backwards facing people
Engineer Poet poses the question:
Yemen is a very sunny country, and the same things (solar technology) should work there too. They aren't using them. Is it cultural factors, the Yemenis just don't grasp what's going on, or has nobody tried?
The question encapsulates a description of human limitations.
Technically adept, science fiction readin' blackberry typin' Westerners have almost as much trouble understanding Yemenis as they have understanding us.
Human thinking is bounded in practical terms by experience.
A liberal arts education (not necessarily formal) gives one a sense of alternatives. One step past thoughtful imagination is the ability to follow through on something new and different, something which may fall outside the expectations of a given culture. Technical or scientific training can certainly bootstrap “out of the box” thinking in a free society.
In Yemen, building a solar powered oven to bake bread is within the realm of possibility, but of course, there are in fact cultural, educational, and technical reasons why it doesn't happen. That wood is close at hand certainly doesn’t help. It is also culturally appropriate technology, even if self destructive.
Relating this back to the West, you often see discussions of alternative energy framed as if oil will be followed by SOMETHING, (some energy source) because that is how Westerners are enculturated. Westerners have a built in limitation in their thinking – there is a kind of faith that usable, potable energy will follow expectations and desire. See economists.
Technology that uses energy is often confused with technology that is energy positive. (In the relative sense of course, no one is holding their breath for a perpetual motion machine.) Ethanol is a good example of this, and it is destructive practice to boot. It would be better to let fields lie fallow than to soak all the minerals out of the ground in worship of liquid fuel.
The evidence on the ground for an impending energy glut is thin. Significant alternative infrastructure must be built and the world is quite close to Peak Energy. This isn’t bad news of itself. Conservation and equitable sharing of global energy resources could take the globe through the next thirty years in relative comfort.
Thirty years – gives us plenty of time to get the tokomaks fired up.