Karina Garbesi, Ph.D., is the Director of the Environmental Studies Program at California State University East Bay, a founding member of the Board of Directors and Vice President of We Care Solar. Hal Aronson, the Founder of We Share Solar, works with Karina to connect the fields of energy and society to create socially just outcomes. Together they solve human problems with technology.
Hal and Karina brought the solar suitcase kit to the university to integrate STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) concepts into different social branches of society. As students build, they learn about global energy poverty, basic electricity, solar energy, and engineering. Karina believes these technology choices have a huge effect on social outcomes.
California State University is one of the largest and most diverse public state university systems in the US with 23 campuses. Their institutional focus is on sustainability, social justice and multiculturalism. Karina says they are perfectly positioned to make a difference in the lives of their students who represent an internationally diverse group of minorities, including those from low and modest income families. The solar suitcase project is a hands-on experience that enables their students an entree into the solar industry with a voice and choice of a broad range of technology jobs.
The additional benefit of We Share Solar is the interface between these diverse populations of college students and the ethnic and diverse neighborhoods that surround the university. The college students are helping to teach and serve as mentors to the local middle and high school students to build the solar suitcases in the classroom or in after school programs. They are so motivated to do this work that they have created clubs to continue the project even after the school program is over.
These students are building solar suitcases to bring solar technology to developing countries, refugee centers and to low income urban and agricultural communities in California, lowering the cost of their electric bills. It is a model of education creating a multi cultural and multi disciplinary experience inspiring the principals, teachers and students.
We Share Solar is compelling because it connects energy and society and supports the socially just outcomes Karina was seeking. The students who come from areas with a 80% poverty rate have a pathway to a college education, it galvanizes girls to engage in science and technology and provides a gateway to one of the fastest growing industries and it is creating a profound multi cultural, multi educational community who are making a global impact. Karina said personally she never had this kind of impact on students before in her decades of teaching.
The Chancellor’s Office has given them tremendous support and now after their second year, they plan on sharing this project with the other campuses in the University system. We Share Solar is funded by corporations like PG&E and partner with organizations like Grid Alternatives who value community engagement. These global partners share stories and photos from the recipients with the student builders so that they can see the results of their work.
Karina thanked me for spreading optimism saying, “It is the moral imperative of our time.” The optimism of We Share Solar is that it empowers students from middle school to college, to be global citizens and change-makers. To learn more about We Share Solar, go to their web site, We Share Solar. To sign the Pictition to support We Care Solar campaign to ‘Light Every Birth” go to: Light Every Birth.