Taking Charge On The Amazon: Connecting Communities Through Portable Solar

In the developed world, finding a way to move past dirty, dangerous fossil fuels and into the era of renewable energy is a nearly insurmountable task. Our entire infrastructure (and in many ways our economy) was built around the extraction, transportation, and use of these fuels. Asking a person to explore alternatives is hard enough, but getting an entire city or nation to look past fossil fuels feels impossible.

The key, according to architect Jeff Mansfield, is getting rid of this idea that renewable’s are limiting. When combined with the most recent advances in mobile technology, the clean energy can actually be quite liberating. Mansfield is currently gathering funding for a new project based on this idea. The project, called TAKING CHARGE, aims to create an open-source guide that will demonstrate how mobile phones and portable solar charging technology can be used to create a better connected, more sustainable community.

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Image via Jeff Mansfield/Kickstarter

Mansfield realized there was a need for such a guide while traveling with a team of Brazilians as part of the Luz Portátil Brasil initiative to provide portable solar energy kits to people in isolated communities in the Tapajós-Arapiuns Extractive Reserve, an ecologically sensitive region of the Amazon. During the trip, Mansfield realized that he and his travel partners were building a mobile and renewable “soft” energy infrastructure in a region where the “hard” centralized infrastructures of kerosene lamps and fixed diesel generators were damaging human health and ecosystem.

“What was missing was an accessible ‘starter toolkit’ of useful mobile phone applications, an effective and participatory means to demonstrate to the community what a smartphone could do and a practical, accessible “user’s guide” with how-to instructional diagrams, local tips and photos,” writes Mansfield on the project’s Kickstarter page.

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Image via Jeff Mansfield/Kickstarter

If successfully funded, Mansfield will create a USB-based toolkit containing Android cell phones, a suite of useful cell phone applications and a visual-based TAKING CHARGE pocket guide. Then, he’ll travel back to the Amazon to conduct participatory workshops showing communities how to use the kit. Learn more on the Taking Charge blog.

Beth Buczynski is a freelancer writer and editor currently living in the Rocky Mountain West. Her articles appear on Care2, Ecosalon and Inhabitat, just to name a few. So far, Beth has lived in or near three major U.S. mountain ranges, and is passionate about protecting the important ecosystems they represent. Follow Beth on Twitter as @ecosphericblog