Living in our westernised world we often forget how many luxuries we take for granted every single day. We turn on a tap and hot or clod water comes pouring out, clean and ready to be used. We open the fridge and our pint of milk is fresh and cool, waiting to enrich our cup of tea. We flick a switch and a light-bulb illuminates our home, light flooding through darkness, helping us see.
I was reminded of the these luxury yesterday evening when for a little while the power went out. Due to the winds or because of some fault, for one hour I sat in the flickering light of candles and the fire in the hearth.
Of course the lights went out in the most inopportune moment, I was in the bathroom, doing what one does. I went downstairs to see if it was only a blown fuse, a candle stick in hand like Wee Willy Winkle, but it turned out to be the entire street.
I lit more candles and decided to make a cup of tea, but just as I was about to flick the switch I realised what a silly idea that was, after all my kettle is electric. Instead I poured myself a glass of wine and while I watched the flames dance in the fire place I remembered something I had heard about a little while ago.
In 2002 a mechanic in Sao Paulo came up with a brilliant idea, of how to light up a home without a light-bulb but by using the natural light from the sun. Alfredo Moser took a one liter plastic bottle and filled it with a mixture of water and some bleach (to prevent algae from forming), sealed it and after cutting a hole into his tin-roof placed the bottle into the hole (cap up) and sealed the bottle in. As soon as the sunlight hit the water in the bottle it fractured and flooded his work-shop with light. And thus the solar bulb was invented.
These solar bottles give about the same amount of light as a 50-60 watt bulb but they don’t costa penny, only a bit of recycling and a dash of household cleaner. Student’s from M.I.T have now perfected the system and it has spread around the globe, bringing free light to the poor and changing peoples lives. Currently a tiny Filipino organisation, called My Shelter Foundation, is the poster child of the solar bottle as it has put bottle bulbs into tens of thousands of homes, aiming for a million. Their project is called Isang Litrong Liwanag (A Liter of Light), a truly illuminating and brilliant cause.
As Ella Baker, the wonderful African-American human rights activist once said:
Give light and people will find their way
Watch this wonderful ad for The Liter For Life project: Solar Power Philippines