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Haitians Given Solar Bulbs Worth a Week’s Wages
Now What Do They Do With Them? 06.07.11
It’s so tempting to read a press release like this watch a video like this one above and get that warm fuzzy feeling. You’ve got desperately poor people who were spending money on a polluting light source getting free lights that run on free energy. Why mess with the story line? Because that's what we do here at NBN. It turns out the bulbs cost $15 each, $10 if you buy more than 48. The manufacturer says the price drops to $5 if you buy in bulk, like these Haitian helpers are doubtlessly doing. But bought individually, the bulbs cost an average Haitian a week’s pay. This article says the bulbs “fully charged” provide four hours' light, while “a single charge” provides half that. What constitutes a “single charge” is anyone’s guess but judging by the size of the bulb, it can’t store a very large battery.
So what are the chances of these bulbs actually replacing the kerosene lamps they are intended to replace? Dollars to donuts half of the lights get sold to tourists for a few bucks a pop. A finski gets you frosting the other half end up in a Haitian landfill. Why are we beating up so on an otherwise honorable public relations/charity effort? Because it illustrates so well what’s often ignored in so much of communications these days: the other side of the story. The fact is all the above is true. Some hard-up Haitians will have now lights that save them money they can now spend on rebuilding their shattered homes. But if the bulbs only shine for two-to-four hours, how practical can they be? And this poor country can ill afford impracticality, free or not. So, is this good news or bad news? A little of both, we think.
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