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The Renewable Energy Opportunity

[© Stephen Simpson/Getty Images]

Renewable energy is defined as energy derived from natural resources that are replenishable, such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides, biomass and geothermal heat. It thus fundamentally differs from fossil fuel-based energy or nuclear energy. The Industrial Revolution was fueled by excessive mining and burning of fossil fuels, causing an undesirably sharp rise in the concentration of carbon dioxide in Earth's atmosphere, which in turn has caused global warming and climate change. The second half of the 20th century saw considerable, incremental efforts toward conservation, the use of clean technology and renewable energy, and environmental protection. Now, renewable energy sources and their attendant technologies hit the headlines on a daily basis as more secure solutions for providing renewable energy are found.

Energy lies at the heart of all human development--advances in energy production have powered industrial economies--yet currently, some 1.6 billion people live without access to modern energy services such as electricity. By providing affordable, renewable ways to generate electricity, the renewable energy sector is helping to realize the United Nations Millennium Development Goals for poverty reduction. And as more people become producers of energy, powering their homes and businesses themselves, the economic and social fabric of society will also change. Rural communities with closer geographical access to renewable energy sources may also become the suppliers of energy to the urban sector.

Will we be able to supply all of the world's energy needs with renewable energy this century? What is certain is that if we do not take action to further promote the use of renewable energy and energy efficiency solutions, we will limit the prospects for our future and those of succeeding generations. The question of energy is therefore not simply a technical one, but one that has profound ethical implications.

The traditional wisdom of the indigenous Iroquois people of North America urges us to act having "always in view not only the present generation but also coming generations . . . "

The teachings of Nichiren--the 13th century priest whose teachings form the basis of the Buddhism practiced by SGI members--encourage us to try to prevent the negative realities of society from being passed on to future generations. The pursuit of renewable sources of energy is one way we can meet present needs while fulfilling our responsibilities to the future.

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