Michael Warren Travels the Total World
Light is power. In the west we take it for granted that we can hold the night at bay by flipping a switch. We can remain productive far after the sun sets and do so safely. In countries and communities where there isn’t an electrical grid, when the sun sets the day is over or the gas and oil lamps must be turned on. In places like Africa and Haiti, gas and oil are very expensive and combustion creates dangerous fumes. As soon as the oil has burned off, there is no more, and stores must be refilled again, at great expense. It is a vicious cycle.
Total, the French energy company, has set out to combat this cycle with their “Committed to Better Energy” campaign. Michael Warren spent two solid months (plus some) in nine countries in four continents to capture the full breadth of Total’s initiates and get a taste of the company. Total’s response to this energy problem is portable electric lights that run off of solar energy. “In Africa there are a lot of these villages that have no power at all. And they’ve come up with a solar system, that is low cost to purchase and can bring a light bulb, or a bunch of light bulbs, to a village. It really changes the way that they see life and see the day,” says Michael. As he explains it, Total saw the problem this way: “If Total could figure out a way to make a very inexpensive solar panel that they could sell at a low cost, it can have an impact on these people’s lives. And it did.” It’s a way to begin to step out of the cycle of buying and burning expensive, dangerous fuel.
In the last decade, international energy companies haven’t been getting the best attention for their practices. So one stands to wonder why Total would go against the current and offer alternatives to their products in communities that represent a small consumer base. The answer is that Total is tied to the global markets and the international community. The company is based in France, and as Michael reminds us, “France has no resources of their own so they have their fingers in all these other places all over the world.” They are responsible to the world, because the world is their partner. “They’re trying to do something good,” Michael says.
In addition to shooting the campaign, Michael also spent a month touring the world meeting and learning about Total as a company so he could shoot some recruitment materials for them. These materials aren’t just crucial for the company, their crucial for the future of energy. “It’s getting harder and harder to get young smart students coming out of school to want to work for energy companies. It’s an old school, old industry,” Michael says. “So I was trying to show the world that working for one of these companies is not so bad.”