The Solar Panel Art Series, Underdogs Edition — Helping Refugees

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The Solar Panel Art Series in collaboration with Beam Magazine and Underdogs, an art gallery based out of Lisbon, Portugal, have created an online exhibition that is raising funds for the Little Sun Foundation.

Founded by artist Olafur Eliasson, the Little Sun Foundation delivers solar energy to the most vulnerable communities in the world. Working with Oxfam, Save the Children, UNHCR, and IOM, the Little Sun Foundation aims to bring high-quality, durable, and long-lasting solar products to displaced people as well as school children who don’t have access to clean energy.

This special exhibition, The Solar Panel Art Series—Underdogs Edition, includes specially commissioned works of art with a unique medium: used solar panels. Visual artists ±MaisMenos±, Bordalo II, Tamara Alves, Vhils, and Wasted Rita each have different styles of art, but in this exhibition, each artist took a used solar panel and used it as their blank canvas.

The Solar Panel Art Series unites science and art to create a platform where renewable energy meets artistic creativity by transforming solar panels into an artistic medium. This creates a positive impact that promotes social awareness and change, raises awareness about global energy poverty, and raises funds for those living beyond the energy grid — funds that will help them gain access to clean and reliable light sources.

“An artwork is never just the object; it is also the experience and its contextual impact, how it is used and enjoyed, and how it raises questions and changes ways of thinking and living. The Solar Panel Art Series does exactly that, and it is a great example of how to open up the discussion about renewable energy and the unequal distribution of energy today. In addition, they not only make us think but also act. The Solar Panel Art Series decided to donate a part of their proceeds to the Little Sun Foundation, in order to bring light and study time to children in rural Rwanda, and we are very grateful for this. Collectively, we can work towards global togetherness and a better future, including energy access for all.” — Olafur Eliasson

The exhibition is live online until November 13 (today). For latecomers, a screenshot of the exhibition website is below.

The Little Sun Foundation’s Impact

The Little Sun Foundation has a primary focus on making sure students and refugees get access to clean energy. For students in areas without reliable access to electricity, this gives them a vital tool for studying after dark, which boosts their academic performance. Many students living in regions that are off the power grid use kerosene and candles for their lighting — which is dangerous and creates pollution. Lamps made with solar energy are healthier and safer. They can help break the cycle of poverty.

In Ethiopia, 16 million school children live without access to electricity, or at the very least, with minimal access to energy. Many of these students rely on firewood or expensive kerosene lamps, or even candles. The Little Sun Foundation is empowering a generation of children by providing them with a portable solar lamp that saves money that would otherwise be spent on kerosene, candles, and batteries.

A family in rural Ethiopia usually spends $1 (USD) a week on kerosene. That may seem like nothing to us here in the U.S., but when you live in a country where there’s no access to electricity, then it’s natural to assume that the economy isn’t that great, and $1 is most likely something like $100 or more is to the average American. There’s an estimated total world consumption of kerosene of about 1.2 million barrels daily. Kerosene lamps release toxic fumes that irritate the eyes and skin, that lead to respiratory problems when breathing the fumes on a regular basis. Actually, breathing in kerosene fumes has the health equivalent of smoking 2 packs of cigarettes a day!

The Little Sun Foundation also provides solar lamps to refugees living in camps. Refugees are both responding to and aggravating ongoing environmental catastrophes. However, it is not their fault that they are aggravating them, as they are victims of such catastrophes in both political and environmental respects. Natural disasters alone displaced three times as many people as war in 2013. It is estimated that, on average, 27 million people a year are forced to flee their homes due to hurricanes, floods, and other natural hazards.

Refugees are forced to leave your homes, losing everything and suddenly finding themselves living in makeshift camps — without the infrastructure to support sustainable practices or ensure a safe, green environment for those who end up living there for far longer than ever intended. Portable solar-powered lights and chargers are a step toward improving the infrastructure of refugee camps and help to give safe energy access to refugees. The international community is also shifting its focus to helping refugees in this manner, and renewable energy is a big part of that focus.

Being Homeless

I don’t talk about the times I was homeless too much because it was something that happened on more than one occasion in my life. When I was a child, we often lived in my mother’s car (before it exploded when I was 8 or 9) or lived in condemned buildings. We even spent the night in a cemetery and I vaguely remember the police chasing us out of there.

In my adult life, I faced homelessness often up until I got out of a toxic marriage I was in. When I lived in Atlanta, I met a guy who helped us (my mother was still alive and sometimes we just had nowhere to go and slept in parks here or there while I was working full time). This guy was a former military man and he knew how to survive, make his own camps, and go into some heavily wooded areas that were just off the MARTA bus line. He also knew others who lived in homeless camps throughout the city.

There was one major area in downtown Atlanta by the homeless shelter that later closed. That entire street was filled with tents, litter, and people from all walks of life. Some were addicts, some sold drugs, some were criminals, and I remember going to sleep to the sound of gunshots. I wound up getting my mother off the streets (my boss paid for our apartment) and finally getting her disability accepted — she was wheelchair-bound for two years before her disability got approved. I’m sharing this because the stories of refugee camps and homeless camps are so similar, and the fact that these issues are going on here in America — a country that isn’t off the electrical grid — may shock people when they think about it. While refugee camps are a whole other home environment that must be hard for most people to imagine.

One of the things about homeless camps is that people do litter, and many have poor hygiene. Some shelters allow for showers, but cities would rather criminalize homelessness instead of solving the problems that cause a person to become homeless. In the case of refugees and Trump’s attempt at building the wall, we are starting to criminalize people who end up in that situation too. Criminalizing people for being poor and having bad things happen to them isn’t the solution. Renewables and innovative technology are key solutions to help them. It is good to see The Solar Panel Art Series, Beam Magazine, and Underdogs partnering on this initiative.

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Johnna Crider

Johnna owns less than one share of $TSLA currently and supports Tesla's mission. She also gardens, collects interesting minerals and can be found on TikTok

Johnna Crider has 1996 posts and counting. See all posts by Johnna Crider