Power for Good

'First World problem' is a phrase that has been coined as a kind of short-hand dismissal of worries that can only be experienced by people living conspicuously comfortable lives. Paint being chipped off your iPhone, kids hogging all three TV sets, badly made salad dressing – we can all think of a thousand of things that irritate, annoy, upset - but are meaningless when compared with the challenges faced by many living in the developing world. However, as the use of 'First World problem' increases and becomes an everyday catchphrase, an internet meme or the punchline to a joke, its power to provide some much-needed perspective is fading.

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Recent extreme weather events have resulted in much head scratching, soul searching and predictions for the future amongst scientists and politicians. Britain appears to be heading for its wettest winter on record and over the last two years the US has endured its hottest summers on record and one of its coldest winters. Meanwhile, winter 2012/13 was China’s coldest in 30 years, and both Australia and Brazil have suffered record high temperatures and dangerously low rainfall.

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With energy bosses in Britain muttering darkly about potential power cuts, the end of 2013 will have seen many people pausing to think how they might cope if and when the lights go out.

The start of 2014 has, however, made power cuts a reality for many thousands across the country, as storms and flooding have brought down electricity cables and deluged sub-stations.

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Global take-up of solar power continues to grow and has, as Mark Hankins writes in Sun-Connect (20/05/2013), switched from being 99 per cent off-grid 20 years ago to 99 per cent on-grid in 2012. This may be a broadly encouraging picture, but the whole of Africa accounted for just 1.5 per cent of total solar energy sales last year – less than the UK alone.

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The World Bank is permanently in danger of being shot by both sides. Many on the left have come to see it as a way for the developed world to exploit developing nations, whilst critics on the right sees it as either hopelessly ineffective or as propping up a series of disastrous economies.

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TV news reports in the wake of the recent disastrous tornado in Oklahoma have showed how good emergency preparation saved many lives.

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