Africa’s untapped resources…Africa’s sun an invaluable energy source


AFRICA is largely known for its close relationship with the sun.
It is the most central latitudinal continent on earth.
The sun seems to shine on Africa more than any other place and for this reason, human, animal and plant life has its origins in the aptly named motherland.
We have plenty natural resources including vast amounts of fertile land, abundant forestry, fossil fuels, wild animals and minerals, just to name a few.
Unfortunately, this has been the cause of our wealthy continent’s colonisation and subsequent exploitation.
Africa has, time and again, been invaded by foreign entities from less privileged lands. Even the black people of Africa were kidnapped, shipped away and sold as slaves because they are relatively stronger.
Nowadays, the wildlife of Africa is being over-exploited.
Poaching is rampant and some animals, such as the rhinoceros, are an endangered species. The number of elephants, lions and giraffes has also reportedly decreased for sport and trade purposes. Africans never hunt such animals for meat, opting for smaller beasts like antelope.
The seas are being over fished only to be exported to Europe and even China.
Most of the little fish that can be found in aquariums in Europe are from lakes in Malawi and Tanzania.
Minerals such as gold, diamond, platinum, chrome and so on have led to much land degradation which is rarely followed up by land reclamation.
The future of Africa is therefore doomed unless both curative and preventative measures are taken now.
The first step is awareness.
Africa has been known for the above mentioned resources for millennia.
Historical records and paintings of gold from Ophir, which is modern day Zimbabwe, and animals that were painted on rocks remain. These age old creatures and resources are disappearing at a worrisome rate.
The main cause of this is the path that modern civilisation has chosen to take in relation to energy. Energy is the capacity of doing work.
Though there are many exploitable sources of energy, the world is using hydrocarbon-based sources of energy, namely fossil fuels, as the main source of energy. This has accelerated the degradation of land in Africa and other places in the never ending search for coal, petroleum and gasses.
This fossil fuel energy is simply the sun’s energy stored in plants and animals that were underground and under pressure for a long time.
Plants, for example, are made of carbon and hydrogen and on top of emitting oxygen into the atmosphere through photosynthesis whilst alive, they also give carbohydrates and vitamins to humans, animals and insects when eaten.
This makes them a source of fuel even before they die.
Plants also turn minerals like iron and zinc into an edible form through the process of iontophoresis.
The energy plants store within them while alive can be extracted and used after the process of fermentation in the form of ethanol.
Plants like hemp are perfect for this because they grow fast and can be grown in volumes without the need of sophisticated technology or chemicals.
The drought resistant jatropha plant is another good example.
The use of these biofuels is environmentally friendly and serves the purpose of powering cars, machines and so on.
There is also the option of extracting biogas from plant material, agricultural waste, manure and even the sewers. The seeds of plants like hemp can also be used to produce biodiesel.
It is therefore unnecessary to destroy the earth by way of digging several metres or kilometres down in search of dead plant matter in order to exploit their energy capacity.
The option of using living and fast-growing plants as fuel sources is better because they are renewable through replanting.
Trees have been used for firewood and other purposes like papermaking but the difficulty, cost, labour and time used to cut down, process and regrow trees is much more than that of crops like hemp which only have a three to five-month lifespan.
If trees are regrown,they could take up to 10 years to mature.
Plants are a secondary fuel source while fossil fuels are tertiary.
The primary source of energy on earth is the sun.
From the sun, we get heat and light which allows for processes such as photosynthesis to take place.
The sun’s heat keeps us warm and in winter or at night time, fire is used to assume the sun’s role and others such as cooking.
Electricity also assumes the same role of giving light and heat but only after receiving a power source. This does not necessarily have to be a thermal or hydrothermal source as is the case in most parts of the world today.
Why not rely directly on the sun as an energy source for electricity if not the biofuels mentioned above? Solar energy relies on the sun’s light and not necessarily its heat.
Africa has plenty sunshine and even in winter, the light that shines on Africa is sufficient for solar energy production.
The cost and maintenance of solar equipment is low in relation to that of thermal and/or hydrothermal electric plants.
The best thing is that the coming out of the sun, particularly in Africa, is guaranteed and thus it is a renewable resource.
There are now buildings that are fully reliant on solar energy for powering lights, boreholes and electrical appliances.
Solar technology has improved over the years and the set-up does not make any notable noise.
It is easy to install and use, unlike the hydrothermal and thermal options which require costly turbines and the burning of coal, among other things.
The solar option also decreases air pollution and removes the need to set up underground or underwater.
Besides solar energy, there is wind energy which is also renewable.
Some may wonder what is so wrong with using fossil fuels to produce electricity and petrol.
The atmosphere comprises the following gasses in the following amounts; nitrogen 78 percent, oxygen 21 percent, argon one percent and carbon dioxide at only 0,04 percent.
The rest is water vapour which varies between 0,4 – one percent and much smaller amounts of other gasses.
When hydrocarbon-based fuel sources are combusted, carbon emissions result in the form of carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide.
The increase of carbon emissions into the atmosphere have already caused many atmospheric imbalances that have led to climate change.
The carbon emissions that are being made today will remain in the atmosphere for another 40 years and will affect our future in negative ways.
There is also the issue of respiratory-linked illnesses which have killed countless people, particularly through inhaling harmful smoke from industries and vehicles.
When biofuels like ethanol from hemp are used, there are no carbon emissions.
This alone should qualify biofuels as a game changer if health and human life is still considered valuable.
There are also other ways of using plants to decrease carbon emissions from the atmosphere.
Planting more trees and other plants helps because they use carbon dioxide during the photosynthesis process.
If plant matter is used to build houses in place of mud or cement bricks, they will lock up carbon emissions within them.
This has been found to be true with hemp bricks which are called hempcrete. They are as hard as concrete yet six times lighter and, most importantly, they absorb carbon emissions.
Africa, with its favourable climate and fertile lands, is yet to tap into these resources that are fully at her disposal.
Life will continue after we are gone and there is no reason we should let the West’s obsession with hydrocarbon-based fuels destroy the atmosphere and the future of our descendants.
Even in the East, places like Beijing in China are so polluted that the air is not clear and almost unbreathable.
Action must therefore be taken.
The best time to plant a tree was 50 years ago, but the most favourable time is now!


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