99% Invisible podcast: Lights for the energy poor illuminate academic success

To be energy poor is to be unable to function at night without electricity, and this poverty affects 850 million people worldwide. Learn more in the 99% Invisible podcast.

Two happy children and an adult studying by solar light

Erin Hanson

March 2, 2021

min read

If you’re a fan of the popular “99% Invisible” podcast and the kinds of stories published on Design & Make with Autodesk, then you’re in the right place. Autodesk partnered with “99% Invisible” host Roman Mars and his crew for a series of podcasts tied to the show’s mission of uncovering the fascinating—yet inconspicuous—ways that architecture and design shape the planet.

The sixth and final episode of the series highlights the work that Dr. Merlin Tuttle and others have done in Austin, TX, and around the world to change popular perception of bats. Bats, of course, are nocturnal and thrive in darkness. People, however, need light, and 850 million people in the world are extremely energy poor: They have no form of electricity. They must burn wood to cook and burn kerosene for light, all inside homes with little to no natural ventilation. This profusion of indoor fuel burning, says SolarBuddy CEO Simon Doble, leads to 2.6 million children dying each year simply from breathing the air in their homes.

But Doble is doing something about it: His charity, SolarBuddy, focuses on providing children with solar lights so they don’t have to study by kerosene in the evenings. SolarBuddy also makes a JuniorBuddy personal solar light, with phone-charging functionality, for high school students. Thanks to these donated lights, children are able to study as much as 78% longer at night, Doble says.

Check out the podcast’s “Coda” section (skip to minute 26:40) to learn more.

Erin Hanson

About Erin Hanson

Erin Hanson is Design & Make with Autodesk’s managing editor and a graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism. She loves music, food, wine, and grammar (not necessarily in that order).

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