What are the world’s most lethal pieces of equipment? Not guns or bombs, but the inefficient stoves used by some three billion of its poorest people. Pollution from the soot – or black carbon – they emit kills at least 1.6 million people a year. It is the second biggest cause of global warming after carbon dioxide.
For years, anti-poverty campaigners and aid agencies have urged poor women to use cleaner stoves. Often they are rejected because they don’t fit in with how the women cook, or because the men who control the purse strings have refused to pay for them.
Now a small US-based company, BioLite, has had a bright idea. It has designed a $20 stove which – besides cutting black carbon emissions by more than 90 per cent – generates a little electricity. This can be used to charge the mobile phones that are spreading rapidly among the menfolk, or to power a light that would let children study after dark – sufficient incentives, it is hoped, to seal the purchase.
As I never tire of pointing out, it\’s innovation which will provide solutions to the problems we face.