Renewable energy worker wages and Nigeria’s kidnapping business

in April 21st, 2021

Here's what we emailed out the week of April 21, 2021. Sign up for updates directly in your inbox.

Happy Earth Week! We’re celebrating a new development in an effort to curb global warming: The whitest of white paints. Scientists have created a paint so ultra-white that it reflects more than 98% of the sunlight that hits it (compared to ~80-90% for standard white paints). Coating buildings or rooftops with such white paint could reduce the need for air conditioning as the paint reflects both light and heat. We’re trying to keep things light here at Below the Fold too, and will now be sending just two stories per edition to help curb your reading burden!


A victory for renewable energy worker wages 

Wed Apr 14

Good news in honor of Earth Day tomorrow: Illinois is making renewable energy jobs more attractive. In March, we shared how green jobs across the country are on the rise while their salaries were not. For example, a construction worker with a job in fossil fuels would suffer up to a $20,000/year pay cut for switching to a similar role in, say, a solar company.

But now, a union-backed, bi-partisan bill is making its way through the Illinois government to close that wage gap, reduce inequality, and establish labor standards. Within this Climate Union Jobs Act is a larger transition plan for displaced workers of closing coal plants that provisions things like health insurance, scholarships for trade schools, retraining, and employment assistance. 

Nationally, only 4% of the solar workforce is unionized (compared to a national private sector average of 6.2%). This legislation not only allows unionization, but also includes credits to spur renewable development — with 25% of that solar dedicated to public schools! These credits seek to benefit smaller solar companies who typically have a harder time meeting union costs. And while these requirements do increase the overall cost of solar projects by 2-9%, they're easily offset by a more productive workforce, according to a UC Berkeley study.  

Some additional resources...


Mass kidnappings have become a thriving business in Nigeria

Mon Apr 19

Nigeria’s kidnap-for-ransom business is sadly booming, leading to emptier classrooms than ever before and causing concerns that the country’s education system could collapse altogether. Just this year, more than 600 schools have shut down — some temporarily, some permanently — due to the spike in mass abductions of schoolchildren. And the students who still show up can’t focus, too afraid that gunmen may appear (not unlike American teens). 

Since December, more than 800 students have been kidnapped by heavily armed gangs. And since 2011, Nigerians spent at least $18M to free themselves or loved ones. Yet despite the cost and pleas for help, little is actually being done:

  • Politicians make empty promises. While they pledge to vanquish the kidnapping threat or claim better security plans, dozens of teachers and students say they haven’t seen meaningful change — especially when state governments have been outright paying off and pardoning kidnappers.
  • No one will take responsibility. Calls to the military for help forward you to the Nigerian Ministry of Education, who say they’re responsible for equal access to education, not the security of those children. Turn to police, and they say they need military support, intelligence agents, and civil defense group assistance.
  • And current school security consists of community volunteers. These volunteer guards often lack protection and inconsistent backing from police officers, making it nearly impossible to fight back against armed gunmen.

On top of kidnap-for-ransom schemes, Nigeria is still dealing with Boko Haram, a jihadist terrorist organization in the North famously known for their 2014 kidnapping of more than 270 female students. Boko Haram — whose name loosely translates to “Western education is forbidden” — has continued to conduct mass kidnappings (of girls and boys) and brainwash children into never returning to school. In fact, out of the estimated 10.5 million out-of-school children in the country, 69% come from the North where mass kidnappings is growing as an industry. 

Some additional resources... 

  • For full coverage on the recent rise and business of kidnappings, turn to the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, or Al Jazeerah.
  • For some recommendations on how Nigeria can protect its education system, turn to Brookings.
  • For background on the ethno-religious conflict in Nigeria, turn to The World.
  • For more on Nigeria’s overall instability in the North, turn to the UN or PwC.

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Do black screensavers save power...or is it white now?

Or am I supposed to be more worried about blue light?

Art Credit: Marcin Glinski, Ascii Art Archive

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