A few months ago, I was approached by the editor of a magazine in the UK called “The Big Issue.” It is a news magazine that prides itself on being “a hand up, not a hand out.” They combat the problem of homelessness by offering eligible people the opportunity to earn a legitimate income by making money selling copies of the magazine.
I’ve since written two pieces for Big Issue. A new issue is out right now, with my first piece as their American Election Correspondent. You’ll have to get a copy of that one to read it; below is my first piece, from September.
POWERLESS: THE EFFECT OF INDIA’S OUTAGE ON LINKIN PARK
In my band, Linkin Park, I help oversee songwriting, production, art direction, and social media. They are things I grew up doing. I’ve been drawing and making music since I was a toddler. My father worked in aerospace, and introduced us to the personal computer in 1984, shortly after Apple’s famous “1984” ad debuted. I’ve always been a fan of video games—I even started my own club with elementary school friends, centered on beating every Nintendo game we played (I had the team record, finishing a game one hour and fifteen minutes after I first turned it on).
I’m sitting in a hotel room, writing on my computer. My phone is next to me. I generally don’t go without my computer or phone for more than a few minutes. I work, listen to music, create, socialize, and play games on them. I suppose I would survive without them, but not happily.
I’m on Facebook (facebook.com/mikeshinoda) and Twitter (@mikeshinoda), partly because I like the interaction it gives me with the Linkin Park fanbase, but also because of the speed at which I find out about breaking news. From the Olympics to NASA’s Curiosity rover, my Twitter community lets me know exactly what’s going on in the world the moment it happens.
At the end of July, my Twitter timeline caught my eye. People were talking about a massive power outage in India. Over 600 million people in India lost power for the best part of two days. That number is twice the size of the entire U.S. population, and twelve times that of England—all without power.
I imagined waking up in a place like that: dark. Besides the loss of my cell phone and computers (which was terrifying in itself), I started to list the other basics I would miss. No coffee maker, no television, no microwave, no air conditioning. Ugh.
But as the list grew, things got much more serious. What if I got hurt one night and had to go to the hospital? All the cutting-edge monitoring systems that blink and beep and make me feel safe–the ones that let doctors can see inside my body, so they know how to proceed–would be out of commission. The refrigerators that keep medicine and life-saving vaccines safe would be dead, and the medicine inside would become unusable. What if I had to have a surgery in the dark?
As it turns out, that scenario is playing out every day. Over a billion people—one in five human beings on the planet—don’t have access to sustainable energy. They are working and studying in the dark. They are cooking and heating their homes using dung or kerosene, breathing in toxic smoke that causes lung disease and kills nearly two million people every year. Most of them are women and children.
In Uganda, where access to power is limited, doctors are forced to deliver babies in the dark—even performing c-section operations by candlelight.
These are the kinds of reasons my band-mates and I started Music For Relief. MFR was founded in 2005, to help victims of natural disasters and mitigate climate change. The organization has raised over $5,000,000 USD, planted over 1,000,000 trees, and provided aid to survivors of the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, Hurricane Katrina, China’s Wenchuan earthquake, Haiti’s 2010 earthquake, and Japan’s 2011 earthquake and tsunami. We have partnered with organizations like Reverb to set the standard for green touring, ensuring that there are stringent guidelines for energy use, recycling, and carbon emissions on every tour. In the fall, we will release an action-puzzle game on Facebook called “RECHARGE” that will raise money and awareness for sustainable energy. And MFR’s ongoing “Power The World” initiative, with the support of The United Nations, will continue to help bring sustainable energy to countries like Haiti and Uganda.
The power outage in India underscores a distinct opportunity for India and many countries in the developing world. There, we see a distinct opportunity to start fresh, to build it right from the foundation. Building an efficient, sustainable infrastructure sets the tone. It trains the community away from wastefulness, encouraging awareness. It improves health conditions while allowing people to work, study, and play safely at night. It has the clearest impact on saving money, improving business, and delivering more services by creating energy systems—like wind, water, and solar—that are inexhaustible and clean. The cost of technology to capture that energy are rapidly falling and starting to become economically competitive with fossil fuels while reducing the risk of climate change.
As I sit in my comfortable, air-conditioned hotel room, typing on my laptop and checking texts, I’m preparing for the first show of our U.S. tour. At the venue, we’ll be recycling waste. Our crew is working out of biodiesel busses and trucks, drinking out of reusable containers rather than water bottles. Linkin Park is donating $1 per ticket to the Power The World initiative. And we’re looking for ways to do more.
My hope for the people in India, Haiti, Uganda, and everyone making important decisions about energy is that they find a way to do it sustainably.
Meanwhile, I’ll keep thinking about people without power, and ways to get it to them.
Sign the pledge to support clean energy and energy access at http://www.powertheworld.org/splash-video.html