A few days ago, the weeklong United Nations Climate Change Conference concluded in Glasgow, Scotland.

Here’s the thing: Not a whole lot seems to have actually happened as a result.

Brunswick resident Heather D. Martin wants to know what’s on your mind; email her at [email protected]

On the world stage, climate leaders preach the desperate need to switch to renewable energies; on the nightly news, we witness the horrific images of destruction wrought by extreme climate events. Meanwhile, in the Twitterverse, eccentric billionaires post about plans to go to Mars.

I can’t help but think that in the cosmic Venn diagram of this moment the center space of overlap is occupied by one massive, whopping, great opportunity.

According to a 2017 article by World Atlas, in Tanzania, only 15.3% of the population has access to electricity at all despite the country having “a wealth of different potential energy sources from biomass, solar, wind, coal, geothermal, natural gas, and uranium” and Tanzania is actually 10th on the list of the top 10 countries with the lowest access to electricity. The No. 1 spot goes to South Sudan, where only 5.1% of the population has access to electrical power.

Or take Puerto Rico.

This island nation, a U.S. territory, continues to suffer massive shortages and inconsistencies in power supply due to a faulty, outdated grid that’s been further devastated by several hurricanes.

Closer still, in the Navajo Nation, there are 60,000 people who have never been connected to the electrical grid at all.

There are massive inequities connected to life without access to electricity. Without power there is no internet, no modern conveniences, no basic refrigeration. But for the moment I’d like to focus on the other side of the equation: the possibilities.

While the established nations of the world remain shackled to their outdated and highly problematic energy grids, the areas that are most in need of help are also, by their very definition, the areas most open to experimenting with emerging technologies. There is so much room to create.

An enterprising person or organization could beta-test new systems while simultaneously bringing much-needed power to underserved populations – and creating a profitable business in the bargain. It could lay the groundwork for the future.

Elon Musk, I’m talking to you. Mostly because you are the one who seems willing to think whacky thoughts out loud, have tons of experience with alternative energy sources and seem willing to look a little bonkers – with a decent track record of actually pulling off insane stuff. All of which will come in handy with this idea. In truth, though, any eccentric billionaire will do. Or, for that matter, any enterprising corporation involved in sustainable energy solutions.

Take that money you’ve earmarked for Mars and invest it at home. Puritanical preaching is getting us nowhere. Let’s get jiggy with it!

Build a new house of the future that runs entirely on wind sculptures and heat from compost, then hold some Willy Wonka-style contest to see who gets to live there and report on how it works.

Launch a joint venture with an haute couture clothing line,  fully outfit a solar-powered underground home and make “earth shelter” the height of chic.

Go big. Partner with entire communities, villages, countries. Upgrade existing structures and make self-sufficiency the standard.

Be bold. Experiment. Try some things that might not work. Revive the idea that inventors are cool and failure in pursuit of knowledge is fantastic.

Outer space is cool and all, but we’ve got this one planet. This one, beautiful, amazing, glorious planet, and if we can figure out how to use what’s here without using it up it should last us all a while longer yet.

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