Thursday, December 20, 2007

Meeting with Iraqi Minister of Electricity

A few days ago, I met with the Iraqi Minister of Electricity, Karim Wahid (pictured far right), about the "Solar Cells for Peace" project. I had told a friend of mine at State Department about our solar cell project the day before and she mentioned the Minister happened to be in Washington on a trip. So, through my Iraqi contacts in Washington, I was able to arrange a meeting with him to tell him about the idea.

A fascinating guy, Mr. Wahid, is an electrical engineer by education and trade, having worked at the Ministry since 1975. He described the changes that have been made in the Ministry since Saddam's time, especially the increase in strategic planning and the focus on training for the Ministry's staff in all areas. Since becoming the Minister last year, Mr. Wahid said he has put together a ten-year strategic plan that will get Iraq fully powered in that time. He was in the US to urge American companies to aid Iraq by bidding on the plethora of projects, contracts, etc. they need implemented. He said they have the money and the plan; they just need the expertise and the muscle to do them.

I asked him all about the Ministry's plans for "going green", ideas for alternative technologies, and our Solar Cells for Peace idea. He recounted that they wanted to power a large portion of streetlights in Iraq using solar means, but that individual homes were too expensive. I showed him our figures that are based on a thorough and interesting study done by the Naval Postgraduate School estimated about $9,000 per home. (see Naval report: OPERATION SOLAR EAGLE: A Study Examining Photovoltaic (PV) Solar Power as an Alternative for the Rebuilding of the Iraqi Electrical Power Generation Infrastructure)

In any case, I didn't get any immediate promises for funding, but I was heartened to see that the Ministry is looking at solar options for some functions and that he was at least open to meeting with me and promised to review the ideas. We'll see...!

Happy holidays to all. I've just arrived to beautiful Northern California, but I'm thinking of the Holy Land, especially Bethlehem in the Palestinian Territories, where I was last year near this time. How important to think of "on earth peace, good will toward men," for ALL peoples and places.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Solar Cells for Peace

We've been working on a new idea at Euphrates Institute. Solar Cells for Peace is an idea to improve the daily lives of Iraqis by meeting their acute power needs sustainably, using Iraq’s most abundant and renewable resource, the sun. We want to conduct a demonstration project to equip 100 homes in Baghdad, Iraq with solar generated power by Fall 2008. In so doing, we not only accrue benefit for US efforts in Iraq by showing Iraqis tangible evidence of American goodwill, but we also benefit Iraq’s physical environment and the well-being of its people through provision of a sustainable alternative to the dilapidated power grid or to expensive and polluting traditional generators.

There are many groups out there doing incredible alternative energy projects throughout the world, as well as projects closer to home. (You've all heard of Brad Pitt's initiative in New Orleans' lower 9th ward.)

Here are a few of the fantastic groups that have inspired me. Enjoy!

Solar Electric Light Fund

Blue Energy Group

Blue Energy Group's Founder Mathias Craig's philosophy

Muslim - Christian Rapprochement

There is the most incredible development taking place on finding common ground between Christians and Muslims. In response to the Pope's comments in September disparaging Islam as medieval, a group of over 130 Muslim scholars responded with an open letter entitled "A Common Word Between Us and You".

The letter identifies two "foundational principles" on which Christians and Muslims are duty-bound to work together: love of God and love of one's neighbour.

The following is an excerpt from The Guardian's December 1st paper:

"Love God, the letter states, is not only the basic message of the Quran; it is also the first and greatest commandment of the Bible. Jesus preached the need to love your neighbour as yourself, just as numerous injunctions in Islam emphasise the paramount importance of showering love and mercy on one's neighbours. This common ground, say Muslim scholars, is sufficient for the two faith groups to build permanent bridges of peace. We are not asking for "polite ecumenical dialogue", say the scholars. With Muslims and Christians locked in battle everywhere, fighting with the terrible weaponry of the modern world, "our common future is at stake". Christians and Muslims need to rise above their differences and vie with each other only in righteousness and good work.

Go to this site for details, especially click on the tab, "Christian Responses" to see the letter in response to the Muslim scholars' letter that was signed by over 300 American Christian leaders and was published as an ad in the New York
Times. You can also personally endorse the letter on the site!

A Common Word

Great things are happening! Developments like this are just what the Euphrates Institute stands for, finding our commonly held values and building bridges between humanity.