What the Heroin Industry Can Teach Us About Solar Power

What the Heroin Industry Can Teach Us About Solar Power

ljw1004 writes: 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.)

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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