11/20/2010 06:58 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

It's All About Them

Generally when people talk about needing to slow down and stop climate change they point to the world's most egregious emission offenders. While countries like the United States and China have the ability to make the largest impact on emission reduction, every country must do its part. Africa has one of the lowest carbon emissions per-capita largely due to its status as underdeveloped. In fact, by using African counties as a test bed for sustainable technologies, we can both help bring sustainability to the forefront and aid developing countries.

To make real progress we need a massive investment in sustainable infrastructure in Africa. Part of the major carbon emitters responsibility is to help developing countries ease into industrialization, but in a sustainable manner. At the same time Africans must take it upon themselves to come into the future with sustainability in mind. I do not mean to gloss over this and pretend this is going to be easy. This will necessarily be a long process with a need to address political and security issues. While there are stable African governments, there are many with dictatorial regimes and even more that are that are war torn. These forms of government certainly stand in the way of the progress of sustainability.

The use of Africa as a test-bed for sustainable technology, albeit on the periphery of its mission, has been tried by the Earth Institute. One of the biggest problems I believe this institution strives to solve, as should the powers of the world if they are serious about this issue, is how to approach Africa. For years, Africa has been looked upon as a continent riddled with tribal war dating back to ancient times. Many do not hesitate to classify this society as primitive and thus, believe that the "solution" to the "problem" is supplanting infrastructure and industrialization. If we can see that Africa is a continent which was controlled through colonization and was demoralized, split up and forced to hate, we can see that the "solution" is not so clear. Aid to Africa is not a mere imposition of our beliefs on their culture, but it is working together with their culture to bring sustainable technology to them. Once we set them on the path, they will have the tools to "fish" for themselves.

In my coming posts I will address specific factors that make Africa ripe for sustainability and the challenges to why this may never happen. At the same time I will try to suggest ways to help develop African countries in a sustainable matter.