More than two years after the 2010 earthquake that left Haiti in rubble and displaced 2.3 million people, recovery has been slow in coming. Hundreds of thousands are still living in camps such as Corail-Cesselesse, a relocation area set up in the aftermath of the quake. And the cholera outbreak that has taken nearly 7,000 lives on top of more than 300,000 lost in the quake itself continues to cause suffering.
Aside from the quake, dependence on charcoal for cooking has continued to cause deforestation and health problems Haiti, prompting the U.S. Agency for International Development’s announcement today that it would support a $7.2 million project meant to bolster the market for cleaner cookstoves.
(Related: Time to Clear the Smoke)
The dearth of reliable, sustainable cooking options in Haiti is just part of the overall energy access problem in a country where fewer than one third of the residents have any electricity at all, and where outages are frequent. Haiti, like many other countries around the world, suffers from a crippling lack of power.
Not many bands are better suited to bring that message to a broad public than Linkin Park. With more than 39 million Facebook fans, more than 700,000 followers on Twitter and a listener base that has steadily expanded since the band’s debut album Hybrid Theory was released in 2000, Linkin Park has threaded a philanthropic mission throughout its website, social media and via video messages on YouTube.
Last November, the band announced its support for the United Nations’ Sustainable Energy for All initiative. Dave “Phoenix” Farrell, the Linkin Park’s bassist, answered questions via e-mail about their efforts.
Tell us about the Sustainable Energy for All initiative. The band pledged support for it last December. What will the band be doing?
Linkin Park and [our aid organization] Music for Relief have launched Power the World in support of the United Nations Secretary-General’s Year of Sustainable Energy for All in 2012. We chose Haiti for our first Power the World project because the country faces severe energy poverty. There are 34 million people in the Western Hemisphere who have no access to modern energy; 8 million of them are in Haiti. To help, you can go to www.powertheworld.org to make a $10 donation and Music for Relief will provide a solar-powered light bulb for a family in Haiti without access to energy.
What led to your interest in energy poverty? Have you done anything like this before?
I traveled to Haiti in April of 2011 to see firsthand how Music for Relief has helped the recovery effort. I visited Camp Corail and saw solar-powered lights, which MFR helped fund with the UN Foundation to help keep women and children safe. When the Secretary- General announced the energy initiative for 2012, I knew it was something we should be a part of.
Getting people interested in issues like energy poverty can be challenging. How do you plan to do it?
It’s definitely a tough issue to communicate fluidly and succinctly. In addition to our normal online channels (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) we are going to be creating some video components to help relay the magnitude and importance of sustainable energy for the future. We are also working in conjunction with the UN to create other projects throughout the year.
What has the response been like from fans (and maybe non-fans)?
So far the response has been very positive, but we are just getting started. I hope momentum continues to build through the year to facilitate a very strong interest in the issues of energy poverty.
There are so many issues related to energy. What stands out to you as being particularly pressing?
Fewer than 25 percent of households in Haiti are connected to electricity grids. That means 75 percent of households are lit using kerosene lamps, candles. In addition to being dangerous, this is also far more expensive than electricity. With sustainable energy, neighborhoods are safer at night, medical services can be more effective, and children can study and play after the sun goes down. Our solar light bulb is hopefully a small first step towards a far better quality of life for millions of Haitians.
How far do you think social media can go in creating change?
As has been seen in 2011, social media can be revolutionary. The potential social media has to create change is just starting to be tapped.
What do you hope to have achieved by this time next year?
Power the World is a pledge to help one million families gain access to clean energy solutions. That’s the goal, and with the help of music fans everywhere, we hope to achieve it. Once again, you can help by going to www.powertheworld.org. Make a $10 donation and Music for Relief will provide a solar powered light bulb for a family in Haiti without access to energy.
(Related: “Solar Energy Brings Light to Quake-Darkened Haiti“)
(Related: “The Solvable Problem of Energy Poverty“)