The Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get Renewables: The WSSD, Energy and Women, a Malevolent Perspective


Annecke, Wendy. 2002. “The Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get Renewables: The WSSD, Energy and Women, a Malevolent Perspective.” Agenda: Empowering Women for Gender Equity 17 (52): 8–16.

Author: Wendy Annecke


"In the last say, three months, how many times have you, Bought groceries, toys, books, face cream or organic produce? Been in a car? Flown in an aeroplane? Used a washing machine? Switched on a light, computer, or cooked a meal?

And how many times have you thought about the energy component of each activity? Probably very few - because although energy is an integral part of almost every item and aspect of daily life, it is generally invisible. But it is important, sufficiently so to be one of the major themes of the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) to be held in Johannesburg in August 2002. Now I am one of those critics who believe that 'sustainable development' is an oxymoron - you know, like 'military intelligence', or 'a kindly rapist' - a contradictory term which may, on occasion, be used to good effect, but under present global conditions makes only for a lie. A lie which has become plausible, and is hard to undo. I feel the same way about the terms 'developed countries' and the 'free market' and will say a little more about the latter later Many of the powerful people in the energy sector, in which I work, contribute to this lie by engaging enthusiastically with the notion of 'energy for sustainable development' to provide poor people with modern energy, while not displaying nearly so much enthusiasm for changing the numerous unsustainable practices which affect disproportional access to resources.

Ease of access to energy is one of the significant markers of difference - difference between rich and poor, men and women. Some people have meals cooked for them, others flick a switch to cook a meal, and the rest light a fire or do without.The challenges presented to the WSSD by these differences are two-fold. On the one hand the concern is how to provide, by 2015, accessible energy services to half of the two-and-a-half-billion people without modern energy sources - and poor women constitute the bulk of this group. On the other hand, the concern is how to limit the damage caused by the intense energy consumption of those who use too much - and guess who constitutes the bulk of this group?" (Annecke 2002, 8).

Topics: Development, Economies, Economic Inequality, Gender, Women, Gendered Power Relations, Infrastructure, Energy

Year: 2002

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