Jun 14, 2023
Last week, the skies over much of the east coast of the United States were orange, red, and almost entirely blacked out in some regions. Smoke from wildfires raging up north in Canada blew down to engulf many major U.S. cities in an apocalyptic glow that left New York City with the worst air quality in the world.
For those of us in California, seeing the apocalyptic images from the east coast going viral brought us back to the many times over the last decade that we experienced the same thing — wildfires raging from northern parts of the state like the Camp Fire in Butte County that completely incinerated the town of Paradise, or the fires in southern California, or Sonoma County, or the Santa Cruz Mountains — there’s too many to really keep track of.
Here in California, one of the many impacts of wildfires that we know all too well has been the loss of power — of electricity. PG&E, the scandal-ridden investor-owned electric utility that operates much of northern California’s grid, has not only been found guilty in the last several years for some of California’s most destructive wildfires. The company has also come under scrutiny for its implementation of rolling blackouts during wildfires, which it claims it does to protect dry landscapes from power lines that could overheat and spark deadly fires. PG&E’s power lines are notoriously poorly maintained and downed trees around power lines have been the direct cause of some of the most deadly and destructive wildfires in California’s history.
These massive power shut-offs have led to all sorts of auxiliary disasters over the years and have left millions of Californians without power during some of our most vulnerable times — amidst scorching heat wages and raging wildfires.
In this context, the People Power Battery Collective in the Bay Area launched a program to provide backup power during emergencies and increase the general understanding of energy access, consumption, and needs. On today’s show, we’ve brought on People Power Battery Collective members Kansas, Crystal, and Yasir to talk about their project in the context of climate-fueled disasters and community mutual aid.
Today’s episode is part of a new series we’re launching called “How-to-Respond” — where we’ll go deeper into the mechanics of community-led disaster response and mutual aid initiatives so that folks can replicate and adapt these efforts in other communities.
This ongoing series is a part of Shareable’s overall programmatic transition to a renewed focus on empowering people and communities to move from the point of inspiration to action. This week, we’re launching SolidarityWorks, a new program designed to “Empower Communities for Collective Liberation.” Over the coming years, we’ll join forces with a broad range of partners to create localized social infrastructure initiatives packed with creative solutions, tools for solidarity, and a deep embrace of the communities we collaborate with.
The first example of this program is actually the People Power Battery Collective. After working with them a couple of years ago on a how-to guide so other groups could adapt their model, we’ll now be partnering with them on a free course to directly support more communities to create battery collectives of their own.
Follow The Response on Twitter and Instagram for updates, memes, and more. Our entire catalog of documentaries and interviews can be found at theresponsepodcast.org — or wherever you get your podcasts.
The Response is published by Shareable.