can remain the same“.
Over the past few years and in the past few months in particular, I’ve struggled a lot with how I feel about talking and writing about sub-Saharan Africa. I grew up in Nigeria, but I haven’t been there in over six years and I’m fully aware of the fact that Africa is not a country and that I can’t generalize, especially since it changes and I don’t live there any more. But when a classmate of mine–and my classmates are quite well-traveled, worldly wise, and well-spoken–tried to convince me that “Africa” is “rising” because (s)he read an article about it in The Economist recently, I decided I’d had enough. I’m no fan of misplaced confidence, and it abounds in the “development” field, where generally nice people (like me) are made “experts” by virtue of a degree (or several) (like me) from a fancy university (like me) who happen to know a lot of statistics about poverty (like me) and distinguish themselves from the rest of the Western population by reading the world news (like me). However, I do think I have the capacity to encourage a more nuanced view of African and environmental issues. In the end, my goal is not necessarily to become an expert on “Africa”, “development”, “renewables”, or the “environment”. Instead, I’d like to spark discussions that allow Africans, those of African descent, environmentalists, and many other kinds and categories of people to speak up for themselves and have a conversation. Whether my blog interests them, inspires them, or pisses them off is immaterial, because it is the conversation that matters more.
So let’s begin the process. My reading list is up! Tell me what you think I’m missing and let’s see where the conversation goes.
*No, I don’t consider hydro and nuclear “sustainable”.