Shortly after the devastating Indian Ocean tsunami in 2005, members of the band Linkin Park led an effort called Music for Relief to raise money for those affected. The idea was that if the band members made a donation, and then asked their musician peers and their fans to make donations as well, it could have a huge impact in assisting relief efforts.
It worked. Millions of dollars in donations were raised and now nearly 100 bands are part of Music for Relief's continuing efforts to help families when disaster strikes. To date they have supported response efforts for more than a dozen international crises, including most recently the Haiti earthquake and the tsunami in Japan.
Now the organization has targeted an international crisis which gets a lot less press but has been devastating the lives of more than a billion people in the poorest regions of the world for decades. That crisis is called "energy poverty."
The new campaign, Power the World, seeks to address chronic energy poverty by bringing renewable energy to the regions that need it most. Without basic access to energy, it is nearly impossible to operate health clinics, food banks, water irrigation systems, schools, new businesses — all of the things that make it possible for communities to lift themselves out of poverty.
The good news is there's a solution. Africa is one of the richest continents when it comes to solar potential, and the rapidly dropping cost of solar panels means communities can gain access to electricity without waiting for large power plants or power lines to be constructed:
According to U.N. head Ban Ki-moon (PDF), we could bring clean, affordable energy to the 1.2 billion people living without power, but governments need to increase their funding commitments to $48 billion per year (more than 5 times the current level). If that sounds like a lot, think about this: governments are now subsidizing coal and oil to the tune of $312 billion, even though those industries are enjoying record profits.
Music for Relief wants to drive this point home by delivering a million signatures at the upcoming Rio+20 Earth Summit, asking the world's leaders to commit to helping the millions living in energy poverty to gain basic access to electricity and clean cooking facilities. You can sign the pledge here and help to Power the World!