At a time of constant debate over the future of energy, it is easy to forget that 1.4 billion people – nearly a quarter of humanity – still live without access to electricity. Through my Life Without Lights photography, I strive to reveal the economic impact of global Energy Poverty while exploring energy’s future.
I began this project while living in rural northern Ghana, where I realized how deeply the lack of electricity affected the lives of my neighbors: It impeded their progress in the sectors of health, education, gender equality, agriculture, and virtually every aspect of development. Since then, I’ve photographed people living in a state of Energy Poverty on top of the vast oil reserves of Kurdistan, and just outside of Albuquerque, the largest city in the US state of New Mexico.
The next two chapters are perhaps the most important to date: on the drastically rising costs of household energy bills in the UK, and the dire effects of Energy Poverty on women’s health in Uganda.
My goal is not only to publish these stories and create a wider awareness of this issue – I have also been given the rare opportunity to participate in the discussion on solutions to Energy Poverty. 2012 will be the UN’s International Year of Sustainable Energy for All, and I have been invited to exhibit this work at key events throughout the year, including the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development in Brazil. I will address audiences of policymakers and world leaders, sharing stories from the people I have photographed.
Within the international debate, the most vital voice – the voice of the afflicted – is often missing. Your help in funding this project will allow me to continue collecting stories and voices of Energy Poverty from around the world and contribute them directly to the dialogue on sustainable solutions and energy’s future.
Details on Upcoming Chapters
Britain: Heat or Eat?
As energy prices dramatically rise in the UK, the country is pushed into a level of Fuel Poverty not seen in at least fifteen years. Fuel Poverty is defined as a household paying more than 10% of their income on energy bills. An estimated 7 million homes have recently fallen into this category.
Rather than focus on off-grid communities, this chapter will explore the cost of energy, examining the lives of people who have no choice but to shut off their own utilities in order to avoid mounting debt. Local aid organizations are already alarmed at this increasing trend, and considering the country’s recent economic turmoil, worsening winters, and disappearing pensions, the situation is expected to become drastically worse. Reports estimate that this winter nearly 3,000 people will die cold-related deaths because of this issue. However, this is not a story limited to the very poor – even the middle classes will find themselves cutting their spending to pay their energy bills, often choosing between heating their homes or eating their next meals.
Uganda: Women’s Health Crisis
Women living in Energy Poverty are victim to a health emergency that is both surprising and extreme: Lung disease caused by inhaling the thick smoke of cooking fires is one of the top ten killers worldwide – killing more people than malaria. Cooking indoors, using traditional methods and fuels, causes 1.9 million premature deaths globally each year, predominantly among women and children. In Uganda, 95% of the population cooks with solid fuels, contributing to nearly 42,000 deaths.
To photograph this dire situation, I will immerse myself in the remote Bundibugyo District. In the district’s villages and health centers – which lack electricity – I’ll also investigate other effects of Energy Poverty on women’s lives, ranging from subtle to deadly. For women in labor, deliveries at night are performed by midwives gripping flashlights in their teeth. Other serious procedures cannot be performed in the night at all. The clinics lack refrigeration for critical medications. And, when not performing the deadly act of cooking, women and girls spend countless hours gathering firewood – time that prevents them from receiving an education.
Life Without Lights website: lifewithoutlights.com
Peter DiCampo website: peterdicampo.com
Featured on NYTimes Lens Blog: lens.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/07/15/showcase-181/
An Interview About the Project: viistories.com/the-stories/life-without-lights.aspx
d.light design S250 solar light and phone charger (reward for $50 and $75 donations): http://www.dlightdesign.com/products_D.LIGHT_S250_global.php
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