This is a story about how the capital, Maputo, and other cities in Mozambique sustain themselves by massively deforesting the countryside, which in turn contributes a staggering and concentrated carbon footprint on the cities’ skies. How then does one make sense of “the urban” and “the rural” when instead of being known for their use of electricity and “smokelessness” cities come to be defined by charcoal and smokiness? How did it happen that the cities of a country that produces a huge surplus of hydroelectricity still rely so extensively on firewood in the twenty-first century anyway? In this essay I show that in Mozambique smoky cities are the result of neither industrialization nor development but of burning wood and charcoal in homes.

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