Even today, as we take our microwave ovens, central heaters and air conditions and electric cooktops for granted, many in the world are still burning biomass – wood and dung – to heat their homes and cook their food. Poor ventilation leads to the same health problems that plagued most of us for centuries. According to the World Health Organization, each year “over 4 million people die prematurely from illness attributable to the household air pollution from cooking with solid fuels.”

Imagine life, unpowered. Modern life, beyond modern conveniences, is powered by the fossil fuels, and also increasingly by nuclear and renewable energy sources, that human ingenuity has made so abundant and inexpensive.

There’s a term for life: unpowered. It’s “energy poverty,” and it shortens life spans and drastically increases the burdens on families, and particularly women. We know that women are 50 percent of the world population, but they are 70 percent of those struggling in extreme poverty, and energy poverty is a key barrier to rising above that.