It's official: Norway has toppled Denmark to become the world's happiest country in 2017. Or, to put in local linguistic terms, the world's lykkeligste country. This year's rankings, which came this morning to coincide with the International Day of Happiness, surely has left more than one Danish unhappy, or ulykkelig (yes, Norwegian and Danish languages are close).
The World Happiness Report is an annual UN survey which ranks 155 countries by their state of global happiness, based on criteria including GDP per capita, life expectancy, freedom to make life choices, generosity and public trust. As expected, developed Western nations dominate the list, and nations of the African continent make up most of the bottom part. Worse, the report shows that "only two African countries have made significant gains in happiness over the past decade": Sierra Leone and Cameroon. A situation that booming demographics are unlikely to change.
Ethiopia, which ranked 119 and where a state of emergency was imposed in mid-2016 amid student protests, is a good indicator of the continent's current situation. As Italian journalist Enrico Caporale reports for La Stampa, the country has one of the highest population growth rates in the continent and it "is projected to reach 210 million people in 2060, up from the current 99 million." And like many other African countries, the former Italian colony is being caught in a vice between Chinese "neocolonialism" and a process of "Islamization" fostered by Gulf monarchies.
"Outside the airport, at the first traffic light, my taxi jockeys for position with a economy car driven by a man who appears to be Chinese. ‘Since they began arriving a few years ago I see them everywhere," my Ethiopian taxi driver complains. ‘We used to call white people ferenji, which means foreigner, but now we mainly use it for the Chinese. They've built everything here."
Back in China, there is little doubt that this expansion abroad has helped accelerate a quarter-century of rather stunning economic growth. But how has the rise to becoming the world's No. 2 economy translated on the happy front? Monday's UN report notes that China remains stuck down in the 79th slot on the World Happiness Report, demonstrably no happier than they were before the economic boom. 伤心 Sad.
With loans and solar panels from China, the massive solar park has been opened a year and is already powering the surrounding areas. Now the Chinese supplier is pushing for an expansion.
CAUCHARI — Driving across the border with Chile into the northwest Argentine department of Susques, you may spot what looks like a black mass in the distance. Arriving at a 4,000-meter altitude in the municipality of Cauchari, what comes into view instead is an assembly of 960,000 solar panels. It is the world's highest photovoltaic (PV) park, which is also the second biggest solar energy facility in Latin America, after Mexico's Aguascalientes plant.
Spread over 800 hectares in an arid landscape, the Cauchari park has been operating for a year, and has so far turned sunshine into 315 megawatts of electricity, enough to power the local provincial capital of Jujuy through the national grid.
It has also generated some $50 million for the province, which Governor Gerardo Morales has allocated to building 239 schools.
Abundant sunshine, low temperatures
The physicist Martín Albornoz says Cauchari, which means "link to the sun," is exposed to the best solar radiation anywhere. The area has 260 days of sunshine, with no smog and relatively low temperatures, which helps keep the panels in optimal conditions.
Its construction began with a loan of more than $331 million from China's Eximbank, which allowed the purchase of panels made in Shanghai. They arrived in Buenos Aires in 2,500 containers and were later trucked a considerable distance to the site in Cauchari . This was a titanic project that required 1,200 builders and 10-ton cranes, but will save some 780,000 tons of CO2 emissions a year.
It is now run by 60 technicians. Its panels, with a 25-year guarantee, follow the sun's path and are cleaned twice a year. The plant is expected to have a service life of 40 years. Its choice of location was based on power lines traced in the 1990s to export power to Chile, now fed by the park.
Chinese engineers working in an office at the Cauchari park
Chinese want to expand
The plant belongs to the public-sector firm Jemse (Jujuy Energía y Minería), created in 2011 by the province's then governor Eduardo Fellner. Jemse's president, Felipe Albornoz, says that once Chinese credits are repaid in 20 years, Cauchari will earn the province $600 million.
The Argentine Energy ministry must now decide on the park's proposed expansion. The Chinese would pay in $200 million, which will help install 400,000 additional panels and generate enough power for the entire province of Jujuy.
The park's CEO, Guillermo Hoerth, observes that state policies are key to turning Jujuy into a green province. "We must change the production model. The world is rapidly cutting fossil fuel emissions. This is a great opportunity," Hoerth says.
The province's energy chief, Mario Pizarro, says in turn that Susques and three other provincial districts are already self-sufficient with clean energy, and three other districts would soon follow.
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