Bárbara Rubim, a lawyer and a climate and energy campaigner at Greenpeace Brazil, gave a truly inspiring presentation during the opening night of the Renewable Cities Global Learning Forum. It was moving, informative, and highlighted great initiatives that could be replicated around the world. You may remember that she made a comment during my workshop on “communicating renewable energy” that prompted me to write this piece on the importance of the human side of cleantech… and that’s something she nailed in her presentation. I’ll summarize and discuss it a bit below, but if you want to jump straight to the chase, here’s the presentation:
Bárbara started out by discussing the critical issue of our time, and perhaps the critical issue of all of human history — global climate change. As part of that, she noted that the last 3 years “held 25% of all the extreme weather events” in Brazil’s recorded history, the kind of thing we are seeing in all corners of the world. (I know, the world is round, but whatev.)
Bárbara also mentioned absurd solar taxes in Brazil, which increase the cost of rooftop solar by 30–40%. That’s something that deserves a story of its own!
But the highlight of her presentation concerned children and schools, where Greenpeace has worked to get solar power systems installed via quite innovative and empowering means. Bárbara and other visionaries at Greenpeace used crowdfunding to finance solar systems for a couple of schools in São Paulo.
Beyond that, they also selected 30 people from >2,000 applicants to train as “solar multipliers.” These people, coming from various corners of Brazil (I did it again, I know), got 3 days of training on “how to cook using solar energy, how to produce electricity with it, how to install a PV system, how to lobby, and how to do creative interventions to better spread this knowledge.”
One month after the 3-day training, Greenpeace took these solar multipliers to the two schools initially selected to receive PV systems, where they helped to install the systems and also engaged with the communities there to educate them about solar energy and climate change.
In total, after 4 days in each of the schools, they had worked with 1,800 children, 125 parents, and 20 teachers, informing them about the many benefits of solar energy.
But that’s not the end of this inspirational story. The Greenpeace crew also trained four youth from a community known for crime and drugs to help install the system, one of which was later hired by the solar company that was overseeing the installations. That provided the young man, who had already lived through more than his fair share of prejudice, with his first job.
The solar systems will produce approximately $10,000 a year at each school, with all of this money going back to the schools for the next 10 years to give students more of what they want and need…
As if that wasn’t enough… through this work, Greenpeace got the state of São Paulo to implement a tax exemption for solar, something that is now influencing the whole country.
The overall campaign reached about 15 million people, surely inspiring similar action and progress elsewhere. Four people initially had the idea for the solar multipliers, with the number working on it reaching 34 in March, and then nearly 2,000 in May!
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Tags: Bárbara Rubim, Brazil, brazil solar energy, Greenpeace, Greenpeace Brazil, Greenpeace solar energy, sao paulo, solar taxes