The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind is an inspiring story about a young African man named William Kamkwamba who built a wind generator from scrap parts to provide power for his family’s farm. It is an excellent story, following the life of a young boy growing to become a young man. We learn of the path he took to attain his remarkable feats, along with the hardships his family and community faced.
As an avid renewable energy enthusiast who’s built a few model VAWTs , what drew me to this story originally was the creation of a low cost wind generator. Wind power is very abundant, and relatively easy to harness. There is a vibrant Internet community sharing easy Do-It-Yourself plans for very efficient systems, all for free. In the right conditions, a system costing a few thousand dollars could power an entire household. If you are somewhat mechanically inclined and have the space, check out the open source Lenz2 design for a great starting point.
While my initial goal was to learn more about the windmill, what I found is this book really makes clear the plight of those who live in poverty. Over 2 billion people live in moderate or extreme poverty, and William’s story really brings home what life is like for these people.
Another striking realization reading this book is how these conditions are happening right now. Without seeing it firsthand, or in this case reading about it, the concept of global poverty remains abstract… sure it is happening, but it’s not quite real.
Hearing this story, feeling their pain, refuels my desire to rid the world of these conditions… to end the worse forms of poverty on earth so that our species is no longer suffering. I mean, come on people, it’s 2010 already. With every new day, we have more power to help than ever, so what are we waiting for?
Well, the truth is not so much that we are waiting… it’s that not enough people know about or care about the plight of others. We all have our own problems and our own lives to live so it’s easy to remain oblivious. But this is a luxury that will continue to evaporate as our world moves forward into a new stage of evolution.
We’ve discussed the Global Consciousness before, which is the interconnection of all human minds, spanning the globe. The Global Consciousness is still a long ways off, but with each step we take fowards, our world becomes more and more able to feel the pain of others.
Modern communication tools, like cell phones and the Internet, will continue to make it harder for us to ignore the plight of those who have it the worst off, making it more likely that someone who is in a position to help will actually help.
Imagine, for example, if you saw a streaming web cam into the lives of villagers going through a famine… you could see their pain, hear their suffering. The formerly abstract notion of others starving in the world would instantly become real, and many of us would spring to action to help.
Or imagine if on a video-chat site like Chatroulette, you came face-to-face with a starving child begging for food. While some of us could still turn a blind eye, not everyone would flip the channel. Someone would step up to help.
These are simple examples to illustrate a broader trend. Thanks to the Internet, our world is becoming more and more self-aware. We will no longer be as oblivious to the pain and suffering of others.
We are forming a new organism, a super-entity, comprised of all the individual humans coming together. The more we come together, the more the pain of others becomes our own, and the more compelled we will be to help out. Like an organism, the world of the future will work to heal itself where it hurts.