Welcome to Perspectives, a blog of thoughts, commentary and observations ranging from autistic adolescents to intimate portraits of urban communities.


Lights Out

Two days ago a massive blackout in northern India left 670 million people in the dark, in the heat and, in the case of 200 coal miners, in the ground. Now there is much head scratching over what caused this colossal electrical failure and endless finger pointing over who is to blame.

It seems pretty obvious to me.

Let’s begin with water. India’s monsoon rains are well below normal, which geometrically affects hydroelectric power because farmers are competing with energy producers for ever-scarcer supplies.

Then there are demographics. With half its population under 25 and two-thirds under 35, India is on its way to becoming the world’s most populous country, and its energy production lags well behind – in fact 300 million Indians have no power at all.

None of this has stopped the country’s monomaniacal pursuit of industrial growth that is based on a 19th-century model of extractive development, including a heavy reliance on coal, and an obsession with economic growth at all costs.

And finally there is the equally old-fashioned corruption, with charges and counter-charges of diverting power to political cronies, demanding bribes for access and selling electricity at prices below production costs.

The conventional solution is to double down: produce more energy to grow faster to get richer to pull more people out of poverty and become a world power. Disregard the troublesome global climate hoax and blame low-level bureaucrats and the Indian culture of corruption.

This strikes me as a foolproof formula for ignoring the systemic causes of the problems, which are global, and reinforcing a positive feedback loop that will ensure they get worse.

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