Mike Shinoda and Music for Relief: 'Let's power the world'

Sep 10, 2012

Over a billion people live without electricity every day. Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda explains why he is helping them get connected

In my band, Linkin Park, I help oversee songwriting, production, art direction and social media. I’ve been drawing and making music since I was a toddler. My father worked in aerospace and introduced us to the personal computer in 1984, shortly after Apple’s famous ‘1984’ ad debuted.

I’ve always been a fan of video games – I even started my own club with school friends, centered on beating every Nintendo game we played (I had the team record, finishing a game one hour and 15 minutes after I first turned it on).

I’m sitting in a hotel room, with my computer. My phone is next to me. Generally I don’t go without them for more than a few minutes. I work, listen to music, create, socialise and play games on them.

I would survive without them, but not happily. I’m on Facebook – facebook.com/mikeshinoda – and Twitter – @mikeshinoda – partly because I like the interaction it gives me with fans, but also because of the speed at which I find out about breaking news. From the Olympics to Nasa’s Curiosity rover, my Twitter community lets me know exactly what’s going on in the world the moment it happens. 

At the end of July, my Twitter timeline caught my eye. People were talking about a massive power outage in India. More than 600 million people in India lost power for the best part of two days. That number is twice the size of the entire US population; 12 times that of England – all without power. I imagined waking up in a place like that: dark.

Besides the loss of my mobile phone and computers (terrifying in itself), I started to list other basics I would miss. No coffee maker, no TV, no microwave, no air conditioning. Ugh. But as the list grew, things got much more serious.

What if I got hurt at night and had to go to hospital? All the cutting-edge monitoring systems that blink and beep and make me feel safe – the ones that let doctors see inside my body, so they know how to proceed – would be out of commission. Refrigerators that keep medicine and life-saving vaccines safe would be dead; medicine inside would become unusable. What if I had to have surgery in the dark?

That scenario is playing out every day. More than one billion people – one in five human beings on the planet – don’t have access to sustainable energy. They are working and studying in the dark. They are cooking and heating their homes using dung or kerosene, breathing in toxic smoke that causes lung disease and kills nearly two million people a year. Most of them are women and children.

In Uganda, where access to power is limited, doctors have to deliver babies in the dark, performing C-sections by candlelight. 

These are the kinds of reasons my bandmates and I started Music for Relief. MFR was founded in 2005 to help victims of natural disasters and mitigate climate change. The organisation has raised more than $5m, planted more than one million trees and provided aid to survivors of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, as well as aiding survivors of Hurricane Katrina, China’s Wenchuan earthquake, Haiti’s 2010 earthquake and Japan’s 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

We have partnered with organisations like Reverb to set the standard for green touring, ensuring there are stringent guidelines for energy use, recycling and carbon emissions.

In autumn, we will release an action-puzzle game on Facebook called Recharge to raise money and awareness for sustainable energy. MFR’s Power the World initiative, with support of the UN, will continue to help bring sustainable energy to countries like Haiti.

The Indian power outage underscores an opportunity for India and many countries in the developing world to start fresh. Building an efficient, sustainable infrastructure sets the tone. It trains the community away from wastefulness, encouraging awareness.

It improves health conditions while allowing people to work, study and play safely at night. It has the clearest impact on saving money, improving business and delivering more services by creating energy systems – like wind, water and solar – that are inexhaustible and clean. The cost of technology to capture that energy is rapidly falling and becoming economically competitive with fossil fuels.

As I sit in my air-conditioned hotel room, typing on my laptop and checking texts, I’m preparing for the first show of our US tour. At the venue, we’ll be recycling waste. Our crew is working out of biodiesel buses, drinking out of reusable containers.

Linkin Park is donating $1 per ticket to the Power the World initiative. We’re looking for ways to do more. My hope for the people in India, Haiti, Uganda and everyone making important decisions about energy is they find a way to do it sustainably.

Meanwhile, I’ll keep thinking about people without power, and ways to get it to them.

Support clean energy and energy access. Sign the pledge at: powertheworld.org

From next week, Mike Shinoda will begin his tenure as The Big Issue's US election correspondent 

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