Solar energy is the poster-child of the new, environmentally friendly, economically feasible world of the 21st century. Lightning-fast technological innovation in the private sector and complementary government tax credits have brought about the rapid ascent of the low-impact energy source, much to the chagrin of oil and gas executives.

Imagine an earthquake has destroyed your house, leveled the homes of all your neighbors. The nearest clinic, which is not very near at all, has suffered structural damage, and landslides make the roads nearly impassible. Even more importantly, the clinic is without electricity and has no mechanism of back-up power.

Last week, over 150 world leaders gathered together in Paris for the launch of the 21st Conference of Parties (COP21), indicating that climate change is finally becoming a forefront issue in global policy. And the vast majority of these world leaders were men.

The Faces of Solar at COP21 (see part I)

Laura Stachel: Eliminating Childbirth Mortalities in Underserved Countries

In 2008, Dr. Laura Stachel traveled to northern Nigeria on a graduate research project. She spent two weeks observing care in a hospital as a part of a research program through University of California, Berkeley. As an obstetrician, her original purpose was to examine how to lower the staggeringly high rates of maternal death.

In 1977, the world was just beginning to learn about solar power. With only 500 kW worth of panels installed worldwide, one watt of solar-produced energy sold for a staggering $76 USD. Also that year, the now-ubiquitous solar-powered calculators first came to market.

One of the persistent problems in the development of solar energy is how to store the electricity once it is created from a photovoltaic cell. By its very nature, solar energy only works when the sun is up, and works best when the sky is not cloudy. To be practical, solar energy systems have to have a way to store excess electricity when the sun isn’t shining.

As a farmer you have an enormous responsibility. Your role fills an essential need vital to sustaining the lives of others. This is no easy feat, as you well know: you’re constantly facing the challenges of fluctuating food prices and demand, changing governmental regulations, rising fossil fuel costs, and the effects of global warming, all of which appear impossible to control, much like the weather you depend on to nurture your crops in the first place.