Summary: The Gates relate a lack of energy in the world’s poorest communities to a lack of time. (and also a lack of health care and education). Without energy, these communities don’t have the time to do difficult consuming tasks, and its impossible to realize any kind of dream beyond that. The basic argument here is more access to energy in the poorest parts of the world will lead to a more equitable world, and that it is the key element to a more equitable world.
By Bill and Melinda Gates
We were asked that question recently by some high school students in Kentucky.
They also asked us about our favorite breakfast cereal (Bill: Cocoa Puffs; Melinda: Wheat Chex); what animal we would want to be (Bill: a bonobo; Melinda: a white leopard); and if we know how to dance the Whip and Nae Nae (one of us does).
The superpower question was our favorite.
To fly. To be invisible. To travel through time. All good options.
Trying to keep up with our foundation work and our three children’s schedules, we gave responses that will be immediately familiar to other parents.
When we sat down to write this year’s letter, those answers stuck with us. Sure, everyone wants more time and energy. But they mean one thing in rich countries and something else entirely when looked at through the eyes of the world’s poorest families.
Poverty is not just about a lack of money. It’s about the absence of the resources the poor need to realize their potential. Two critical ones are time and energy.
More than one billion people today live without access to energy. No electricity to light and heat their homes, power hospitals and factories, and improve their lives in thousands of ways.
Likewise, a lack of time creates obstacles too. It’s not simply the feeling of not having enough hours in the day. It’s the crippling effect of having to perform the backbreaking work that needs to get done when there’s no electricity.
We are dedicating this year’s letter to talking about the opportunities we see to overcome these often overlooked challenges. We’re writing to high school students because you’re the ones who will ultimately be solving these problems. (Our interests in time and energy are separate from our foundation’s work on health and poverty. But it’s all related. Solving these problems will make it easier to save lives and make the world a more equitable place.)
More time. More energy. As superpowers go, they may not be as exciting as Superman’s ability to defy gravity. But if the world can put more of both into the hands of the poorest, we believe it will allow millions of dreams to take flight.
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