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Sustainable Energy for Peace?

10/03/2010

-by Regina Wang

 

Winds of change? A wind generator goes up in Susya in the West Bank. Yotam Ronen, Activestills, Comet ME.

 

When Elad Orion introduced Comet-ME (Community, Energy, and Technology in the Middle East) to Princeton students on Thursday evening, he was quick to emphasize that Comet’s primary motivation is political activism. Comet isn’t an aid organization that just happens to be on the West Bank – Comet’s roots are in the West Bank, and Israel-Palestine relations are its specific focus. Nonetheless, Comet also includes environmental sustainability as one of its two overarching goals, along with the empowerment of communities on the West Bank through material support.

In describing Comet-ME, Orion used the metaphor of a lighthouse, since Comet both provides illumination in dark villages and illuminates the conditions and policies in occupation, providing light in the overwhelming darkness of conflict. Comet builds renewable energy systems for Palestinian communities in order to provide long-term energy, providing each household with one solar panel and one electricity box in order to provide light, power cell phone charges, and allow for a few hours of TV/radio time. Comet relies on wind and solar energy, using existing, proven technologies rather than developing new technologies and emphasizing reliability over efficiency.

Of course, such sustainable, small-scale projects are only possible because Palestinians have such a small carbon footprint and modest energy needs. If one family decided to connect an electric heater, the whole town might be out of power since the supply is so limited. This is a constraint that people in wealthier nations don’t even have to consider – if we want more power, we just spend more money, and there is no sense that this reservoir of power might actually be limited. We also have little awareness of the impact our unsustainable practices have on other nations, as low-impact populations like those in Palestine often face the most serious impacts of climate change. Orion mentions the desertification of Palestinian land due to climate change, a problem that has little impact on wealthier nations that can afford to simply bring in water from other places. For Palestinians, desertification means long treks for water.

Can sustainable energy be one of the key steps to peace in the West Bank? Orion hopes Comet-ME will expand to power the 25 communities in Area C of the West bank over the next 2-3 years, providing power for 4000 people. This physical power is also meant to empower the people of Palestine both socially and economically, ultimately breaking down barriers between Israelis and Palestinians and laying the groundwork (or windwork?) for peace.

Check out this video of one of Comet ME’s projects in Susya, West Bank:

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